Last night, I slapped a book closed and sighed with the satisfaction only a great novel can bring. Then, I turned to Bill who was reading Hemings Classic Car magazine.
“That was awesome. Have you read much Ray Bradbury?” Words tumbled over my lips as I spoke. I still floated on a cloud of poetry in prose.
“Fahrenheit 451,” he said, not looking up from the page.
“Well, yeah, of course. Every high schooler has read that haven’t they?” I stood up and pressed my paperback into his chest. “You’ve got to read this. Oh wait, you can’t until Bear finishes it. I promised it to her first. ”
“What’s the title?” he asked as he turned the book over.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes,” we said together and then laughed.
“Oh, I read that a long time ago. You’re right, it’s good.” Bill set the book aside and picked up his magazine again.
“When?” I said, perplexed.
“In high school,” he said, and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
It’s times like these when I realize my husband and I are eight years apart, and I’m still his junior in so many ways.. Something Wicked This Way Comes was published in 1962, the year I was born, and since Bradbury didn’t write any other adult novels until 1985 when he published Death is a Lonely Business, I almost missed out on this master of lyrical wordplay.
The Vietnam War was the same for me. Bill nearly went. He graduated high school in 1972, and I was a little kid when Saigon fell in 1975. Before the internet was the diviner of all knowledge, I used to pepper him with questions about the conflict. Our daughter experienced something similar recently when her teacher mentioned the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and Bear unfortunately asked if anyone was hurt. Her teacher believed her sassy, and it took my assurance that Bear was simply lost in the nebulous history before her birth, to get her out of trouble.
We can’t know what we don’t know.
So it is for me and Bradbury. One night, a message dropped into my email inbox from audible.com asking me if I’d listened to some of their best loved mysteries. The mysterious press is my great love–all hasty conflict and setting the universe right by novel’s end. I will read or listen to almost anything featuring a good detective trying to right wrongs.
I saw on the website Death Is a Lonely Business, and I thought “why not?” I never knew Bradbury wrote mysteries. In fact, he wrote three that were an homage to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and Ross Macdonald. I’ve never read James M. Cain, but I am a fan of the other three whose characters epitomize the hard-boiled private eye. Before long, as I walked the treadmill everyday, I found myself swept up in this fantastical story with truly memorable characters. I also became fascinated with Venice Beach, California, and learned that Bradbury left clues to his own novels and life within the book. So, that was my first exposure to Bradbury’s skill. I giggled silently to his writing advice throughout the novel. The best? “Throw up into your typewriter each morning. Clean up every Noon,” actually first uttered by Raymond Chandler if Goodreads.com is correct. If you’re a writer who writes, this quote must make you laugh.
For my garden friends, who are now wondering if I’ve lost my mind, there is a fantastic garden within those creamy pages too.
Once I finished the mystery, I couldn’t bear to let it go and read the other two yet, so on the suggestion of a friend, I picked up Something Wicked. It didn’t disappoint. In fact, its imaginative style, tremendous plot and smooth characterizations made me finish it in a day. I don’t often take an entire day to read anymore. The last time was when I read The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene. I still think The Power and the Glory is one of the finest novels ever written, and it explains faith better than most doxologies.
Bradbury was very generous with his time and talent. He often spoke about writing and even wrote a book detailing his process in Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. His advice is much like that I was taught in journalism school at Oklahoma University. I’m glad to see things are still done much the same whether it’s an ebook or paper. Bradbury makes me want to write fiction again. Only time will tell if I actually do. In the meantime, however, here’s a video clip of a talk he gave in 2001.
Fahrenheit 451 is one of my fav books ever. He predicted so much technology decades before they were developed. Even ipods!
Kay G. says
I love Ray Bradbury’s writing. He spoiled me for books of fiction. His are so good, if they are not up to his standard, I can’t read them. Therefore, I don’t read much fiction. Period.
Bloomin'Chick Jo says
I’m enjoying Ray Bradbury as an adult more so than I ever did in high school. An old friend gave me Zen and the Art of Writing way back in college and I recall not liking what little of it I read back then. My perspective has been changing so lately (on so many things) and after reading CurtissAnn’s post, I think it’s time I dig up that copy and give it another try. (I’m just hoping it wasn’t one of the books I lost because of the Hurricane Irene flooding in 2011).
Donna@Gardens Eye View says
Love Bradbury but didn’t know he wrote mysteries…I will check them out!
I need to read some Ray Bradbury, clearly, I do. I don’t think I’ve read a thing he’s written. I need to change that!
Janet, The Queen of Seaford says
I liked Ray Bradbury in high school. You have convinced me that I should seek out his books again. We are off to the library today…will look to see what titles they have. I love a good read.
Casa Mariposa says
I’m definitely behind on reading Bradbury. I’m behind on reading everything! I need to add him to my list. Thanks for the reminder. :o)
I’ll have to check out Death is a Lonely Business. I’ve always liked Fahrenheit 451.
Although I’ve read quite a few Bradbury stories, I haven’t read any of his novels other than “Fahrenheit 451.” I taught that in class quite a few times, and it’s one of my favorites. I think of him often as I watch people glued to their Iphones and texting instead of communicating face to face. Thanks for the recommendation for “Death Is A Lonely Business”–sounds like a book I would enjoy; I’m going to put it on my reading list!
Just finished ‘Death is a Lonely Business’. Call me when you can. Thanks for the other recommendations. Hope you can read his short story about the cat and the man and woman in the bed. Can’t remember the name. I watched a vid of Bradbury last night on Youtube, too. His book, Zen in the Art of Writing, helps me come alive every time I read it. He was a man alive, and what I see now is that because he was abundantly alive, he could pass that on to others. That is our charge and our aim, why it matters to choose life.
Victoria Summerley says
Fantastic post, Dee! I love Ray Bradbury. I read the Martian Chronicles first, which I thought were amazing. When he died last year, I re-read them, thinking it might have been a teenage literary crush, but no – I still thought they were amazing. But I have never read Something Wicked This Way Comes, so thank you so much for the recommendation. Yay, another book to devour!
My mom loved Ray Bradbury. My great Aunt Anne sent books to Mom after she’d finished reading them, and several Ray Bradbury novels were among the many brown-paper-grocery-bag-wrapped hardcovers that arrived in our mailbox every month or two from sweet home Nebraska. I’m sure Mom still has those Bradbury volumes among her carefully-preserved vintage collection from Aunt Anne, all signed by her with love to her favorite niece.
Wonderful review Dee. Next time I visit Mom I’ll have to see which Bradbury stories she has and do some borrowing. I’m now sorry to say I’ve never read them. No other volumes but the ones signed by my Great-Aunt Anne will do for this adventure.
Pam's English Garden says
Hello Dee, Ray Bradbury was not required reading in the English high school I attended, and I thought he wrote only science fiction — not my favorite genre. Thank you for setting me straight. His mysteries are next on my reading list! Pam x
Gosh, I’m going to have to revisit Ray Bradbury. I’ve heard of “Something Wicked…” but I haven’t read it. Another one to add to the list. Right now I’m reading “The Master Butchers Singing Club,” by Louise Erdrich, and thoroughly enjoying it!
I am going to have to revisit his books, too. It’s been way too long since I read his work. He was a marvelous writer…
I love Ray Bradbury – a great writer, and a great library lover and supporter!
I find myself trying to explain to my children what the times were like when I was their age. I realized they knew nothing about recessions (until this last one, of course), of the Cold War, of pay phones, of life before seat belts and car seats – and I could go on and on.
Definitely a great writer. I’m guessing you’ve read ‘The Illustrated Man’?
Sonya@Beyond the Screen Door says
Hi, Dee. I love that feeling at the end of a good book! And I can relate to the age gap between you and your husband as well. I’m 5 years younger and at times it feels like more. You’ve made me want to revisit Bradbury as well as find the Graham Greene book. Thanks so much!
Patsy Bell Hobson says
We will never run out of good books to read. I think even avid readers only scratch the surface. It is sad that fewer and fewer folks are reading these days. But, more for us! Really enjoyed your review.
I loved Ray Bradbury when I was in high school. You make me want to go revisit those novels and read the ones I missed.