I Don’t Know When I Became a Reader: A Post Written for Ray Bradbury

Ok…so…with the news of your lossRay Bradbury, I took pause.  I decided not to post right away because there was just so much that I wanted to say.  I hope that all of my former students will return, once again, to your masterpiece entitled Dandelion Wine.  It was when I read this book for the very first time that I think I became a reader.  I had read many books before this one.  In fact, I had first picked up The Illustrated Man, a compilation of eighteen short stories, tattoos that came to life on your character’s back.

For years, I have read your stories with my students.  The Lake was one of them and here is the story’s introduction.

The wave shut me off from the world, from the birds in the sky, the children on the beach,my mother on the shore. There was a moment of green silence. Then the wave gave me back to the sky, the sand, the children yelling. I came out of the lake and the world was waiting for me, having hardly moved since I went away.”

Of this story, Andrew Tolson of Maclean’s magazine writes,

“There’s no doubt that Bradbury fans, of which there are legions, all have a favourite short story. Mine is The Lake, a piece that oozes with sentimentality, rather than martians, about the heartbreaking realities that adulthood often holds.  It made me cry the first time I read it 20 years ago when I was in Grade 8, and the last time, too, a few years ago.”

I used several of your stories, over the years, to motivate the non-readers…to reach into the boys who just couldn’t stand to read…to appeal to the young ladies who were romantics and who valued your rich description.  Your works were as much psychological as science-fiction, causing us to think deeply about moral choices and to wonder what we might do in the case that we were ever confronted with the same dilemmas as you gave to your characters.

Douglas Spaulding, the protagonist in Dandelion Wine, created a philosophy of living that I have held onto faithfully since first reading the book.  I make daily observations of my life…and find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  For years, with kids, I called this ‘magic’.  When Douglas first took out his Ticonderoga pencil and a tablet, I invited my students to do the same.  Dated, front and back, the students kept a daily log of their ‘magic’.  I know that some of them cursed me that…I know for some, the magic was pure invention…but, in truth, I hope that something of that process appealed to them along the way.  I also hope that they will revisit Douglas’s summer as they begin their own summers, this year.

It very well could be a Ray Bradbury summer, this year!  Your books are now more than classics and they leave us with a huge message about both life and invention.  Thank you, Mr. Bradbury, for writing persistently.

If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.
— Tennessee Williams

3 thoughts on “I Don’t Know When I Became a Reader: A Post Written for Ray Bradbury

  1. Initially I wanted to say that Bradbury’s death is like the death of my childhood, as much as when Leonard Cohen passes it will be like the passing of my middle age. But that’s not really how I feel. Bradbury’s writing introduced me, at an early age, to the literature of wonder and magic, to speculative fiction and to an alternative, poetic way of looking at life. As the dying of all great writers it’s impossible for me to accept that they are gone, because really they are not. They live on in their books, ideas and stories and in our hearts…

  2. Pingback: Magic! | The Chapel

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