Friday, October 04, 1996

Ray Bradbury Interview - Part 3

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

(Originally published in 1995)

It was when he was 12 and living in Tucson that myth and metaphor began to come together and his search moved on, he continues in his crisp Midwestern tone as our phone conversation rolls along.

He sat down that year to write his first novel.

From that illustration others would blossom and over time he would reach millions.

A breakthrough came as he wrote a story called "The Lake," he tells his Centenary audience. It was 1942. He'd been writing 10 years, but something was different, something had changed as that story flowed from his imagination. "I had learned to write instinctively. I was learning to write from the heart, the stomach, the soul," he says.

He began to look at things differently -- the night, the attic, a pumpkin -- and to write about them "and then proceed to scare the hell out of myself with each of these."

After a visit to his doctor, the idea for a story that became "The Skeleton" struck him, a tale of a man frightened by his own skeleton. He rushed home to write it.

"I learned when you get an idea like that you seize it," he tells his young audience with a straightforward admonition, passing on advice another writer once gave him. "Don't tell anyone what you're doing," he says.

Telling a story gives someone a chance to criticize it and to take away its joy and the energy of the enthusiasm.

"Just get it done," Bradbury says.

Has anyone escaped the reach of Bradbury's tales, those that came from his soul? He's touched people just as Buck and Burroughs. If there had been no Edgar Rice Burroughs, a television commentator once said, NASA might never have sent a probe to the Red Planet.

And what if there had been no Bradbury?

"The Veldt," the first story in The Illustrated Man tells of a family with a recreation center in their home that re-creates environments including the African veldt in a realistic and ultimately frightening fashion complete with man-eating lions. It was an anticipation of virtual reality, and virtual realists today call "Cosmic Ray" their father.

I ask if there are other things technological that have turned out as he once thought or feared.

Modern television is just what he worried it might become, he confides: "A lot of it is a sort of terrible horse manure that I thought it was going to be."

"I advise people almost every time I lecture not to watch local television," he says. Local news shows are all about rapes and murders and funerals and AIDS, he protests. He sees "nothing good, nothing positive" in that and warns that the weight of a thousand days of such adversities can break the spirit.

It's impossible to turn around without glimpsing the O.J. Simpson trial circus, he agrees. "The whole thing is odious."

That brings up another of his stories, "The Parrot Who Met Papa" which is collected in Long After Midnight. It's a whimsical tale which recounts the media frenzy generated when a parrot-- who perched in "Papa" Hemingway's favorite haunt-- is discovered. The world learns The Old Man and the Sea creator told the bird his last short story. Everyone wants the bird, and the story's hero has to resort to dark tactices to keep the tell-tale parrot safe.

"I love that story," Bradbury says, and it's true, it does seem to reflect the 15-minutes-of-fame culture. "We're all tempted to go kill the Queen of England and writea book about it," he says.

He's needed no such sensationalism for his own work, however. I ask someting I've always been curious about -- which came first, the concept or the title. Did he run across the phrase "something wicked this way comes" in Shakespeared and decided to write a story that suited it, or did he write a novel which seemed to fit the phrase.?

It was the latter, he answers. It all began when he met the carnival side show's Mr. Electrico.

To be continued.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Sid. I love that story about parrot. It reminded me a bit of the one he did about Picasso at the seashore and then the one about the Mona Lisa, called "The Smile".

I know that Charles thinks Bradbury has lost some of his strengths in the later years, but I read a story written in the last five years that grabbed me and slapped me against the wall. It's in one of his recent collections. I can't remember the name, but it's about five men who were school children and who made a vow to meet fifty years later. I read that story before I went to bed and sat there crying like a baby.

Sidney said...

I haven't read that story but it sounds like one I would enjoy. I'll have to look for it.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...