The Bradbury Chronicles
April 1, 2005
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"Fact or fiction? The life of Ray Bradbury is a magical blend of both…"
"Straightforward, informative, and insightful…"
"Live forever!" Mr. Electrico cried, tapping a young Ray Bradbury on the shoulder with his sword. Static electricity jumped from the mysterious carnival performer to the imaginative mama''s boy that day, and thus a great American writer was born.
Fact or fiction? The life of Ray Bradbury is a magical blend of both, according to biographer Sam Weller in The Bradbury Chronicles. Weller deftly melds Bradbury''s fantastic creative vision and his all-American upbringing into an entertaining tale of how a poor kid from Waukegan, Illinois, was transformed into the successfully published short story master, novelist, and screenplay writer Ray Bradbury is known as today.
Bradbury''s reasons for his fascination with death, "dark" carnivals, censorship, and, of course, Martians, become readily apparent in this biography. (With an ancestor accused and tried as a witch at the Salem witch trials, is his interest in these themes any wonder?) Ray Bradbury was born in 1920 to parents of modest means, coddled and protected from an early age by a mother who feared losing her children in infancy. His curiosity and sensitivity were apparent from the very start. He read voraciously and enjoyed the magic of the movies. His creativity, along with many tragic losses of loved ones early in life, reinforced Ray''s fervent wish to "Live forever!"
The Great Depression (and his father''s wanderlust) eventually drove the family from their ancestral home of Waukegan to the bustling streets of Los Angeles. There, an adolescent Ray roller-skated about collecting autographs from celebrities and even wrote and sold a radio gag to George and Gracie Burns. A likable and talkative lad, Ray made many friends and eventually found his writing home within the growing science-fiction community. Mentored by SF greats such as Robert Heinlein, Harry Kuttner, and Leigh Brackett, Ray''s writing career began to blossom. Soon he became known as the "poet of the pulps". But it wasn''t enough. Ray wanted his work taken seriously by the literary establishment as well. Several years later with the publication of his first short story collection, Dark Carnival, it would be.
With the publication of The Martian Chronicles, "a novel in stories", Ray''s popularity soared. Still, he felt that he wasn''t writing science fiction–which many other SF authors attested to, since scientific verity is very much lacking in most of Bradbury''s works. Instead, The Martian Chronicles is seen more as a human story, sentimental and full of nostalgia for a time and place long gone which just happens to be set on the red planet and not the American midwest. The critics would soon agree with Ray''s self-identification as a literary author with the publication of his novella, Fahrenheit 451. Readers grasped its strong political stance against censorship in the height of the early 1950s McCarthyism hysteria, making it an instant success.
Straightforward, informative, and insightful, The Bradbury Chronicles is a great read in the tradition of the writings of its worthy subject–long may he "Live forever!"
Reviewer: Cindy Appel