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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, and my trip to Mars and beyond

I went to Mars as a teenager. And I drank dandelion wine and watched tattoos move over a man's body. My imagination never returned to earth.
Bradbury was a character and geezer, a
brother in imagination.
That's because my tour guide was Ray Bradbury, who died today at age 91.
His series of stories in "The Martian Chronicles'' (1950) was a Cold War morality tale of events on another planet commented on life on this planet. It has been published in more than 30 languages.
And I was mesmerized by his 1984-ish novel, "Fahrenheit 451" (1953) about book burning and thought control. But as a teen, I thought I was just reading stories.
Years later as an adult, I've increasingly relied on his writings to teach writing and living. I see the same dangers in higher ed and our country toward cookie-cutter micromanagement and control that he so aptly wrote about.
I use his book "Zen and the Art of Writing" in my classes. I show YouTube videos of him talking about writing, and dissing going to college. A favorite quote: 
"I hate a Roman named Status Quo! Stuff your eyes with wonder, live yourlife as if you'd drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. Its more fantastic thanany dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security,there were never such an animal. And if it were, it would be related to the greatsloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that, shake the tree and know the great sloth down on his ass."
I've referred to him on this blog before, and my students know. Most recently, one, Andy Jensen,  gave me a gift of a lifetime, a signed copy of Fahrenheit 451. And in later years, I also learned Bradbury idolized Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Tarzan books. I read those before I read him, thanks to my Dad taking me to used bookstores. No wonder we're brothers in imagination. My son Travis, also a Bradburyite, now has those old books.
It's inaccurate to label him a science fiction writer, because he wrote so much more. He suffered a stroke years ago, and couldn't type, but he wrote every day, dictating stories on the phone to his daughter. In the last few years he's come out with other books of short stories, and I've eagerly snatched them up. They've continued to take me on trips far beyond Mars. Here's the official website: 

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