Thursday, September 13, 2012


Ray Bradbury and I had been nodding acquaintances for years. I'd read one collection of his short stories, The Illustrated Man, and found it brilliantly crafted but as a whole, disturbing. The themes of so many stories were so sad, leaving me lonesome and unfit to be my own company for the rest of the afternoon. The exception of course, was "The Man," a story of science fiction and Christianity and gorgeous allegory. But children sicking their virtual-but-not lions on their parents? A son coping with a desperate mother, whose wanderlust-ridden husband crashes his rocket into the sun?

Oh, oh Bradbury. No. No thank you. My heart can't take stories like that.

But Chris is the scientist type, and so to find common ground in a bookstore, I always find myself turning to science fiction. It isn't necessary - he respects the classics, and we love to talk about psychology and philosophy and humor. Literature is replete with those. Regardless, I often hope to meet him on some middle ground between the figurative and literal, between imagination and the here-and-now. So I pick up science fiction - this time Bradbury - and smile.

Barnes and Noble carries these lovely, whimsical hardback editions of classics now. Bradbury's volume includes my only exposure to him, so, enjoying the familiar face in a crowd of books I may never read, I opened it to the first page.

What I did not realize until halfway through the imaginative prose and undulating pace is that it begins with an introduction by Bradbury himself. Creative non-fiction, and gorgeous. I finished the too-few pages, and heard the familiar hum of a kindred spirit.

"We write so as not to be dead," says Bradbury.

That resonated with me, and, honestly, it left me a little ashamed. My writing has not been what it should over the years. Someone with my talents has no excuse not to write, not to explore herself and share it with others, not to take that heady breath of air that writing is. Bradbury's introduction reminded me of that.

As if that wasn't enough, he also describes his writing style: one side of his brain throws a crazy "what if?" question, and the other side of his brain catches it, intent on figuring out the answer. I love that. I've spoken with other writers, ones who outline their work and then stretch their prose around it, like fabric stretched over a tent frame. This is not how I work, nor Bradbury either as a matter of fact. I write to find out how the story ends.

This baffles Chris. "How can you not know how the story ends? You're the one writing it!" he says. I'm equally curious how people can outline and then write. It just feels so stilted when I try -- like filling in a coloring book when I want to paint a landscape. That's just not what storytelling is for me. If I already know the ending (via outlining,) then my curiosity is spent and the story I've invented never actually gets written.

And what's the fun in that, anyway?

Someday, years hence, I'll tell my children that I decided in the early days of our marriage that it was okay that Chris didn't understand the hows and whys of my writing. I love who he is: handsome and steady and practical and...sequential. I need him to be that way; I've tried the alternatives. I love that with his personality, he's my anchor. In years to come, Chris will be the reason I don't go off the deep end. Please don't ever change.

It's just that I enjoy discovering another writer, and a legendary one at that, who works the same way. So thanks, Ray Bradbury, for saying what I've only just caught a renewed glimpse of.

Thank you for justifying my growing compulsion.

Thank you for getting my figurative,

and inquisitive,

and rambling ways.


  1. I love Ray Bradbury. He's become a running joke in our marriage. Every time Mahon gets all excited about some kinda creepy technology, I say in the voice of doom, "It's just like a Ray Bradbury story!!!" and he gets all huffy. He sort of lorded over me when Bradbury died recently, sigh.

  2. Heehee! I should start saying that to Chris, although I'd love for him to actually READ some Bradbury, so then again maybe not. ;)