Ray Bradbury was my favorite author.
Not the best author I’ve ever read, obviously. But really, honestly my favorite. He’s part of that weird cohort of writers that tend to usher young people into the world of serious reading--along with Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, J.D. Sallinger, Jack Kerouac.
All of those authors are special to me because I read them when I was younger, but I’ve also sort of outgrown them in my tastes, and I don’t ever feel a need to revisit their shtick.
But I’ve never got tired of Bradbury, and I can’t imagine that I ever will. I still re-read his stuff, and because he was so prolific, I’m always uncovering new stories.
No one wrote quite the way Bradbury did. He didn’t have deep insights into the way people work, he didn’t explore difficult truths about life. Frankly, with the exception of Something Wicked This Way Comes, he wasn’t very good at sustaining himself over a novel-length story. But he had this deep sense of magic and wonder about the world, and he could saturate his writing with it in a way that wasn’t overly sentimental or obvious. I’ve never seen anyone else pull it off like him.*
He’s best known as a Science Fiction writer, but I more closely associate him with his stories about small towns. Dandelion Wine... even in Martian Chronicles (his homage to Sherwood Aderson’s small town masterpiece Winesburg, Ohio) his best stories had a distinctive rural feel to them.
His style was poetic, but not showy or erudite or self-aware or even exactly impressive. It was electric and sharp. It was joyful.
I was trying to think of a good story to link to. I decided on “The April Witch”**. The only place I could find it online was here, at an extremelyhilarious website. Oh well!
"Tom," she said, faintly, far away, "in the Southern Seas there's a day in each man's life when he knows it's time to shake hands with all his friends and say goodbye and sail away, and he does, and it's natural-it's just his time. That's how it is today. I'm so like you sometimes, sitting through Saturday matinees until nine at night when we send your dad to bring you home. Tom, when the time comes that the same cowboys are shooting at the same Indians on the same mountaintop, then it's best to fold back the seat and head for the door, with no regrets and no walking backward up the aisle. So, I'm leaving while I'm still happy and entertained."
- Dandelion Wine
So long, Ray!
* (Actually, on second thought, Calvin & Hobbes has a similar feel to me, but.)
** (Bradbury loved to reference particular months. October Country, “West of October,” even the first line of Something Wicked is something like “August was a good month for boys.”)