Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Leavetaking

Yesterday Ray Bradbury was laid to rest in a small-scale, private ceremony in Los Angeles. He is beside his wife Maggie in Westwood Village Memorial Park. As you can see from the list of others who have been buried there, Ray is also in company with many people he knew: writer Robert Bloch, screenwriter Harry Essex. cinematographer James Wong Howe, and the writer who gave him a huge break by rescuing one of his short stories from the reject pile, Truman Capote.

Discussions are underway for ways of remembering Ray: there is talk of a celebration of his life to be held either on his birthday (August) or at Halloween; there is talk of naming something after him in Los Angeles - something which was already under discussion in his lifetime, but which didn't come to fruition in time for Ray to see it; and calls for the Waukegan Public library to be renamed in his honour. Whether any or all of these tentative ideas come to pass remains to be seen, but I will post updates here if anything tangible emerges.

Tributes to Bradbury continue to appear, too many to link to. As before, I want to link just to the best of these:

  • The Los Angeles Times has a report on the tributes from "ordinary" people.
  • The Guardian carried an article by Margaret Atwood, in which she tries to uncover why Bradbury became such a widely treasured American writer. Atwood, the author of The Handmaid's Tale has had a career which in many ways reflects Bradbury's. Like him, she is novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter. Like him, she has had some tussles over whether her work is science fiction or something else. Curiously, her working definition of science fiction is almost opposite to Bradbury's. Bradbury's distinction between SF and fantasy was that SF (such as, for him, Fahrenheit 451) could happen, but fantasy (The Martian Chronicles) was about things that were impossible. Atwood, on the other hand, once dismissed SF by implying that it was about the impossible, famously using the phrase "talking squids in outer space".
  • The organiser of Los Angeles' Ray Bradbury Week tributes in 2010, Steven Paul Leiva, has blogged some photos of himself and Ray, and a link to an interview he gave about Ray on an NPR station in LA.
  • The Los Angeles Review of Books has completed its three day series of reflections on Bradbury's work with articles by (among others) Bradbury scholars Jon Eller, Robin Anne Reid and Bill Touponce, and SF/fantasy critics John Clute, Gary K. Wolfe and Rob Latham. Read all three parts with these links: part one, part two, part three. This last section contains essays which are probably the first since Bradbury's death to refer to shortcomings or disappointments with aspects of Bradbury's writing, and perhaps are a sign of how the scholarly community will now seek to grapple with what Bradbury's work really meant. I have no problem with this at all, but I do wonder whether some of the critics have read much of Bradbury's post-1962 writing.

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