Saturday, March 30, 2013

Big Read - the Bronx!

The writer Jason Marchi tells me that on 28 April 2013 he will be giving a lecture in the Bronx, New York, about being mentored by Ray Bradbury, and their close friendship over the last 12 years of Bradbury's life. It's one of the many events being held in the Bronx, which has adopted Fahrenheit 451 for its community Big Read programme. The full programme of events can be seen here.

Other US cities have also adopted Fahrenheit 451, which continues to be a popular book in this scheme. Find out where else has chosen Bradbury using this interactive map.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Night At The Opera

The question I am most often asked (apart from "What's the title of that story where the summer only lasts a single day?") is: "Do you like everything Bradbury did?"

The answer is quite simple: No.

While it's true that I tend to use this blog to focus on positive stories about Bradbury and his work, there's plenty that I don't like. But I just don't see the point in wasting my energy on things that don't interest me. So you won't very often hear me discuss Bradbury's later short story collections, which contain some very slight stories (or should I say "stories"). And you won't hear much from me about Let's All Kill Constance, the weaker of Ray's three mystery novels.

And you won't hear much about... operas or musicals.

Bradbury had a fascination for these forms of theatre, and devoted quite a bit of time from the 1960s onwards to developing all sorts of things for the musical stage: Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, Leviathan '99 and more. I haven't seen a single one of these performed, mainly because they were staged only briefly, and on a whole 'nother continent. But even if they were staged just around the corner from me, I would tend to stay away for the simple reason that I can't stand musicals!

The only exceptions I make are: cartoon musicals, and musicals involving puppets. But even these can try my patience.

Imagine my mixed feelings, then, when I learned that Daniel Levy and Elizabeth Margid had developed a new opera based on Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.

The website for the project includes a substantial amount of the text and music for the show, some of it placed alongside Bradbury's original text, and I actually quite like being able to sample sections of the production in audio and/or video and/or text. I suppose it allows me to take it in small doses, whereas I would never be able to sit through an entire opera.

As a book, The Martian Chronicles does have a lot of musical content. The first time that Earth people "appear" to the Martians is through a song which Ylla hears in her head. Then comes a Martian opera, where the singer loses control and finds herself channeling a strange alien language. And when the Earthmen of the third expedition arrive on a Mars that resembles a small American town, they are greeted by the sound of Beautiful Ohio. There is clearly a lot of potential here for musical interpretation, and I would hope that this is reflected in the new opera.

Levy and Margid should be congratulated for managing to interest this opera skeptic. But I wish they would change the awful "sci-fi" label on the splash page of their website. Bradbury himself fought against labelling The Martian Chronicles as any kind of science fiction, let alone the downmarket kind suggested by the term "sci-fi".

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bradbury and the Group

For many years, a group of Los Angeles-area writers got together for mutual support and to review each other's works in progress. Ray Bradbury was one of them.

What I didn't know is that the core of the group was established as far back as 1948, with the publication of Best American Short Stories 1948. Apparently some enterprising soul went through the book, found out which of its authors lived within easy distance of LA, and invited them to join the group.

Terry Sanders' 1963 documentary Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer includes a short sequence showing the group reviewing Bradbury's "Dial Double Zero", although I'm not sure whether this reflects how the group really operated, or whether it is highly staged.

Now E.E.King has blogged about "the group", and reproduced a 1973 article by Bradbury's writer friend Sid Stebel, who Ray apparently described as "the best writing teacher that ever was!" The article is taken from the Los Angeles Times, Calendar section, 24 June 1973.