Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Soft Rains

It's been the oddest of weeks.

Ray Bradbury's former house, located on Cheviot Drive in Los Angeles, has been recreated along with Ray in a graphic treatment of a Bradburyesque fiction - and in real life has been pulled down.

Ray passed away in 2012, and in 2014 his house was finally put up for sale. It was bought by an architect who, apparently, has the intention of using the land for building a new family home. It was only a matter of time before the Bradbury house, a curious yellow bungalow built into a hillside, would be redeveloped. I don't think anyone close to Bradbury was quite prepared for how devastating this would seem.

Ray and his family moved into the house over fifty years ago, and countless newpaper interviews, magazine profiles, news reports and documentary films have shown the house, so much so that the house and Bradbury became synonymous. His basement office, overloaded with books, toys and exotic masks, was for many years a particular focus of published profiles of Ray; and in the last years of his life, it was his "den" that became the focus, where he would entertain visitors surrounded by sculptures of dinosaurs, an Ice-Cream Suit, Halloween paraphernalia and original artworks.

In 2014, not only was the house sold off, but many of Ray's possessions also went up for auction. And this week, the demolition team moved in. There are pictures of the remains of the house in this report on Mike Glyer's File770 website, accompanying an article written by Ray's longtime friend and helper John King Tarpinian.

By coincidence, this week also saw the publication of the third issue of Shadow Show, the comic book based on the Bradbury tribute book of the same name. Issue 3 includes a graphic adaptation of Bradbury biographer Sam Weller's short story "Live Forever!" - a story which includes Ray as a character, and uses the house as the arena in which this Bradburyesque tale unfolds. Sam tells me that the comic's producers went to great lengths to achieve accuracy in depicting the house. The result is very successful. Here's one page from the comic, and you can see more in this preview.

Note that even the artworks hanging on the walls are reproduced with accuracy in Mark Sexton's comic strip - in the page above, the final frame shows the classic cover art for Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.

It is a great irony that these two events should have coincided: the celebration of Bradbury's house as one source of his literary strength, and the destruction of that same house. Friends of Bradbury who were present around the time of the demolition have reported a further irony. The day they knocked the roof off the Bradbury house, it rained. Not exactly a common occurrence in Los Angeles. Inevitably, it brings to mind Bradbury's classic short story "There Will Come Soft Rains", which poignantly depicts an empty house after a nuclear war:

The house shuddered, oak bone on bone, its bared skeleton cringing from the heat, its wire, its nerves revealed as if a surgeon had torn the skin off to let the red veins and capillaries quiver in the scalded air. [...]

The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.[...]

Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:

"Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is . . ."

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