Thursday, August 30, 2018

A Challenge to Scholars!

I was commissioned by an American publisher to provide a short annotated bibliography of the best critical writing about Ray Bradbury's short stories. This meant ploughing through a list of about a hundred candidate essays looking for a dozen or so worthy of comment. And I discovered something rather interesting.

The essays tend to divide into two major groups: those written in the 1980s, and those written in the 2000s. In itself, nothing new. Not to me, at least. I've long been aware that Bradbury was a popular study in American high schools from the 1980s onwards, and that this had prompted a mini-industry of books about his work. Some of the best studies date from this period, including Wayne L. Johnson's book Ray Bradbury and Greenberg & Olander's essay anthology Ray Bradbury. (You'd think publishers would be able to come up with more distinctive titles.

And then, of course, Ray's death in 2012 provided the impetus for some re-evaluation, and hence we get new critical essay collections such as McGiveron's Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury and Critical Insights: Fahrenheit 451, and Gloria McMillan's Orbiting Ray Bradbury's Mars.

Now here's the really interesting thing. These newer collections of essays - and most of the individual essays on Ray published between 1980 and the present - stick to the same old stories. Fahrenheit 451 gets a lot of attention, and rightly so. The Martian Chronicles and the individual stories it comprises also get a lot of attention. But I can count on the fingers of... well, on one finger how many essays consider stories in any of the books shown at the top of this blog post.

Perhaps you recognise those books?

They are the seven new collections of Bradbury short stories published between 1980 and today. Seven collections, covering about thirty years. That's an awful lot of fiction, covering one-third of Bradbury's life. Nearly half of his professional career.

Which leads me to this challenge to scholars:

Enough of your re-assessments of "And The Moon Be Still As Bright" and applying a new "critical lens" to "The Veldt". How about picking something from that seven-volume, thirty-year range of short stories which no one else has considered?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Ninety-Eight Years of Ray Bradbury

It's hard to believe that Ray Bradbury was born nearly a century ago, but it's true. Today would have been his 98th birthday.

How to celebrate?

Well, if you're in Indianapolis, you could attend the fifth annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture at the city library: Jon Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies will be giving an illustrated talk about Bradbury and art. Details are here.

Or if you're in the Los Angeles area, you could attend a free exhibition in Pasadena entitled Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California.

But if you're elsewhere in the universe - like me -  you'll have to make your own entertainment. I will spend the day reviewing my notes and documents relating to The Ray Bradbury Theater, because next month I will be presenting a conference paper on Ray's authorship of the sixty-five episode series which took up more than seven years of his professional life. After the conference, I will be submitting an extended version of the paper to an academic journal, and after that it will be expanded further into a book on the series. As with my PhD thesis (which examined Ray's screenwriting), I'll be presenting my findings as something of an archaeological dig into Ray's archives, trying to establish to what extent Bradbury the screenwriter can be seen as the "author" of his TV series. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

Happy Bradbury Day - and here's looking forward to the Bradbury Centenary in two years' time.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Bahrani Looks Back on Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

A new interview has appeared on the HBO film of Fahrenheit 451 (2018) in which writer-director Ramin Bahrani looks back on his film. All previous articles presenting his views were part of the promotional push when the film was released.

Seeing his comments here, it is unfortunately obvious that the weaknesses of the film come largely from a flawed approach to the adaptation. Bahrani points out that he had never adapted a novel before; that he had never made a film with such a big budget; and that he had never made an action film before.
It shows.

He says he wanted to make a film that would work for teenagers. Hence all that nonsense jargon, all the reliance on emojis, and almost forgetting that F451 is about book-burning.

He says it's supposed to be set in a parallel present, rather than in the future - but there isn't a single indication of this in the film itself, and I don't recall any of the reviews picking up on this.

And he attributes the negative response to the film as coming from hardcore fans of the book.
Er... no, sorry: 25% on Rotten Tomatoes suggests a WIDESPREAD rejection of the film, not hostility from a narrow audience of Bradbury readers.

I remain a defender of the film, which isn't nearly as bad as that 25% rating would suggest. But nor is the film worthy of the Emmy Award it has been shortlisted for.