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?

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