Ray Bradbury left us last week, the same week his elegiac “Take Me Home” appeared in The New Yorker. A writer dreams of going out like that.
“Take Me Home” was Bradbury at the top of his form — nostalgic for the inimitable ties of family, the elevation of pulp culture to something golden, and the revelation that magic informs so many of the moments of our lives, if only we could see it.
The top of his form — how astonishing that is. A man at 91, working on that form that began to take shape with the publication of his first pro piece, “Pendulum” in 1941 (for which he earned $15).
Ray wrote quickly and from the heart. According to publishing legend, “Fahrenheit 451,” his masterful screed against censorship and paean to the unquenchable power of imagination, was typed out in a Remington-wrecking nine days in the basement of a library.
Every library should contain a copy of “Fahrenheit 451.” Every lover of reading should embrace its undeniable message. I suppose it’s science fiction, but at its burning core it’s a story about today.
Ray shepherded me through a lonely childhood, and even today he whispers to me. Last year, I reread “Dandelion Wine” and was astonished to discover that somehow, somehow, he’d managed to bottle and store away a young Luke and the uncle he loved with all his heart. I cried great tears down my face.
But Ray was nothing if not optimistic. Some day, I’ll join him on the front porch, or on the shores of a vanished Martian sea and we’ll compare notes.