Ray Bradbury, one of my favorite authors, has just passed away. Better writers than I will eulogize him. I can only offer these simple thoughts:
Ray Bradbury was the first writer who made me realize that words alone can evoke great beauties in the mind that go beyond the mere meaning of the sentences that they make up. He made me realize that a writer, at their best, is an artist painting with words, painting great visions on the canvas of the mind’s eye.
Take the first paragraph of his story, ‘April Witch:’
Into thin air, over the valleys, under the stars, above a river, a pond, a road, flew Cecy. Invisible as new spring winds, fresh as the breath of clover rising from twilight fields, she flew. She soared in doves as soft as white ermine, stopped in trees and lived in blossoms, showering away in petals as the breeze blew. She perched in a lime-green frog, cool as mint by a shining pool. She trotted in a brambly dog and barked to hear echoes from the sides of distant barns. She lived in new April grasses, in sweet, clear liquids rising from the musky earth.
Or the equally great story, ‘The Emissary:’
Martin knew it was autumn again, for Dog ran into the house bringing wind and frost and a smell of apples turned to cider under trees. In dark, clock-springs of hair, Dog fetched goldenrod, dust of farewell-summer, acorn-husk, hair of squirrel, feather of departed robin, sawdust from fresh-cut cordwood, and leaves like charcoals shaken from a blaze of maple trees. Dog jumped. Showers of brittle fern, blackberry vine, marsh-grass sprang over the bed where Martin shouted. No doubt, no doubt of it at all, this incredible beast was October!
I cannot praise enough the way the richness of his words bring me into these stories. They instill a longing in my heart, but also satisfy in a tangible way that only reading those words can. There is a dance going on here between the author and the reader. The author is leading, and providing the music with those magnificent words that delight with every syllable. Bradbury celebrates both the mundane and the massive. The little things: Leaves, flowers, animals, and the large: Seasons, emotions, and a life well lived.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that such a thing is a feat that only certain authors can manage for me. John Crowley and Gene Wolfe come to mind, or the rare prose of e.e. cummings. (His poetry does it for me as well)
But Ray Bradbury was the first. I can’t say that he inspired me to write, but he certainly made me realize that there was something going on in good writing that dwelt beyond the mere meaning of the words on the page.
RIP and Godspeed, sir!