Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Becoming Ray Bradbury by Jonathan R. Eller

This is an extraordinarily complete and comprehensive account of how Ray Bradbury was inspired and created all of his stories and novels. Painstakingly filled with details, it's a very slow read.

Bradbury began writing while quite young, and was heavily involved in the science fiction fan community in the Los Angeles area. The book is full of information about his relationships with many of the players in the early SF field, such as Leigh Bracket, Henry Kuttner, August Derleth, Hannes Bok, and many others.

Unfortunately, it tends to loop back upon itself chronologically at times, which can be a bit confusing.

One quote I found amusing:

"Late in 1945, he would remark to (August) Derleth, 'God, are there no happy big-time writers?'"

It seemed to take him a while, personally, to find happiness, as he lived with his parents and even slept in the same bed with his older brother until his marriage at age 27.

The book mentions "Franz Werfel's perennial bestseller The Song of Bernadette", which I found interesting. I am not alone in having nominated Werfel's Star of the Unborn as the all-time worst SF novel ever published.

Another interesting passage:

"He (Bradbury) was able to use the evolving Dark Carnival collection to signify that a literary author had emerged from a genre where writers were often seen as entertainers rather than authors..."

I tend to enjoy "entertainers" more than "authors", myself. Non-fiction reading keeps me well aware of the miserable state of most human experience. I much prefer to read to escape from reality.

A great book for the serious Bradbury student.

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