Ray Bradbury, still writing at age 91, died last night in his Los Angeles home.
But Douglas Spaulding, age 12, he of Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece “Dandelion Wine,” he’s still here. Open up that book like you would open up summer and listen to this man write,
“It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with a darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.”
“The great thing about my life,” Bradbury said in 1982, “is that everything I’ve done is the result of what I did when I was 12 or 13.”
“Green Town” Illinois, where the author sets “Dandelion Wine” is his birthplace of Waukegan Illinois, a far northern suburb of Chicago.
And it’s in the gentle, green and then sometimes breathtakingly terrifying deep green ravines along the shoreline of Lake Michigan that this writer for the ages began telling his stories. He lived his life in California, but he was rooted in those Green Town ravines.
Known primarily for his science fiction work, there was a deep core of social justice that ran through his writing. The Martian Chronicles, his first big success, was in fact about colonizing Mars. But the trial of that colonization told of racism and cold war superpowers battling it out.
Drawing from the pulp magazines, the lyricism of Thomas Wolfe and the rhythms of Hemingway, Bradbury – armed with a ferocious work ethic—just kept writing. “I never went to college,” he once said, “so I went to the library.”
Bradbury often said that he remembered everything. Literally everything.
His father was a descendent of a woman tried for witchcraft at the Salem Massachusetts trials. His Mother read him The Wizard of Oz. And he had an Aunt who introduced him to Edgar Allen Poe.
He is survived by four daughters. His wife of 56 years, Marguerite Bradbury, died in 2003.
His work will be in schools, libraries and the hands of children forever.
Children like the ones on the planet Venus in the haunting “All Summer In a Day.” A story published in 1954. A story that begins:
“No one in the class could remember a time when there wasn't rain."
And then goes on . . . .
"Do the scientists really know? Will it happen today, will it?"
"Look, look; see for yourself!"
The children pressed to each other like so many roses, so many weeds, intermixed, peering out for a look at the hidden sun.
It had been raining for seven years; thousand upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again. And this was the way life was forever on the planet Venus, and this was the schoolroom of the children of the rocket men and women who had come to a raining world to set up civilization and live out their lives.
"It's stopping, it's stopping!"
Margot stood apart from these children who could never remember a time when there wasn't rain and rain and rain. They were all nine years old, and if there had been a day, seven years ago, when the sun came out for an hour and showed its face to the stunned world, they could not recall.”
That’s how Ray Bradbury’s story begins. If you’re interested in what happens to Margot? You can find the rest of the story on the web. Google the title, “All Summer In a Day.”
Or you can find it in a library. Like the ones Ray Bradbury knew.
And you can listen to that man write.