Ray Bradbury died this week. He was 91, so this doesn’t go against the natural order of things. He lived a long, excellent life. His stories touched a lot of people. They touched me, so I’m pretty bummed about his death.
In the 4th grade I had a language arts teacher who everyone found charming because he’d let us have long recesses and would spend the class talking about civil war reenactments, but I found him insufferably boring because I actually wanted to, you know, read, and in the 4th grade I was pretty awkward and so recess was no fun for me. I’d spend a lot of time in the back of the classroom, reading all the short stories in our 4th grade language arts book. One story was called “All Summer in a Day,” and it was about a classroom on Venus. The sun only emerged on Venus every seven years, and the story took place on the day when Venus would get two hours of sun. No one in the classroom had ever see the sun, except for one little girl who was born on Earth. The other classmates taunt her, make fun of her, and tell her that they don’t believe her stories of the sun looking like a shiny penny. They lock her in a closet. However, when the sun does emerge the kids run and play outside, forgetting all about the girl they locked in the closet. After the sun vanishes, the kids realize what they have done, and their quiet remorse and general sense of overall disappointment as they let the little girl out of the closet is just devastating. I read that story over and over.
One day I went home and I told my dad about this story, and my dad was all “Oh that’s by Ray Bradbury, he’s one of my favorite authors, you should read him.” Which makes total sense, because in terms of literature and movies and fun things, my father introduced me to all the best, nerdy authors and films and that sort of thing. My father also told me that Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles was one of his favorite books ever, so I figured I’d pick it up and check it out.
GUYSSS. This is one of the most beautiful, devastating books ever written, and also the best book about alien invasion. It is a collection of short stories involving the human colonization of Mars, and it is so beautiful, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but you should totally go read it RIGHT NOW. I reread The Martian Chronicles every few years, and I think it might be time for another go.
Of course I read Farenheit 451, in school I’m sure, and I’ve read other short stories of Bradbury’s, but The Martian Chronicles is really the book that is most BRADBURY to me. The stories in that book stay with you, they resurface in your memory when you least expect it, and that’s the mark of a great story. That’s the mark of a great storyteller.
So, rest in peace Mr. Bradbury. Thanks for your great visions and stories, thanks for sharing them with us.