Saturday, June 04, 2005

Lessons From the Master

I've been reading Ray Bradbury lately. The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, and Driving Blind, specifically. I am reviewing these for Green Man Review.

Reading Bradbury is often a mistake. I get so caught up in his masterful use of words that I despair of ever creating anything of any worth. This time around, I noticed something I had not been aware of before: Ray Bradbury is a "bad" writer. By that I mean that he breaks every rule of "good" writing known. He uses passive voice, adjectives and adverbs grow over his stories like kudzu, his dialogue is downright stinky, and his science is suspect at its best.

So what is it about Bradbury's writing that appeals to me so much? The biggest thing is the way he uses the English language. Bradbury is a fiction writer with a poet's sensitivity to sound, rhythm, and meaning. He build ethereal castles in the air, heartbreakingly beautiful and breathtakingly rich in meaning. He has a natural sense of symbolism, and evokes his images with clarity and dimensionality. I can taste the air, feel the dust in my face or the grass under my feet. I can see the houses, hear the roar of the rocket's engines on takeoff. He draws me in to the exclusion of all else. When I read Bradbury, I cannot do anything else or tolerate any distraction. What can I say? I'm a sucker for beautiful language.

The other thing that makes Bradbury such a master is his intimate knowledge of people. He knows what drives us, the answers we seek, and how much we will pay for some of them. His stories address questions of wonder and imagination. He explores our feelings about death, both physical and intellectual. Most of all, Bradbury mourns the loss of childhood wonder and the innate loneliness we all feel, our separation from others and the lack of empathy in the world.

Everything I write for the next couple of weeks will carry heavy overtones of Bradbury. He gets into my soul and is hard to get rid of. I can think of worse things that could happen.


At 4:23 PM, Blogger Debra Young said...

Of all the writers I've read over the years, Bradbury is one whose work stays with me. He is endlessly re-readable. His language captures and holds and draws you into the emotional center of his wonderful stories. His books are permanent residents on my shelves.

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Jordan Summers said...

I think that's why Stephen King waxed on about him in his book, 'On Writing'. He said after he read Bradbury that for a while everything he wrote was viewed through a lens of nostalgia.

At 10:57 PM, Blogger Carter said...

I've been a fan since childhood, but I can't read very much of him at one time. He's like chocolate cheesecake--so good you can't resist, but so rich you can't have much at one time. Plus, he gets inside my head and messes around with things. Makes it hard to think in non-Bradbury-esque terms.


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