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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rereading Ray Bradbury

How do these things start? I cannot say, for cannot recall important things such as the day I was born or the day I first read a story by Ray Bradbury. Ray claimed he could, recall the day of his birth that is, and who am I to doubt the man, the man whose taught me much about remembering and imagining. Did he remember Mars or Greentown or invent them? Does it matter now?

Somewhere back in time and Minnesota a younger me met Martians and a man named Montag who burned books and sparked in me something that still smolders and now and then burns bright, fanned to flame by what exactly? Memory, imagination, a book on the shelf glanced then grabbed. Here’s a comfy chair, no... a rocket ship and the dust of the years falls away, water flows in the old canals and I am once again young with wonder.

How do these things start? It doesn’t matter, they keep going. They scuttle like robot mice in robot towns, they echo from the past, in warning and wonder, and the man who wanted to live forever does, he really does, in these books and these electrons in these infernal machines he loved and warned us about.

Do I have favorites? Of course I have favorites, but favor is fickle. The streets of Greentown, glowing in sunlight seen through a strawberry window, a good place to come from, to spend a boyhood or a summer but not forever. No, not forever.

Perhaps to the past, via some fantastic machine, bending time to hunt the dinosaurs, to make them live again, to hear their terrible roars, to fear their terrible claws, to watch in wide-eyed wonder.

Or maybe build machines, robots to make us toast, to sweep our rugs, to tell us stories, to be our grandmothers, to remember and imagine...

Mars. Mars is heaven and hell and Usher and the new frontier. It’s where we’ll wait out the war, make new mistakes and old ones. We’ll not see the Martians until it’s too late or perhaps they’ll do the same. Dark they were, and golden-eyed. Give us time under a sky with two moons, time to learn to read the old singing books, to learn to live in crystal cities beside canals that are not dead but flowing...

I read the old books and my eyes begin to fleck with bits of gold.

The old pages smell of mummies, dandelions, rocket ships and dinosaurs.

It’s the first day of summer or maybe it’s October and a dark carnival has just rolled into town. Or maybe it’s Hollywood in the fifties and a mystery is afoot. This is Mars and Greentown and a million other places, real and imagined.

Live forever, Ray advised. There’s a crater on Mars called Bradbury now. There are millions of Bradburys on millions of shelves now, dinosaurs, Martians and mechanical hounds let loose to roam wild. They’ll not be stopped.

Book paper burns at Fahrenheit 451. But the stories and ideas don’t die. They’ll live forever.

Just like Ray Bradbury.