In defense of Bradbury

In defense of Bradbury

I have to respectfully disagree with Soyka here regarding whether the iPod generation can relate to the thrill of the night carnival. First, let me admit that my perspective on Bradbury is perhaps a little unusual, in that I think he is rather overrated as a science fiction author and underrated as a literary author. I could not understand why Fahrenheit 451 was so highly regarded when I was younger; now that I am a bit more politically sophisticated, I suspect that without the timing of its publication and its romantic appeal to those who make a fetish of opposing book-burning, it might not be numbered among his better books. (NB: I happen to oppose book-burning myself, I merely think that such opposition is about as remarkable as breathing. I can’t even bring myself to make pencil marks in books that I have specifically bought to make notes in.) Sometimes, a book’s reputation is more dependent upon its synchronicity with the zeitgeist than the actual text.

To me, the greatness of Bradbury stems from his unique ability to instill a renewed sense of child-like appreciation of life in the reader. It’s not the space, the aliens, or even the ideas that are special in Bradbury, it is the humane heart. Dandelion Wine is still one of my favorite books, and I think that the sense of wonder it conveys would appeal even more to the less innocent teen reader of today whose loss of that is much more recent than an adult reader. I was a hard-core gamer as a teenager and I had never been to a carnival, let alone a night carnival, but I can still remember how magical it was to be transported back to being eight years old again and remembering the excitement inherent in an approaching summer evening.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the XBox is calling. I have some Necromorphs to dismember….

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Of course, if you follow my logic, you wouldn’t teach high schoolers anything like Shakespeare or Dickens, let alone Bradbury. Indeed, one of the establishment’s knocks on Bradbury was that he was taught in school because his prose was more accessible than “real” literature. As if difficulty translates into art; as if Shakespeare and Dickens didn’t write for general audiences.

Bradbury’s references to Poe and Hemingway and Shakespeare and, even the Wizard of Oz, is what got me interested in authors my teachers never had the talent (or interest) to do. Still, as I think I’ve said elsewhere, I wonder if Bradbury is still an “entry drug” to SF and fantasy, let alone literature, that he once was in the era of special effects and XBox. Your experience would indicate otherwise. Here’s hoping you’re not the exception.

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