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Losing My Way to Ray

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

100Revisiting the stories of Ray Bradbury has been a lot like sitting down to revisit Twilight Zone episodes. I don’t just mean the twist ending, though there is that. I mean the other things – the misanthropic critic/hero/rebel who talks for a long while, perhaps too long, about the troubles of society, of humanity. The mirror held up to show us ourselves as we once were when all men wore hats and all women wore dresses. The sad realization that while there are cool and brilliant bits, our sense of pacing has changed, and that having experienced enough of these stories, we get the sense of how an unfamiliar one will end.

I loved Ray Bradbury’s stories as a child. I remember the thrill of picking up one of his short story collections because you’d never know what you’d get, story to story, and the titles rarely told you. Would it be a horror story, something from ancient China? A space adventure? Would the ending be dark, or light? In grade school, it was always a profound relief to find a Ray Bradbury tale in the school literature readers, for you knew you’d be transported to some interesting place.

Fired by nostalgia, wanting to celebrate my first favorite author, I read The Martian Chronicles for the first time in 30 years, and then I began to work my way through The Stories of Ray Bradbury, which collects 100 tales, many of which I’d never read.

And I discovered that I couldn’t go home again. I keep setting the book aside, then coming back to try just one more, to see if I could recapture the old thrill.

It’s not Bradbury who changed – the words are still threaded together with that same poetic skill. The messages are still poignant or powerful, depending upon the tale. Yet I can’t lose myself in them anymore. I want to – God, how I want to – but I just can’t fall through the words and get lost in the wonder. I must have found him at just the right age. And now, I think, I must have gotten old. Morosely, I have set the book aside, and I am not sure I will return.


Howard Andrew Jones is the author of the historical fantasy novels The Desert of Souls, and the forthcoming The Bones of the Old Ones, as well as the related short story collection The Waters of Eternity, and the Paizo Pathfinder novel Plague of Shadows. You can keep up with him at his website, www.howardandrewjones.com, and keep up with him on Twitter or follow his occasional meanderings on Facebook.

8 Comments »

  1. Not for me, I’ve been reading his stuff from the mid-to-late fifties lately (Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy), and they seem to have gotten better with age. They have acquired an almost mythical quality, stories from a time that has almost completely passed out of living memory.

    Comment by NathanJerpe - June 17, 2012 3:49 pm

  2. Hey Nathan — that’s where I want to be, where I expected to be. Maybe I need to try again. In October, say, with a re-read of October Country.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - June 17, 2012 4:35 pm

  3. Howard, I can relate to your not being able “to go home again” with a book This happened to me with “Stranger in a Strange Land” a much loved book I read many many times when I was younger. I went back a few years ago to re-read it and found it too heavy going to enjoy. The word “preachy” occurs to me. I finished it-barely-but the love I felt for it wasn’t there. I had changed. I know others who don’t feel this way but I couldn’t recapture the *magic* I felt for Michael Valentine Smith. But your posts reminds me to re-read the Martian Chronicles and other stories by Bradbury that I enjoyed. I hope those go better. I met him at a Writer’s Conference in Santa Barbara in 1975 or 1977. He was very kind to me.
    Barbara

    Comment by Barbara Barrett - June 17, 2012 5:29 pm

  4. Yes — I’d like to see a selection, by an editor(s) I trust, of Ray’s best — a selection of, say, 50 stories. Or maybe a better approach would be to assume that most people agree that much of his best is in Martian Chronicles, Illustrated Man, and October Country, and to cull 30 outstanding stories from the other books. Now that is something I would like to see.

    Comment by Major Wootton - June 18, 2012 2:50 pm

  5. I think I know what you mean, particularly when you mention The Twilight Zone. There’s a certain kind of sensibility from about that time — as you said ‘when all men wore hats’ — that’s very noticeable in certain writers. I don’t have a problem with it, necessarily; one of my favourite movies, 12 Angry Men, is all about that sort of thing. On the other hand, I find myself ambivalent about The Lion In Winter for the same kind of reason — strong writing, but emotionally the terrain feels more like the mid-20th-century than it does the Middle Ages.

    I know when I finally read Fahrenheit 451, only a couple of years ago, I was surprised at the almost suburban feel to it. That is, it seemed like a fantasy on the theme of ‘suburban dystopia’ rather than a 1984-ish tale of futuristic oppression. On the other hand, I found that approach actually interesting. Maybe that’s just because I never read much Bradbury when I was a kid, and so I don’t have memories of having my mind blown to wrestle with …

    Comment by Matthew David Surridge - June 18, 2012 9:10 pm

  6. Barbara, I loved the Heinlein juveniles, but somehow never got around to Stranger in a Strange Land. I’m sorry it wasn’t the same when you returned, or, rather, that it didn’t take you to the same place.

    Matthew, I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that you “don’t have memories of having my mind blown to wrestle with.”

    God knows, I have read lots and lots and lots of period fiction, much of it from much earlier. Approaching any era fairly means you have to be conscious of the assumptions, conventions, and baggage.

    My mind used to be blown when I read Bradbury at 10, or 12, or 14. Kind of like when I was watching The Twilight Zone for the first time. Now when I return to either I see the assumptions I never used to notice. It’s not just that I have to appreciate it one step removed now, as I would do with any older fiction, it’s that I still recall finding amazement whenever I read a new Bradbury story, and now I just find variations on a theme.

    Where I continue to find joy is when I re-read my old favorites — “The Fog-Horn,” “The Blue Bottle,” “Dark they Were and Golden Eyed” — but I wonder if some of these others, new to me, would have rocked my world if I had encountered them, too, when I was younger.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - June 18, 2012 9:39 pm

  7. “I’d like to see a selection, by an editor(s) I trust, of Ray’s best — a selection of, say, 50 stories. Or maybe a better approach would be to assume that most people agree that much of his best is in Martian Chronicles, Illustrated Man, and October Country, and to cull 30 outstanding stories from the other books. Now that is something I would like to see.”

    That sounds like an interesting project, and one I wouldn’t mind laying hands on. Of course, I’d still like an inexpensive version of the complete Martian Stories, or whatever it was called. So many of my favorite Bradbury tales are Mars stories written after The Martian Chronicles. “The Blue Bottle,” “Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed,” “The One Who Waits,” etc.

    Comment by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones - June 18, 2012 9:42 pm

  8. […] forgot — I posted some more thoughts on revisiting Ray Bradbury’s work over at the Black Gate blog. Apart from relaxing with some old favorites, I ended up feeling rather melancholy during the […]

    Pingback by Soon, a Contest. Now for the Rooster! | Howard Andrew Jones - June 20, 2012 10:24 pm


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