Ray Bradbury died earlier this week. I can't say much about the man that hasn't already been expressed more eloquently than others, but like millions of his fans I discovered Bradbury early in life by finding his novels and short story collections at public libraries. I don't remember exactly which Bradbury work I read first, but I have a suspicion it was one of Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles or R is for Rocket. Whichever came first, I gorged myself on Bradbury as fast as the library could collect his works, and when the library had no more I haunted used bookstores in search of what I'd missed.
I've heard some people call Bradbury's work sentimental, the prose mawkish or syrupy. Frankly, I always found his stories lyrical and poetic. Sentimental sometimes, sure, but if the strange nostalgia of, say, "Rocket Summer" is too much for you, consider the uncompromising horror of "The Veldt" or "There Will Come Soft Rains." Bradbury embraced and explored all aspects of the human condition.
For one reason or another I stopped reading Bradbury sometime in the early 1980s, so I missed his comeback period - One More for the Road and other later mysteries and mainstream works. I have several of Bradbury's later books in my collection, as yet unread, still waiting for that perfect lazy summer...you know the one, the one with the porch and the old rocking chair and the scent of lilacs on a perfectly gentle breeze, rocking the decades-old tire swing a few feet away from the weathered oak tree great-granddad planted all those years ago...
Perhaps this summer of transition will be my time to reconnect with Ray Bradbury. The man's work shaped who I am today, and I regret that it's been so many years since we visited.
Thank you for your gifts, Mr. Bradbury.