Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There Will Come Soft Rains


The man who made me want to be a writer is dead.

When I was about ten or twelve, I read a story by Ray Bradbury called "There Will Come Soft Rains", and it quite literally changed my life. I've already talked about that here on this blog; here's the link to it, if you're interested: "To Keith, Thanks, Ray Bradbury".

I'm not shocked, of course. After all, he was 91 years old. Most of his contemporaries died DECADES ago. By all rights, Bradbury shouldn't have lived as long as he did. To what do we owe his longevity? I'm going to guess:

Joy. Pure and simple. He loved what he did. He loved the life he'd chosen for himself. I once read an interview with him in which he said he'd "never done a real day's work" in his whole life. Which is only kind of true; writing is work. But the thing is, it was work that he loved, and if you love doing something, it doesn't really feel like work, does it?

Sometimes I complain about writing. "Oh, writing this story is like pulling teeth." "It's lonely, sitting by yourself and putting words together." "It's maddening, this business of pouring out your darkest heart on the page." Sob, sob, sob. Ray Bradbury probably would've slapped me right in the head for all that whining.

"Where is your joy?" he'd probably say to me. "Where is your appreciation? You have a gift, and you have the leisure to use it. You are lucky."

Yeah.

Bradbury was a bit of a sentimentalist. I'm not. And yet... and yet I feel profoundly sad about his death. I feel like some vital part of my own life has slipped away, even though it wasn't the man himself that affected me-- it was his stories. And they are still here. They won't die, ever.

I can't explain it.

The deaths of famous people rarely affect me. I felt sad when Johnny Cash died, and Joey Ramone. That's about it. And for the same reason that I now feel sad about Bradbury-- they were prime figures in my formative years.

Well.

R.I.P., Ray. And thank you. You are gone, but the world will continue on without you, just like that automated house in "There Will Come Soft Rains". It will continue to function, without your direct influence anymore, but something vital and life-like will be missing. It will continue until, finally, it doesn't.


9 comments:

  1. A grand tribute, Heath. What a marvelous life and body of work this man had! I have a nice collection of his books; most are almost as old as me!

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  2. Bradbury played a role in "that decision" for me too. Wasn't his biggest fan, but I loved the freedom with which he wrote stories. Whether it was in space or in a deep future or in places that will never exist, he never bothered with boundaries, so therefore I loved his work.

    91 years is plenty of laps around the track, but still I'll drink to his memory.

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  3. I remember when your introduction to Ray Bradbury happened. It truly did change your life. A wonderful remembrance that you share with us all. Thank you.

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  4. I read Sound of Thunder in grade school and it changed my life too. Thanks for putting my thoughts into words. Not since the death of Jim Henson, another joyful soul, have I felt this sad about the death of a public figure.

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  5. I remember being blown away by SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES and DANDELION WINE especially. Few writers have had such a big impact on 20th century writing.

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  6. I second DANDELION WINE, and SOMETHING WICKED, and add R IS FOR ROCKET. He made me, too, want to be like him, a writer, someone who makes people feel things. I usually don't get sad when celebrities die, either, but this one is sad, despite his advanced age. Musicians get me more. Abbey Lincoln's passing hit me hard. Don Pullen. Thelonious Monk.
    Nice post, Heath.

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  7. Nice homage, H. Bradbury's 'The Illustrated Man' and 'Fahrenheit 451' changed my life in early high school. Respect.

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