Sunday, January 17, 2016

Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, by Sam Weller (2010)

I'm pretty sure everyone on the planet is a fan of Ray Bradbury, but no one is a bigger fan than Sam Weller, author of Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews (2010) unless, of course, you count Bradbury himself.

Yes, Bradbury did not suffer from a lack of self-confidence, but in the older man in these interviews that trait is more endearing than irritating. And, you know, he comes by it honestly. Weller organizes this series of rambling interviews both chronologically through Bradbury's life and by the topics that fascinated the man. He talks frankly about his personal and professional life, sex, his childhood, his fascinations, and his disappointments. His is a life story that doesn't seem possible anymore: an idyllic childhood in the midwest, coming of age near a Hollywood bursting with relatively accessible stars and artists, and being a writer at a time when you really could seal a contract with a handshake and pave your pathway to success with confidence and hard work.

Bradbury is full of extremely strong opinions, only about half of which I'm really on the same page about (and some of which he seems to make up on the spot), but as you forgive the aggressive confidence and the single-mindedness, you forgive these too. I mean, the man wrote The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, innumerable short stories, and more. He created a mythology for himself and then lived it. His literary kind of science fiction is hard to emulate and even harder not to like. He really was a writer, in a way that most writers are not.

Bradbury died in 2012, but Weller's journey with his hero continues on his blog for the book, including the heartbreaking news that the Bradbury house that is lovingly chronicled here has been sold and demolished. There really isn't room for Bradburys in Los Angeles anymore.

Finally, as an aside, this book was published by Stop Smiling, a defunct Chicago-based magazine that was one of the very best, which morphed into a book publisher. They haven't put anything out in years, but I keep hoping for a comeback. Come back, guys!

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