Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Zen in the Art of Writing

Three Bradbury posts in a row. I know, I know! But I'm not obsessed, I promise. Well, maybe just a little. But I just had to share this. I'm preparing to lead a yoga for writers session at our upcoming writers retreat (Words in the Woods 2012: Moving Your Story Forward, with Author/Illustrator/Publisher Marissa Moss, Simon & Schuster Editor Alexandra Penfold, and Writer's House Literary Agent, Kristy "Ty" King. Sorry, registrations are closed! But I'll post something about it, promise.). I was looking for inspirational words to begin our practice, and came across this passage from Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing
What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw. Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper. Make you own individual spectroscopic reading.
Throw your prism light onto paper!

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The following review appeared in the Sunday, June 17 edition of the News-Gazette.

The whole world, it seems, is mourning the loss of Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5 at the age of 91. One of the greatest American science fiction and fantasy writers of the past century, Bradbury has inspired countless readers and writers. Count me among them. For many people, the initial encounter with Bradbury’s genius is Fahrenheit 451 or perhaps The Martian Chronicles, both of which are staples in the high school classroom.
            I don’t want to diminish the impact of those two books—both are wonderfully accessible and thought-provoking—but the one that has stuck with me throughout the years is Something Wicked This Way Comes (Simon & Schuster, 1962).  This may be due to the fact that it was the first book of Bradbury’s that I read. It may have been because, at 13, I was the same age as the book’s two protagonists, Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade. All I know is that I found it both beautiful and terrifying.
            Will and Jim are best friends, born just two minutes apart: Will, at 11:59 p.m., All Saint’s Day, and Jim, at 12:01 a.m. on Halloween. Light and dark personified. A carnival rolls into Green Town (based on Bradbury’s home town, Waukegan, Illinois) in the middle of the night, on the heels of a storm predicted by a strange lightning rod salesman named Mr. Fury.
            Will and Jim are eager to experience the thrills of the carnival—until they discover its sinister secrets. Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show is not just any carnival, although it contains the usual collection of sideshows, rides, and freaks. Mr. Dark, the mysterious ringmaster, lures unsuspecting townspeople with the promise of granting their heart’s desire. Is it, like Will’s father, to become young again? Ride the carousel in reverse, and the years melt away. Ride it forward, and Jim can be a grown man. But there is a price, of course—your soul. Can the boys resist joining Mr. Dark’s haunted band of freaks?
            Bradbury’s lyrical writing style owes much to Shakespeare, and indeed, the title of the book comes from Macbeth: “By the pricking of my thumbs/Something wicked this way comes.” This atmospheric book will have you turning the pages far too long into the night.
Near the end of the book, Will’s father muses, “Is Death important? No. Everything that happens before Death is what counts.”
            You made it count, Ray.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

Like many writers, I discovered Ray Bradbury when I was young--perhaps 12 or 13. His extraordinary imagination and use of language carried me off the farm as surely as any rocket ship carried people to Mars. I think this video of him reading a poem at a 1971 Caltech symposium captures his charm and talent. RIP, Ray.