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Ray Bradbury: Thoughts at Life’s End (Video and Transcript)

Posted on Jun 7, 2012

Ray Bradbury, who died Tuesday night at the age of 91, spoke in 2008 with Truthdig’s Steve Wasserman about his books and the passions that drove his writing. Below is the full video and text excerpts. A rough transcript begins on page two.


“Sixth Street was fantastic! There were eight bookstores on Sixth Street alone from Hill Street all the way up to Figueroa. You could go in all kinds of bookstores. That’s where I met my future wife. I went into Fowler Brother’s Bookstore and this youngster waited on me and she discovered I had written stories she read. I took her to dinner a couple of weeks later, held her hand, engaged her and married her. So that is the bookstores on Sixth Street for you.”

“A lot of it is the smell of books.  A lot of those bookstores were used bookstores. Some were high quality used books and new publication, but the other bookstores were a lot of used books and there were thousands of them in there and they were covered with dust and the smell of ancient Egypt. So you’d go into a used bookstore and surprise yourself. Surprise in life should be everything. You shouldn’t know what you are doing. You should go into a bookstore to be surprised and changed. So the bookstore changes you and reveals a new part of yourself. That is the importance of a used bookstore.”

“60 years ago all the major science fiction authors lived in the LA area. Robert Heinlein became my friend and my teacher. He sold my first short story for me; it went into Script Magazine. All the other writers became my friends. Leigh Brackett was a leading scientist fiction writer. I used to meet her every Sunday down at Muscle Beach and she read my terrible stories and I read her good ones. So over a period of five years, of going to Muscle Beach and meeting my favorite writer, I became a writer. But that environment is no longer here. Those writers don’t exist anymore.”

“You cannot teach a 10-year-old child to read and write. It begins when they are four and five, when they are mad to learn. The good thing about young children is they are passionate about life. If you look at them, they are eager, they run around grabbing things. You give them really good books when they are five years old and they are going to eat it. We’ve got to teach children to eat books, to devour them, to be passionate about life. By the time they are six years old and in 1st grade, they are ready for all of life.  We’re not doing it.”


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“I had a sign over my typewriter 50 years ago, which says ‘don’t think.’ All of my books are written by this interior self that wants to say something. I never get in the way. There are two of me: Ray Bradbury who writes and Ray Bradbury who watches. Everything has to be passionate! A typewriter helps you to speak more quickly, more passionately and more creatively. You mustn’t brood over things.  You’ll make up things that don’t work. You must not correct what you do. You must throw up every morning and clean up every noon.”

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