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

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Posted on Jun 7, 2012

(Page 3)

Steve Wasserman: Well some would argue and perhaps convincingly that those writers have been replaced by other writers who are writing about all kinds of things. Whether it’s science fiction or the politics of assimilation of the new waves of immigrants who’ve come to Los Angeles that there is new and fresher writing.  What disturbs many of us, of course, is that in a region so geographically sprawling as Los Angeles that there exists no particular publication any longer that provides a central clearing house by which writers might meet and recognize and critique each other’s work.

Ray Bradbury: Absolutely! In fact I helped a couple of bookstores along the way put together a literary meeting place. There should be a place in every bookstore with comfortable chairs, tables and drinks every afternoon. You can come sit with the other writer friends and assimilate what is becoming a writer.

Steve Wasserman: Right. What are the obligations, if any, of those people who yearn to become readers? Are newspapers, as they existed helpful for people who aspire actually to become a reader? I note that the Los Angeles Times did report last week that 1 out of every 3 high school students in Los Angeles drops out before the end of high school.  It seems the very idea of being able to read itself seems to be challenged.

Ray Bradbury: Right now we have to rebuild our total education system in the entire United States over and beyond the book reports and the book publications and what have you. We are trying to educate people when they are in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grade is too late. 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 6 years old and in 1st grade, they are ready for all of life.  We’re not doing it. They have to change the whole educational system right now, completely, top to bottom.  You cannot learn by hearing you have to learn by reading. We’ve got to eliminate hearing and the Internet and get books back into the hands. I’m dictating my books now. I had a stroke a couple of years ago. I can’t type anymore.  So I dictate my books and it’s terrible because I can’t see them.  The next day my daughter sends me the type and I can look at the type and go through and correct it. But I’ve learned from dictating books you cannot learn or dictate. I don’t like doing that it’s changed my style. It’s changed my ideas. I don’t want to do it that way.

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Steve Wasserman: Your observation reminds me with the passage of every technology something is gained and something is lost. I imagine an earlier period in human history when we went from an oral culture from Homer and the responsibility of bards and poets memorize whole poems and to pass them on in an oral tradition. Once they decided to set down in parchment or illuminate in manuscripts, there were probably critics at the time who said, “Oh my God we’ve lost the facility to memorize. No one will ever write a poem as good as Odyssey or the Iliad. Which could only have been concocted by someone who is committed to the oral tradition and to passing on.” Probably someone bemoaned, now people are going to rely upon the crutch of the written word for what formally they committed to memory.  Then I imagine that when we went from quill pens and parchment to typewriters, someone must have said, oh my God, we’ve lost something very valuable. The time it took to dip the quill into the ink was the pause that refreshed. That was the moment for actual reflection. There were probably people who said now with the typewriter you’d have no time to actually think about what you are going to say similarly today with the computer and the older ways of doing things.


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