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

Posted on Jun 7, 2012

(Page 4)

Ray Bradbury:  I had a sign over my typewriter 50 years ago, which says “don’t think”. Typewriters help you write better because it all comes out. You should be passionate! 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.

Steve Wasserman: The computer arrived a little late because a man with that attitude would it seems to me have embraced the computer with some enthusiasm, since the computer is a very fancy typewriter that makes things go very quickly. Let me go back to the question of newspapers for a moment because there have been so many cutbacks at the Los Angeles Times and they’ve not been alone in this. The whole newspaper industry seems to on its heels. Have newspaper book reviews been important for your career? Are they of any interest whatsoever? Or could we just as easily get along without them as perhaps we have with them?

Ray Bradbury:  As a writer, I’ve always ignored the reviews because they are always wrong.  Even the right ones are wrong. They love you for the wrong reasons. So you mustn’t read them. I’ve turned down 200 reviews in the last 40 years because I knew they couldn’t help me. It’s too late. I’m already me.  The book is out. You can’t change that book by criticizing it. It’s too late. You are too late for me.  If you could help by looking over my shoulder when I’m throwing up, you can teach me to throw up better.  But those reviews can’t help me throw up you see.

Part III—The News:


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Ray Bradbury: Newspapers should teach us to be in love with life.  They are in the business of criticizing life too much. They are too negative. The do all the rapes and murders and destruction. They are happier with the tornadoes and the earthquakes. I’m sorry but that doesn’t help me to survive all of that or teach me how to be in love every day in my life. They only teach one thing to people do the thing that you love and love the thing that you do. Don’t do anything else. Don’t do anything for money. Don’t listen to anyone who gives you money and says do this. Stop that! You can’t do it! You’ve got to do what you love. I worked for Universal Studios. 50 years ago they wanted me to work on a project and I was suspicious of them. They gave me an idea and I sat down and said, what are you paying me week? $300. I said, I’ll tell you what I’ll do I’ll give you two scripts.  I’ll do one for you and one for me. At the end of 10 days I turned them in and by the way you choose the right one I’ll either stay or I’ll go.  You’ve got to pick the right one to keep me.  I turned in 2 scripts in 10 days and they said won’t you choose? Don’t you want us to choose the one that you love? I said yes I do.  That’s the right one. Luckily, they chose the right one.  I stayed on and we did “It came from outer space”.  It’s not a great film. It’s a nice film…I’m teaching people day by day, don’t read the headlines, don’t look at the newspaper the negative things. There’s got to be a positive attitude by the newspaper not to be political all the time.  The Times was busy trying to destroy Schwarzenegger a couple of years ago. They shouldn’t have tried to do that. That’s not the function of the newspaper. It’s to inform us formerly and completely about character. You must not be a critic unless there is a terrible crisis at hand.  Otherwise, don’t turn on TV because it’s disaster after disaster. It doesn’t work the same way.

Steve Wasserman: With all due respect, I have to say I have a principle disagreement with this view. I would say that it’s the responsibility of writers to explore character and it’s the responsibility of newsgathering organizations whether they exist on the internet or if they exist in what has been newspapers to try to best they can in a human world to describe the way we live now, the way we have lived and perhaps to explore the way we might live. To thoroughly investigate the conditions by which our arrangements have been made whether political or social. To reveal to people the news that comes from elsewhere. If I hadn’t had reporters trying to get to the bottom of what the education system is in Los Angeles, I would never know that 1 out of every 3 drops out. That is important news to know it seems to me in order to evaluate how politicians are fulfilling their responsibilities to creating a better city for all of us.

Ray Bradbury: You have to do both functions at the same moment. Tell me that people were dropping out of school and tell me what to do at the same time. Be negative and be positive at the same instant. You must tell me what to do also.  You must also do it reflecting all sides, left, right and middle. You have to reflect everything, totally in a newspaper not just one side.

Steve Wasserman:  I would agree in the sense that the newspaper or any kind of news gathering institution should be a forum for through going over public debate on all of these issues. I don’t think the newspaper alone has the mission or even the responsibility itself of telling the rest of us how to live. We have to tell ourselves how to live. We have to create a political system by which we can hold politicians accountable. It’s they who are charge with developing the answers to the questions that a newspaper properly raises.

Ray Bradbury: The newspaper has to do everything though. I have, by speaking my mind changed 6 malls all over the United States. I’ve recreated downtown LA. I wrote an article for the LA Times 30 years ago. I put my design for the new LA in there. The Glendale Galleria was built around my idea. They came and told me thank you for changing our minds.  Century City is recreated by me. I came in twice and wrote and told them what was missing. There weren’t enough restaurants, there weren’t enough good things in this city. They rebuilt it twice. There are two articles on this and it happened because I told them how to do it. I told them things are terrible here is what you must do to recreate Century City. That is what newspapers have got to do, criticize but then offer the solution. You’ve got to believe it though. It shouldn’t be political it should be aesthetic.

Steve Wasserman: That is I think where the concern comes from because in a challenged economy and in a newspaper which finds its resources shrinking and its debt increasing. How are you going to continue to provide a forum and a space for concerned and active and passionate citizens like yourself to propose solutions where there is less space, less energy and less ambition to do just the things you say. That’s why it’s something of a concern for many people particularly in Los Angeles as the city grows and becomes ever more complicated. 

Ray Bradbury: You have to speak up as an individual. Right now, I’m trying to save my country.  We have pollution all over the United States. We are using oil and coal, burning coal and making pollution.  I’m going to write an article. I want it featured in major magazines and the front cover should say “Lafayette come back”. I want to bring the French in to save the United States again. They saved us 200 years ago. Without the French we never would have had an American Revolution.  I want a new revolution. Get rid of all the oil, all the coal, bring in the nuclear power. Bring the French technicians over and then save the whole country. I’m going to write this article. It’s going to be talked about by both parties and I can change my country because I believe it right now. I’m going to do this and that is what a newspaper should do and that is what a book section should do. You’ve got to believe it the way I believe it. I think I can save my country right now.

Steve Wasserman: The thing I’ve always admired about you Ray is that like Andre Gide the French write once remarked to his journals, he said I know I will have entered old age the moment I wake up and I’m no longer angry. You’ve kept the capacity to wake up angry about the way the world is the single greatest hope for the future and I thank you for it. 

Ray Bradbury: I’m glad. Thank you.

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