Top Leaderboard, Site wide
September 18, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Help us grow by sharing
and liking Truthdig:
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Newsletter

sign up to get updates


A New Way Insurers are Shifting Costs to the Sick
Climate Action and Economies Can Grow Together




On the Run


Truthdig Bazaar
Remix

Remix

By Lawrence Lessig
$16.35

more items

 
Report

Ray Bradbury on Literature and Love

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Jul 28, 2008

Note: A transcript follows the videos below.

Videography by George Edelman, Austin Lovell and James Reid. Editing by George Edelman.

Part 1: The Bookstore

Part 2: The Book Review

Part 3: The News

Advertisement

Square, Site wide
Part 4: Love

Transcript:

Steve Wasserman: Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury: Yeah.

Wasserman: Thank you for sitting down to talk with us this morning, on a day which sees—in Los Angeles at least, and probably throughout the rest of the country—a growing number of bookstores ending, shuttering, declining, a growing number of book review sections starting to close. Barely a handful of American newspapers any longer bother to review books, much less have a separate section.

Bradbury: That’s right, yeah.

Wasserman: And I understand that the Los Angeles Times, after 33 years, will be ending their publication of a separate section devoted to the review of books. I speak as someone who for nearly 10 years had edited that section. I wanted to sit down with you because you’ve been so outspoken and eloquent the whole of your life, and most recently at the sight of Acres of Books in Long Beach, the threatened closure of that remarkable secondhand store. And I remember very well in 1997, just as I was assuming the editorship of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, at that very moment you were given a lifetime achievement award by the L.A. Times, and you took the occasion very memorably to denounce the L.A. Times for its meager coverage of books, and you admonished the Times to live up to its own ambitions. And I admired your ability to both bite the hand that feeds as well as to speak truth to power, even though I have to confess it hurt a little bit. So tell me—you grew up in Los Angeles very largely, or least you moved here when you were how old ... ?

Bradbury: Thirteen years old.

Wasserman: Thirteen years old. And at the time when you moved here, you were living in what is downtown Los Angeles.

Bradbury: Almost downtown, yeah.

Wasserman: Almost downtown. And at that time, were there bookstores that flourished in Los Angeles, which for you became places of magical transport?

Bradbury: Sixth Street was fantastic. There were eight bookstores on Sixth Street ... along, from Hill Street all the way up to Figueroa. You could go in all kinds of bookstores. And that’s where I met my future wife. I went and found her brother’s bookstore and the young clerk waited on me, and she discovered I had written a story she read. And I took her to dinner a couple of weeks later and I held her hand and engaged her and married her. So that’s the bookstores on Sixth Street for you.

Wasserman:  Right. And do you remember what it was about the physical contact with books which seemed to be so exciting for you?

Bradbury: A lot of it is the smell of books. There are—a lot of those bookstores were used bookstores. Some were high-quality used books and new publications, but the other bookstores were ... a lot of used books, and there’s thousands of them in there, and they were covered with dust and the smell of ancient Egypt. So, you go into a used bookstore and surprise yourself. Surprise in life should be everything. You shouldn’t know what you’re doing. You should go into a bookstore to be surprised and changed. So the bookstores change you and reveal new sides of yourself. That’s the importance of a used bookstore.

Wasserman: And is something being lost with the disappearance of these bookstores, even as the technology for conveying to people the contents of books seems to every day advance?

Bradbury: The bookstores are there for you to stumble over yourself. You must—that’s the trouble. ... Universities do not teach you; they do not discover you. I raised myself in used bookstores. I went in looking for myself and I found me on every shelf. I opened strange books. I saw a mirror image of myself in there and said, “Oh, my God, that’s me! I’ll take that. I’ll go home.” So used bookstores are surprise boxes to be opened constantly. And they’re not there now, so there’s no chance of revealing people to themselves. They don’t get revealed with these new inventions, with the, the telephones that they use, with the Internet and what have you. That’s no surprise—it doesn’t work.

Wasserman: As you’ve lived the literary culture of Los Angeles and have been one of its defining personalities—as you look back over these five or six or more decades in which you’ve been, you know, part of the very fabric of Los Angeles literary culture, what’s changed most dramatically for you, either for good or for bad?

Bradbury: Well, we don’t have the authors here that we used to have. Sixty years ago, all the major science fiction authors lived in the L.A. area, and Robert Heinlein became my friend and my teacher, and he sold my first short story for me. It went into Script Magazine. And all the other writers became my friends. Leigh Brackett was a leading science fiction writer. I used to meet her every Sunday down in 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.

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’s new and fresher writing. But 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 clearinghouse by which writers might meet and recognize and critique each other’s work.

Bradbury: Absolutely. In fact, I helped a couple of bookstores along the way put together a literary meeting place. There should be a fireplace in every bookstore with comfortable chairs and tables and drinks every afternoon [so that] you can come sit with the other writer friends and assimilate ways of becoming a writer.


New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

By vilneap, November 9, 2008 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It looks like Brabbury is a bookworm. Interesting thoughts.

Report this

By stroitbet, November 7, 2008 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think at his age he can talk only about literature smile

Report this

By Joshua Day, August 5, 2008 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bradbury did not sue Moore; he told him that he was uncomfortable with the title of the movie Fahrenheit 9/11, and asked him to change it. Moore responded by calling Mr. Bradbury and apologizing for the offense and if it would have been possible to change the name at that time, he would have.

Which is about all of the respect that I have for Mr. Moore, since he is known for public slander of those who disagree with him, or don’t give him what he wants.

Case in point, Pete Townsend of the Who, who remarked that Moore was acting not unlike the subject of his film, after Townsend was insulted in the press by Moore for not being allowed to use the song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Report this

By Inherit The Wind, July 30, 2008 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment

Adulation of Ray Bradbury?  Doesn’t anyone remember that he SUED Michael Moore for the use of the name “Fahrenheit 9/11”, based on his book “Fahrenheit 451”? (the temperature at which paper catches fire)

Bradbury not only attacked the name, he attacked Moore’s whole film with the usual neocon type criticisms.

Report this

By Chris Baron, July 30, 2008 at 8:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Delightful interview and ignore Expat, Mr. Wasserman. Your interview style was just fine. You were not “fawning”....simply respectful. There’s a big difference.

Report this

By ela, July 30, 2008 at 7:21 am Link to this comment

I savored this interview…it’s no surprise that Bradbury gets that whole bookstore as doorway to the unconscious concept. Entering a bookstore is only the beginning of the exploration, one that must be engaged in layers, culminating in that rare & cherished delight of sitting comfortably in your own sheltered place, surrounded by objects of love & beauty, having lived ever so briefly in a new world and knowing you can, at your pleasure, just go off again.
I am a veteran eater of books & I will tell you I love the internet for access—it is my favorite useful tool—-but it & all the online superbookstores (reliable as some of them are when you know what you just have to read next) will never be any substitute for the experience of questing for the next book among towering shelves of undiscovered treasure. I’ve always believed it to be an infinitely renewable resource and can’t actually fathom any world I want to live in without it.
A deeply distressing thought is the idea of this all going the way of Mr Bradbury’s beloved dinosaur.
Kindleschmindle, bleh.

Report this

By Expat, July 29, 2008 at 7:36 am Link to this comment

Bradbury is as ever; wonderful and still relevant.  Fantastic! 
Wasserman is fawning and just the worst interviewer I’ve ever seen.  Patronizing at its worst!  Insulting!

Report this
Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, July 29, 2008 at 1:50 am Link to this comment

An interesting interview.  Mr. Bradbury definitely thinks outside of the constructs we are told are acceptable and possibly even “valid”..  Certainly I understand Mr. Bradbury. He said:

“A lot of it is the smell of books. There are—a lot of those bookstores were used bookstores. Some were high-quality used books and new publications, but the other bookstores were ... a lot of used books, and there’s thousands of them in there, and they were covered with dust and the smell of ancient Egypt. So, you go into a used bookstore and surprise yourself. Surprise in life should be everything. You shouldn’t know what you’re doing. You should go into a bookstore to be surprised and changed. So the bookstores change you and reveal new sides of yourself.”

> I concur.  Are you looking for a “book” that says “this” therefore, you will be “in the know”.  Or did you go in to see what you could find…

Another comment he made which I particularly liked was:

“The bookstores are there for you to stumble over yourself. You must—that’s the trouble. ... Universities do not teach you; they do not discover you. I raised myself in used bookstores. I went in looking for myself and I found me on every shelf. I opened strange books. I saw a mirror image of myself in there and said, “Oh, my God, that’s me! I’ll take that. I’ll go home.”

>  This is the value of a book.  We’ve lost this perspective, at least society as a whole has.  Much to our detriment.  An incredible bit of knowledge he eschews but, does anyone hear it?  Do you get it…  It is the exception rather than the rule, when I am in a bookstore that I am asked if I need help and I respond with “no, just looking” that I do not get a “miffed” response.  I find this bizarre.  Sorry…I don’t KNOW what I’m looking for, but if or when I find it, I’ll know it.  What is odd about that?  This is what books ARE FOR.  What the hell is someone like that doing in a bookstore anyway..?  God damn it go out and count street lights or something…....

Mr Bradbury’s comment here is….well…very close to home for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone.  But this is what I see drained of children TAUGHT to conform, even at this very tender age.

Mr. Bradbury:
“It begins when they’re 4 and 5—when they’re mad to learn. See, the good thing about young children is they’re passionate about life. And, if you look at them, they’re eager. They run around grabbing things and you give them really good books when they’re 5 years old—they’re gonna eat it. We’ve got to teach children to eat books—to devour them—to be passionate about life by the time they’re 6 years old in the first grade they’re ready for all of life. We’re not doing it.”

Well put Mr. Bradbury.  Thank you.

As an aside, when Chris Hedges said he had thousands of books, my first thought was,...can I be your neighbor..?  I am noisy, I admit, but my god, can I be your neighbor, wouldn’t that just be the Ritz…?

Report this
 
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook