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Ray Bradbury on Literature and Love

Posted on Jul 28, 2008

(Page 3)

Wasserman: Well, with all due respect, I have to say—I have to say I have a principled disagreement with this view. I would say that it’s the responsibility of writers to explore character and it’s the responsibility of news-gathering organizations, whether they exist on the Internet or whether they exist in what has been newspapers, to try to as best they can in a humanly fraught world, to describe the way we live now, the way we have lived and perhaps to explore how we might live and to thoroughly investigate the conditions by which our arrangements have been made, whether political or social, and to reveal to people the news, as I say earlier, that comes from elsewhere. If I hadn’t had reporters trying to get to the bottom of what the educational system is in, say, Los Angeles, I would never know that one out of every three kids drops out. That’s 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.

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

Wasserman: Well, I would agree in the sense that the newspaper or any kind of news-gathering institution should be a forum for a thoroughgoing public debate over 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 we are to live, and we have to create a political system by which we can hold politicians accountable. And it’s they who are charged with developing the answers to the questions that a newspaper properly raises.

Bradbury: But the newspaper has to do everything, though. I have, by speaking my mind, changed six malls all over the United States. I’ve re-created downtown L.A. I wrote an article for the L.A. Times 30 years ago. I put my design for the new L.A. in there, and the Glendale Galleria was built around my idea. And they came and told me, “Thank you for changing our minds.” Century City is re-created by me. I came in twice, I wrote and told them what was missing—there weren’t enough restaurants, there weren’t enough good things in the city. And they rebuilt it twice—there are two articles on this; that happened because I told them how to do it. I told them things were terrible, here’s what you must do to re-create Century City. That’s what newspapers have got to do: criticize, but then offer the solution. And you’ve got to believe it, though. And they shouldn’t be political, they should be aesthetic.


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Wasserman: Well, that’s I think where the concern comes from. Because in a challenged economy, and a newspaper which finds its resources shrinking and its debt having increased, how are you going to continue to provide a forum and a space for concerned and activist and passionate citizens like yourself to propose solutions when there’s less space, less energy and less ambition to do just the things you say? So, that’s why it’s something, I think, of a concern for many people, particularly in Los Angeles as the city grows and becomes ever more complicated.

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’re using oil and coal and were burning coal and making pollution. I’m going to write an article; I want it featured in a major magazine, 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’d never have had an American Revolution. I want a new revolution here—get rid of all the oil, all the coal, bring in nuclear power. Bring the French technicians over, and they’ll save the whole country! I’m gonna write this article; it’s gonna be talked about by both parties, and I can change my country, because I believe it right now. And I’m going to do this. That’s what newspapers should do; that’s what book sections should do. You’ve got to believe it like I believe it. I think I can save my country right now.

Wasserman: Well, the thing I’ve always admired about you, Ray, is that, like Andre Gide 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.” And that you’ve kept the capacity to wake up angry about the way the world is, is the single greatest reason for having hope in the future, and I thank you for it.

Bradbury: I’m glad, thank you.

Wasserman: Of the objects which fill this room with what I assume are 1,000 memories for you, are there any that leap out as you cast your eye around that you could tell me something about?

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By vilneap, November 9, 2008 at 2:49 pm Link to this comment
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It looks like Brabbury is a bookworm. Interesting thoughts.

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By stroitbet, November 7, 2008 at 1:11 pm Link to this comment
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I think at his age he can talk only about literature smile

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By Joshua Day, August 5, 2008 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment
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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.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 30, 2008 at 12:45 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.

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By Chris Baron, July 30, 2008 at 7:35 am Link to this comment
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Delightful interview and ignore Expat, Mr. Wasserman. Your interview style was just fine. You were not “fawning”....simply respectful. There’s a big difference.

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By ela, July 30, 2008 at 6:21 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.

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By Expat, July 29, 2008 at 6:36 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!

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By Outraged, July 29, 2008 at 12:50 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…?

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