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Ray Bradbury on Literature and Love
Posted on Jul 28, 2008
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.
Square, Site wide
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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