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Ray Bradbury on Literature and Love

Posted on Jul 28, 2008

(Page 4)

Bradbury: They are gifts from people who love me. This dinosaur here is a Tyrannosaurus Rex which came from Japan from a sculptor there who carved it out of wood and sent it to me because dinosaurs have been the center of my life. I saw them when I was 6 years old in movies; I wrote about them when I was 30; I gave a copy of my dinosaur story to John Huston and he read it and said, “My God! That’s Herman Melville.” And he gave me the job of writing “Moby Dick” because I love dinosaurs. So, you have one right here. It’s a good example.

I’ve got an Emmy award over here I won for “The Halloween Tree.” Now, it’s a result of my love. See, everything in life should be love. I fell in love with Halloween when I was 3 years old, and when I grew up, I began to paint pictures about the Halloween tree that was in my mind. And I knew Chuck Jones, the animator—I had lunch with him 40 years ago cause I loved the cartoons he made for Warner Brothers. My love was intense for Chuck Jones! Halloween occurred the night before, and Chuck Jones said, “Did you see that show on TV last night—‘The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?’ ” I said, “Yes—I hated it!”  He said, “The pumpkin never showed up, did it?” He said, “Would you like to write a Halloween show for me?” I said, “You want to make a cartoon?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Wait there.” So I went home here, I brought him my big painting of the Halloween tree that I’d done with my children down in the basement 30 years ago, and he looked at that painting and he said, “Isn’t that the history of Halloween? Why don’t we do a film about that painting?”

So I did a screenplay, and it was made into a film, and I’ve turned it into a novel, and I got that Emmy because it represents my love. See, my loves surround me here. Everything is love. If you look up here, there’s all the best films made in the last 30 years are there. I have formed three film societies in Hollywood myself during the last 20, 30 years. A film society for the writers, a film society for the actors, a film society for the directors, and now I’m teaching people how to love films. Three different film societies I formed. One person did this ‘cause I was angry at the quality that was going on, and I changed the education then by forming the film societies and teaching people what to love. There you have it.

Wasserman: Well, now I want you, at your advanced and young age, to form three societies for the advancement of books and book reviewing: One, a society for the critics to teach them how to criticize responsibly; one, a society for the readers so that they can learn how to actually read responsibly, and three a society for the writers so that they can give us better stories.


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Bradbury: Absolutely. A book review could help do this. A really great book review in the L.A. Times with a great cover teaching love and promoting a new book that teaches you the love of life, and some of the other books can be inside. ... Then there can be a complete schedule again of all the major lectures is being given around L.A. every week so that people can go and meet the authors. A book review can do this ... but it’s not doing it right now.

Wasserman: But I still await the day that the UCLA Library will put a plaque for you in its basement where for—what was it, a nickel or a dime, feeding the typewriters that you were then too poor to afford yourself, you wrote, in what was it, three weeks ... ?

Bradbury: Nine days.

Wasserman: ... Nine days—“Fahrenheit 451.”

Bradbury: Yeah. They’re gonna do that next month, I hear. They’re gonna give me a plaque, at long last.

Wasserman: Finally—congratulations.

Bradbury: Yeah.

Wasserman: Fifty-odd years after the original writing.

Bradbury: That’s right, yeah.

I want to make points about love here. I love John Huston; that’s why I worked for him. I didn’t meet him for years—I was afraid of meeting him because I loved him—but I published three books. I said to my agent, “I want to have dinner with John Huston now.” I took my three books to dinner, I put them out on the table, I said, “Mr. Huston, here’s ‘Dark Carnival,’ here’s ‘The Martian Chronicles,’ here’s ‘The Illustrated Man’—if you love these books half as much as I love you, hire me someday. So, two years later, he hired me to do ‘Moby Dick,’ because I told him I loved him.

You see, you’ve got to do this; you’ve got to do it more often, I say, Schwarzenegger—he’s the governor of the state now because of me, because I [professed] my love. I was on the Academy of Motion Pictures documentary committee 30 years ago. We ran films and turned them off if we didn’t like them. One night we were running a film called “Pumping Iron,” and they turned it off. I was in the front row. I turned and said, “You sons of bitches! Turn that film back on!” I said, “You don’t like weightlifters, you don’t like bodybuilders, you don’t like surfers. I slept with one for 27 years!” They said, “What?!” I said, “My brother! I grew up in Muscle Beach. I know all these people, and this film is about Muscle Beach and the people that I knew and loved when I was a child, but you don’t like—you’re prejudiced against weightlifters. Now, goddammit, I’ve seen 10 minutes of the film—now it’s worth seeing!” I made them turn it back on, and it changed their minds, and Schwarzenegger got his start then. I saved his skin that day. You see what passion does? Love is everything! I saved Schwarzenegger’s skin, and now he’s governor because of me.

Wasserman: Has he thanked you?

Bradbury: He was in an awards with me a couple years ago, and he heard this story I just told you. He ran up on the stage and grabbed me and pulled me up by his arm and pulled it out of the socket with his love, yeah. Everything is love—everything is love.

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By vilneap, November 9, 2008 at 3:49 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 2:11 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 9:38 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 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.

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By Chris Baron, July 30, 2008 at 8:35 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 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.

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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!

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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…?

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