When I read Fahrenheit 451 back in 8th grade, that was one of the first times I wanted to be an author. I wanted to write and I enjoyed writing, but that book had such an impact on me. I didn’t know you could do that writing, make commentary and make it enjoyable. Books were in two camps still for me: fun reading and text books. I remember feeling that book was so awesome. I had a couple of favorites but for the first time I was able to say without hesitation Fahrenheit 451 was my favorite book.
It was one of the first times I looked at my peers and thought you don’t get it. It was just another assignment and boring to many of them. They didn’t like reading, they didn’t like school. Nothing was cool enough for them. We had this book in our hands and they could care less. They laughed during to movie, which I guess was laughable at times, but I felt they were missing to point. Some of the things he discussed have happened, like audience participation in television shows. They didn’t care, that sounded great to some of them. Then to more of my horror, other people hadn’t heard of him. Like other teachers. Other English teachers. My English teacher gave me a smile like, “See what I have to put up with?”
I thought Ray Bradbury was one of the coolest authors ever. I loved the way he wrote his lines, the way he handled his prose. You could focus on the pictures in your head instead of figuring out what he was trying to say. There was something modest and unobtrusive about his writing. I feel he’s behind his story, the story comes through the door first then he’ll enter, eyes lowered. Then when I found out he was from Waukegan, IL where I was a baby, well, he was just even more awesome. When I find out someone’s from Illinois, especially from an area I’m familiar with, they’re just a little bit more awesome.
I did read some of his short stories and enjoyed them, but nothing really did it for me like his novels. They were retreats, not just escapes. People call his work science fiction, but he was so much more than that. I enjoy science fiction and there can be themes and thoughts being provoked, lessons being learned. Bradbury didn’t just talk about fascinating people, places, and things, he talked about cultures, fears, and realities. He did raise science fiction to literary standards, but he gave such flesh and soul to “science fiction”, it wasn’t just science fiction.
So when this morning I saw he passed, I was glad it was in his nineties. I was sorry to see it was after an illness. I’m sorry he’s gone but he left quite a mark and impression on many people.