Bradbury, Ray 1920–2012
Bradbury is an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, poet, children's author, and editor. He is the leading writer of the school of science fiction and fantasy that is concerned with the human implications of futurism, rather than in the wonders of advanced gadgetry. His fiction is based on the inhumanity, apathy, and technology of modern society. Bradbury is essentially optimistic, however, in his portrayal of the importance of human values and the imagination. (See also CLC, Vols. 1, 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)
[Despite Bradbury's] regrettable tendency to dime-a-dozen sensitivity, he is a good writer, wider in range than any of his colleagues, capable of seeing life on another planet as something extraordinary instead of just challenging or horrific, ready to combine this with strongly held convictions…. The suppression of fantasy, or of all books, is an aspect of the conformist society often mentioned by other writers, but with Bradbury it is a specialty. (pp. 106-07)
[There] is about Bradbury, as about those I might call the non-fiction holders of his point of view, a certain triumphant lugubriousness, a kind of proleptic schadenfreude (world copyright reserved), a relish not always distinguishable here from satisfaction in urging a case, but different from it, and recalling the relish with which are recounted the horrors of Nineteen Eighty-Four and a famous passage that prefigures it in Coming Up for Air. Jeremiah has never had much success in pretending he doesn't thoroughly enjoy his job, and whereas I agree with him, on the whole, in his dislike of those who reach for their revolver when they hear the word "culture," I myself am getting to the point where I reach for my ear-plugs on hearing the phrase "decline of our culture." But in this respect Bradbury sins no more grievously than his non-fiction colleagues, whom he certainly surpasses in immediacy, for Fahrenheit 451 is a fast and scaring narrative…. The book emerges quite creditably from a comparison with Nineteen Eighty-Four as inferior in power, but superior in conciseness and objectivity. (p. 109)
Bradbury's is the most skilfully drawn of all science fiction's conformist hells. One invariable feature of them is that however activist they may be, however convinced that the individual can, and will, assert himself, their programme is always to resist or undo harmful change, not to promote useful change. (pp. 109-10)
Kingsley Amis, in his New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction (© 1960 by Kingsley Amis; reprinted by permission of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. and A. D. Peters and Company Ltd.), Harcourt, 1960.
Ray Bradbury has drawn the sword against the dreary and corrupting materialism of this century; against society as producer-and-consumer equation, against the hideousness in modern life, against mindless power, against sexual obsession, against sham intellectuality, against the perversion of right reason into the mentality of the television-viewer. His Martians, spectres, and witches are not diverting entertainment only: they become, in their eerie manner, the defenders of truth and beauty. (p. 117)
[Bradbury] thinks it … probable that man may spoil everything, in this planet and in others, by the misapplication of science to avaricious ends—the Baconian and Hobbesian employment of science as power. And Bradbury's interior world is fertile, illuminated by love for the permanent things, warm with generous impulse….
Bradbury knows of modern technology, in the phrase of Henry Adams, that we are "monkeys monkeying with a loaded shell." He is interested not in the precise mechanism of rockets, but in the mentality and the morals of fallible human beings who make and use rockets. He is a man of fable and parable. (p. 118)
Bradbury is not writing about the gadgets of conquest; his real concerns are the soul and the moral imagination. When the boy-hero of Dandelion Wine, in an abrupt mystical experience, is seized almost bodily by the glowing consciousness that he is really alive, we...
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[Dandelion Wine] has no more reason to end than it has to begin. Its cause and effect relationship is a spontaneous one, for which A leads to B, and Z again to A. It is a brief glimpse on a crowded street of a stranger one can never forget and always love. It has the drug color vividness of black and white photography, giving the honest shade and contrast of face stories at moments removed from motion, from time, from definition. But, in the same breath, it has a prescribed structure, with Douglas, his brother Tom, his friends, his senses, all acting under the assumed reality which the freedom of fantasy offers. Dandelion Wine is fantasy, in the most boundless sense of the word. It is the fantasy which is always at hand, known to us all—not the thirty-five cents a copy world of escapism and plasticity, but the unrigid, free, real world of the mind's expectations. Though one may not have logical inference patterns to make, conflicts to resolve, or character types to establish, there is a single, though all encompassing direction, a "place" to go, an exercise to perform. In effect, this unavoidable and necessary element of imposition requires expansion, and passionate devotion to this mental growth. When Bradbury sets his stage, much like a theatre director, an animated world appears in which the facts of the imagination become as acceptable as the facts of reality. (p. 161)
Bradbury proves his fantasy by this reaching through the senses, this creating of real life. We believe, really believe, only that which is proven artistically, employing both the aesthetic criticism of the intellect and the senses. Only the latter is nearly infallible, as the virgin innocence of sensual intuition either refuses to accept or trustingly incorporates the devil deceptions of illusion's mists…. To write successful fantasy, to employ successful imagination, elements of the real world must be among the constituent ingredients of the mental exercise. Only then can the mind feel secure in its journey. (pp. 162-63)
What can threaten this sensual stage which Bradbury sets? His worlds of fantasy, his circus balloon journeys up and out, incorporate in their very nature a fastening line to the ground, a kinship with the realistic, cold visioned animal...
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[Of] all the writers of science fiction who have dealt with [the] meeting of the past and the future, it is Ray Bradbury whose treatment has been the deepest and most sophisticated. What has made Bradbury's handling of this theme distinctive is that his attitudes and interpretations have changed as he came to discover the complexities and the ambiguities inherent in it. (p. 175)
Bradbury's point [in The Martian Chronicles] here is clear: [the Earthmen] met their deaths because of their inability to forget, or at least resist, the past. Thus, the story of this Third Expedition acts as a metaphor for the book as a whole. Again and again the Earthmen make the fatal mistake of trying to recreate an Earth-like past rather than accept the fact that this is Mars—a different, unique new land in which they must be ready to make personal adjustments. Hauling Oregon lumber through space, then, merely to provide houses for nostalgic colonists exceeds folly; it is only one manifestation of a psychosis which leads to the destruction not only of Earth, but, with the exception of a few families, of Mars as well. (p. 177)
[Despite] the fact that it cannot be called science fiction, Dandelion Wine closely resembles The Martian Chronicles and much of Bradbury's other writing in that it is essentially concerned with the same issue—the dilemma created by the dual attractions of the past and the future, of stasis and change.
In Dandelion Wine Bradbury uses the experiences of his adolescent protagonist during one summer to dramatize this set of philosophical and psychological conflicts. At twelve, Douglas Spaulding finds himself on the rim of adolescence. On one side of him lies the secure, uncomplicated world of childhood, while on the other is the fascinating...
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