Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Ray Bradbury seems always to have known what he wanted to do and how to get it done. Of the initiatives he has taken in his life, which do you think have contributed most fruitfully to his writing?
Identify the resemblances between the Martians and American Indians in The Martian Chronicles and explain what they contribute to the total effect of the narrative.
Montag is a grown man at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, but what evidence do you see that he matures in the course of the novel?
Some books probably intended for young readers turn out to be valuable reading for adults. Is Dandelion Wine such a book? Explain your response.
Is Bradbury more convincing in his depiction of the dark side of life or in his hopefulness?
Critics are inclined to discount the importance of popular writers in popular modes such as those Bradbury practices. What aspects of Bradbury’s work entitle him to the status of serious writer?
Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Although Ray Bradbury described himself as essentially a short-story writer, his contributions to a wide variety of other genres have been substantial. Indeed, he has intentionally sought to compose successfully in virtually every literary form. His best-known novels are Fahrenheit 451 (1953), Dandelion Wine (1957), and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), the last being his favorite of all of his works. Among his screenplays, the most successful have been Moby Dick (1956), written in collaboration with filmmaker John Huston, and Icarus Montgolfier Wright (1961) with George C. Johnson, which was nominated for an Academy Award. Bradbury had his stage plays produced in Los Angeles and New York City, and several of them have been published, representative samples of which are The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics (1963) and The Pedestrian (1966). He also wrote many plays for radio and television. Some of the most important of the several volumes of poetry that he published were collected in The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury (1982). He also wrote books for children and adolescents, including Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines: A Fable (1998); compiled anthologies of fantasy and science-fiction stories, such as The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories (1956); and published nonfiction works dealing with his interests in creativity and the future, such as Yestermorrow: Obvious Answers to Impossible Futures (1991).
Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Despite Bradbury’s once being named the United States’ best-known science-fiction writer in a poll, his actual literary accomplishments are based on an oeuvre whose vast variety and deeply humanistic themes transcend science fiction as it is commonly understood. His many stories, from gothic horror to social criticism, from playful fantasies to nostalgic accounts of midwestern American life, have been anthologized in several hundred collections, in English as well as many foreign languages, and several of the stories that he published early in his career now occupy a distinguished niche in twentieth century American literature.
Some of his early tales were recognized with O. Henry Prizes in 1947 and 1948, and in 1949 he was voted Best Author by the National Fantasy Fan Federation. Bradbury’s “Sun and Shadow” won the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Award as the best story of 1953-1954, and in 1954 he received a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His novel Fahrenheit 451 won a gold medal from the Commonwealth Club of California, and his book Switch on the Night (1955) was honored with a Boy’s Club of America Junior Book Award in 1956. He received the Mrs. Ann Radcliffe Award of the Count Dracula Society in 1965 and 1971, the Writers’ Guild of America West Valentine Davies Award in 1974, and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1977. Whittier College gave him an honorary doctor of literature degree in 1979. PEN, an international writers’ organization of poets, playwrights, editors, essayists, and novelists, gave Bradbury its Body of Work Award in 1985. In 1988 Bradbury won the Nebula Award, and in 1995 he was named Los Angeles Citizen of the Year.
Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Ray Bradbury’s principal literary form has been the short story, and he has published several important collections, including Dark Carnival (1947), The Illustrated Man (1951), The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953), and I Sing the Body Electric! (1969). Two important extensive collections of his short stories are The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980) and Bradbury Stories: One Hundred of His Most Celebrated Tales (2003). In addition to his short stories and novels, he has published in a wide variety of literary forms, from light verse and poetry to plays for radio, television, films, and the stage. One of his notable screenplays, which he wrote in collaboration with the director John Huston, is Moby Dick (1956). His poetry has been collected in such volumes as The Complete Poems of Ray Bradbury (1982) and I Live by the Invisible: New and Selected Poems (2002). A representative example of his nonfiction is the widely and well-reviewed Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity (1989).
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Although Ray Bradbury became arguably the best-known science-fiction writer in the United States, the majority of his work, which ranges from gothic horror to social criticism, centers on humanistic themes. Aficionados of the genre have criticized his science-fiction stories for their scientific and technological inaccuracies, a criticism he shrugs off, stating that his dominating concerns are social, cultural, and intellectual issues, not scientific verisimilitude. His stories, which often explore the dehumanizing pressures of technocracies and the mesmerizing power of the imagination, are widely anthologized and translated into many foreign languages. His ascent from pulp magazines to literary respectability has been intermittently recognized with several awards, including appearances in Martha Foley’s annual best American short-story collections, two O. Henry Prizes, the Benjamin Franklin Magazine Award, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award, an Academy Award nomination, an Emmy Award for his television adaptation of his 1972 children’s book The Halloween Tree, and a Golden Eagle Award for his 1961 screenplay Icarus Montgolfier Wright.
In 2000 the National Book Foundation honored Bradbury with a medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2004 President George W. Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts. In 2007 he received a special citation from the Pulitzer Board for his outstanding work in science fiction and fantasy, and the French paid tribute to him with the medal of Commandeur, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Bradbury has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and his hometown of Waukegan, Illinois, has named a park for him. Astronomers have named an asteroid in his honor, and a crater on the Moon is named for his novel Dandelion Wine. His best novels are cautionary tales of the dangers of unrestricted scientific and technological progress, and his work has a strong moral core, encouraging the hope that humanity will deal creatively and ethically with the new worlds it seems driven to construct.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury. New York: Chelsea House, 2001. Critical essays cover the major themes in Bradbury’s works, looking at, among other topics, his Martian stories, his participation in the gothic tradition, the role of children in his work, and his use of myth.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451.” New York: Chelsea House, 2001. Eight essays address various aspects of one of Bradbury’s most important novels. Includes an informative editor’s introduction, a chronology, and a bibliography.
Bolhafner, J. Stephen. “The Ray Bradbury Chronicles.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 1, 1996. An interview with Bradbury on the occasion of the publication of his collection of short stories Quicker than the Eye. Bradbury reminisces about the beginnings of his career, talks about getting over his fear of flying, and discusses The Martian Chronicles as fantasy, mythology, and magical realism.
Bradbury, Ray. “Sci-fi for Your D: Drive.” Newsweek 126 (November 13, 1995): 89. In this interview-story, Bradbury discusses why he is putting his most widely acclaimed short-story collection, The Martian Chronicles, on CD-ROM. Bradbury also discusses the role of imagination in technology, the space program, and his favorite literary figures.
Eller, Jonathan R., and William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2004. Described as “the first comprehensive textual, bibliographical, and cultural study of sixty years of Bradbury’s fiction,” this book makes use of manuscripts, correspondence, charts, and graphs...
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