Ray Douglas Bradbury often makes use of his own life in his writings, and he insisted that he had total recall of the myriad experiences of his life through his photographic—some would say eidetic—memory: He stated that he always had vivid recollections of the day of his birth, August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois. Leonard Spaulding Bradbury, his father, was a lineman with the Bureau of Power and Light (his distant ancestor Mary Bradbury was among those tried for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts); Esther Marie (née Moberg) Bradbury, his mother, had emigrated from Sweden to the United States when she was very young. A child with an exceptionally lively imagination, Ray Bradbury amused himself with his fantasies but experienced anguish from his nightmares. His mother took him to his first film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), when he was three years old, and he was both frightened and entranced by Lon Chaney’s performance. This experience originated his lifelong love affair with motion pictures, and he wrote that he could remember the scenes and plots of all the films that he ever attended.
As he grew up, Bradbury passed through a series of passions that included circuses, dinosaurs, and Mars (the latter via the writings of Edgar Rice Burroughs). Neva Bradbury, an aunt, assisted his maturation as a person and writer by introducing him to the joys of fairy tales, L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, live theater, and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. In Bradbury’s own view, the most important event in his childhood occurred in 1932 when a carnival came to town. He attended the performance of a magician, Mr. Electrico, whose spellbinding act involved electrifying himself to such an extent that sparks jumped between his teeth and every white hair on his head stood erect. Bradbury and the magician became friends, and their walks and talks along the Lake Michigan shore behind the carnival so energized his imagination that, a few weeks after this encounter, he began to compose stories for several hours a day. One of his first efforts was a sequel to a Martian novel of Burroughs.
During the Depression, Bradbury’s father had difficulty finding work, and in...
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