Bradbury, Ray (Vol. 1)

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519


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Bradbury, Ray 1920–2012

American writer of fantasy and science fiction writer. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

In intricately tracing out the first main steps of initiation for twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding, Ray Bradbury joins Dandelion Wine to a long and proud tradition in American literature. From the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin down through works by Charles Brockden Brown, Richard Henry Dana, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Henry James, Stephen Crane, Theodore Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Ralph Ellison, and John Knowles, the theme of initiation has been one of the very strongest currents in American literature….

It is Ray Bradbury's style that remains his most distinguishing characteristic. It is the Bradbury style which is unmistakable, which is his alone. Gilbert Highet writes that his style is "a curious mixture of poetry and colloquialism." Robert O. Bowen talks of his "clean colloquial rhythms and rich metaphor." Undoubtedly it is his images and metaphors, and the way they are combined, which function as the outstanding single feature of his style. Bradbury is already famous for those stylized, concentrated passages of images which often appeal to the reader both concretely and abstractly.

Marvin E. Mengeling, "Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine: Themes, Sources, and Style," in English Journal, October, 1971, pp. 877-87.

Ray Bradbury['s] paperback editions now bear the quotation: "The world's greatest living science fiction writer." I can find no mention of the author of this quote, but no matter—it could be any of hundreds of reviewers from the mainstream press, taken by the skill and beauty of Bradbury's work, carried away by his intensely poetic fantasy and emotional impact, and entirely unaware that Ray Bradbury is not really a science-fiction writer at all.

Only a very small percentage of Bradbury's works can be classified as science fiction. Although his most "science-fictional" book, The Martian Chronicles, is a classic, its s-f plausibility is slight. Essentially (like almost all his books) a compilation of short stories (many of which originally appeared in s-f magazines) and roughly making a panorama of the next century, it has the form of science fiction but in content there is no effort to implement the factual backgrounds. His Mars bears no relation to the astronomical planet. His stories are stories of people—real and honest and true in their understanding of human nature—but for his purposes the trappings of science fiction are sufficient—mere stage settings.

Ray Bradbury is essentially a doomsman where the future is concerned. He distrusts science, distrusts technology, fears the complexity of a world deriving its substance from these things. He longs for the presumed simplicity of a past century and the innocence of boyhood. None of his work has impinged on the galactic cosmology of an Asimov or a Stapledon. He is outside the field—a mainstream fantasist of great brilliance, a literary warrior in an allied way against the three dooms of our century, an associate of the Wellsian concept, but certainly not "the world's greatest living science fiction writer."

Donald A. Wolfheim, in his The Universe Makers, Harper & Row, 1971, p. 99.

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