Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday is a Hero-Worshipper

"Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
--John Green

John Green is good at putting words to things I find hard to express, but as soon as I read the things he writes, I immediately recognize the sentiment or idea expressed as something it seems I've always felt. I mean, that's why I want to be a writer. I want to put words to things that are hared to express. The point, though, of this quote I've included is that it describes perfectly my feelings for Ray Bradbury's works. I'll be watching the news and think, "If only they had read Fahrenheit 451, maybe that wouldn't have happened." I find it extremely hard to hold civil conversations with people who don't like Ray Bradbury. Trust me, I'm not joking. I adore Ray Bradbury's style, but I also think his books are important because they use the fantastic--magic, in other words--to critique our own not particularly magical society. His messages are really timeless. The societal criticism in Fahrenheit 451 of shallowness, recklessness, and selfish living is still just as relevant today. There are still people trying to tell us we should not read certain books or say certain words or marry certain people. There are still many people who are unable to see beyond the borders of their own country, or even the walls of their own living room. Books are as important today as they were when Bradbury sat in a basement and typed the entirety of Fahrenheit 451 in eight days using a typewriter that took change like a parking meter. 

Unless you have been living under a very, very, very large rock ( a meteor, maybe?), you probably have heard the news of Bradbury's recent death. I feel a little silly for being sad. I never met him; never spoke to him. I just read his books, but his voice is so clear in what he writes that sometimes, it feels as if he's talking directly to you as you read. His death does not mean that he will be forgotten, but we have to make sure of this, not just complacently expect other people to keep his writing preserved. At the end of Fahrenheit 451, Montag and his band of outcasts head into the wilderness, carrying nothing except the books they have memorized inside their minds. They have been denied their right to read, but despite this, they carry their favorite stories inside of them. As J.K. Rowling says, "The stories we love best do live within us," so even though arguably (and I am more than willing to argue this) the most iconic sci-fi writer of the past ninety years is dead, his words have not lost any significance. 

Maybe after reading my drivel up to this point, you can understand I worship Bradbury a bit. I am personally offended when someone insults the style of Fahrenheit 451 or Jim's attitude in Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I love those books. I love Clarisse, and Jim, and Will. I love a bunch of people who have never existed. I don't think I'm the only one. However, the recent Twilight fan fiction turned bestseller, Fifty Shades of Gray, has sold more copies than Bradbury sold in his entire life. Please, feel free to read that again. I'm not trying to be a literature snob, though I'll admit I am, but honestly, does that seem OK to you? An Emmy, a Pulitzer, but supposedly less people have read his fiction than the number who've purchased a published version of Twilight fan fiction. 

Brothers John and Hank Green (an Edgar winning author and his brother), are the infamous vlogbrothers, and they recently brought this somewhat frightening issue to their viewers' attention. In order to encourage people to purchase and read Bradbury's work, they are reading Fahrenheit 451 for their summer book club. I don't want people to forget the things he has written, nor do I want his books to simply become "classroom" books. Reading in school is great, but some of the best reading is accomplished when you choose to do it. John and Hank are trying to get Fahrenheit 451 to sell more copies on Amazon than the book that shall not be named. I encourage you to join them. Go buy some Ray Bradbury. Ask your parents first. Or not. 

What books have stayed with you? What authors, dead or alive, have inspired your writing?

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” --Ray Bradbury