Driving Blind

This 1997 collection is uneven and at times weak. There is less fantasy or science fiction than in many of Ray Bradbury’s earlier works.

In the short story “Remember Me?” we find the theme of meeting a familiar face in a distant place.

The theme of children’s storytelling and kissing games is found in “House Divided”.

The theme of looking up an old flame is in “I Wonder What’s Become of Sally?”

And one of my favorite themes, the revenge of the nerd everybody picked on is the theme of “The Highest Branch on the Tree”.

The book has some terrific moments. Examples are when Bradbury recalls a tiny, dusty, moth-eaten Mexican circus, tells the hilarious story of Irish drinking buddies looking for a safe place in the bogs to take a woman, and yet another tale of perfect love squandered (“Madame et Monsieur Shill”).

If you’re new to Bradbury, this will do nicely, but for veteran readers it’s a bit of same old same old. I guess Bradbury needed another paycheck to allow this to be published. It is not bad, but this is not his best work.

Green Shadows, White Whale: A Novel of Ray Bradbury’s Adventures Making Moby Dick with John Huston in Ireland

Loosely based on the period in 1953 when Bradbury lived in Ireland and worked on the screenplay of “Moby Dick” for film director John Huston. A series of terrific set-pieces (such as, “The Terrible Conflagration Up at the Place,” “The Cold Wind and the Warm,” and “The Anthem Sprinters”) are strung together with accounts of the writer-narrator’s meetings with the director, and incidents of the latter’s casual cruelty and unreasonable demands. But the set-pieces, embedded in a 1992 volume, date from the mid-1970s and before, and one might have preferred a more direct, detailed portrait of Huston and Bradbury instead of this recycled collection. But if one has never read any Bradbury before, this is as good a place to start as any, particularly for its rich, entertaining portrait of Ireland and the Irish. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler.

The Toynbee Convector

I first read this collection of short stories in 1992. It includes a reprint of the 1983 story that appeared in the January 1984 issue of “Playboy.” It has twenty-two other stories. The majority are reprints from magazine articles. I nominate the short story of “The Toynbee Convector” for the best fantasy/science fiction story ever written. It is as good as Bradbury’s story from his 1951 book the “Illustrated Man – “The Veldt”. It is that good. Here is the story plot/summary. The story’s protagonist claims to have returned from the future. He has tapes and films of a miraculous technological wonderland. Humankind has solved all its major problems – no cancer, no world hunger, etc. This energizes the world with confidence. People believe that their dreams will come true. They proceed to build that future. They have no idea it is all a lie. The lie pictures a wondrous future. It describes this future in breath-taking detail. There is almost an action plan with hints as to how to get there. The world’s brain trust of scientists, economists, and politicians take the clues and make this future a reality. It comes the day when we are at the time and place where he is to appear from the past in the created future. A major deflection occurs. You have to read the story for the conclusion. It is worth reading. While the other stories in the collection are good and “worth the read,” none match the opening story.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury is the story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway. It is the story of the evil that grips their small Midwestern town with the arrival of one Autumn midnight. It tells how the boys save the town. It is great reading.

Ray Bradbury excels in revealing the dark side in us all, teaching us ultimately to celebrate the shadows and not fear them. In many ways, this is a companion piece to his joyful, nostalgia-drenched Dandelion Wine, in which Bradbury presented us with one perfect summer as seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old. In Something Wicked This Way Comes, he deftly explores the fearsome delights of one perfectly terrifying, unforgettable autumn.

Fahrenheit 451

The genesis of Fahrenheit 451 is in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles where he has the story on book burning. Written in 1950 this book is as relevant today as it was when it first went into print.

The book is about political correctness and burning those books that make certain groups feel bad about themselves. The fireman in Bradbury’s book don’t put out fires, they start fires. They search out and burn books. It is a crime, in this society, to own or read books. It is not a society I would want to live in.

Knowledge is evil. People receive all of their culture through television walls that are built into their houses.

Guy Montag is a fireman who loves his work. He likes nothing better than to spray kerosene on a pile of books and watch the pages curl and turn into flakes of black ash that flutter through the air. Until the day he meets Clarisse, a young girl who has been told about a world of books, thoughts, and ideas. Their conversations precipitate a crisis of faith in Guy, and he begins to steal books and hide them in his home.

His wife discovers what he is doing. She becomes terrified. She turns him in. He is forced to burn his beloved collection. Guy flees to avoid being arrested. He joins an outlaw band of scholars who are trying to keep the contents of important books in their heads.

Long After Midnight

Long After Midnight by Ray Bradbury was published in 1976. This volume is the last of Bradbury’s great short story collections. It is one of my personal favorites.

There are 22 short stories. Each short story is 10 to 15 pages long. That makes the stories ideal to read one story in a sitting.

“One Timeless Spring” is a unique coming-of-age tale of a 12-year-old who is convinced his parents are poisoning him.

“The Utterly Perfect Murder” details a 48-year-old’s revenge on the boy who bullied him when they were 12 years-old.

“Have I Got a Chocolate Bar for You!” depicts the relationship between a Catholic priest and the rotund young man who periodically comes to confession to talk of his peculiar obsession.

“The Parrot Who Met Papa” is an utterly hilarious spoof of Hemingway (or maybe Chandler) and his literary groupies.

The title story is a very different one for Bradbury, about a lonely oceanside suicide … and then there are some of Bradbury’s usual stories about friendly robots and light horror. The book is a truly marvelous story mix. Read by Jimmie A. Kepler

Zen in the Art of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is not a single volume on writing. Rather, it is a collection of essays written over his long career. Each of the essays has a real nugget of insight for the reader. Bradbury teaches us about writing. He tells us to write about what we love, and what we hate and to always stay drunk on writing, because it saves us from the world of reality. The book’s title is a little misleading. While Bradbury makes some statements that sound like a “Zen Master”, that is the closest I could come to finding anything “Zen” about the book. I find the title a “hip” title some marketer probably dreamed up.

Bradbury devotes a chapter on the mechanics of writing, the way he learned it. To achieve success as a writer according to Bradbury, one must write at least a thousand words a day. The thousand words a day minimum must continue until the process becomes automatic. It is simply fascinating to get into the mind of one of the greatest science fiction writers on how the craft is done. This chapter alone is worth buying the book which is very economical. It is a wonderful book for the beginning writer and very inspirational for the advanced writer.