We Are All Ray Bradbury’s Bastard Love Children.on June 7, 2012 at 12:21 am
I met Ray Bradbury once, a few years ago, and he called me his bastard love child. I assumed it was a more general term of affection than something special he singled out just for me, and reading some other people’s remembrances of him, it sounds like he had a lot of much-beloved bastard children he didn’t know.
All my childhood literary heroes whom I’ve met have now passed on, and that’s a little sad and a little bittersweet, but I don’t feel the same kind of deep loss for Ray Bradbury as I have in other instances. I don’t know if it’s because of the nature of his books, of the importance of story…and I keep thinking about From The Dust Returned and the book at the end of that book, and how if we’re going to put it in his terms, he’s still around.
I have, somewhere, two paperback copies of Fahrenheit 451. They’re old– they belonged to my mother. One is the erroneously censored Doubleday edition, and one is the corrected edition with Bradbury’s famous coda on the nature of censorship attached. I’m not even sure where they are now, but they are burned (haha) into my soul.
When I was a teenager, I made myself a tee shirt with the firemens’ poem on it. Monday, burn Millay, and such. It was a baseball jersey style tee shirt, with words on it in in silver, iridescent glitter. I was in love with Clarisse; she was one of my earliest literary crushes.
In college, I went to a school that required a thesis at the end of senior year. Not to be outdone, I did three. One of my theses was a video game, one was a paper on films about Shakespeare or his plays (as opposed to adaptations of his plays), and one was about Truffaut’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 and the difference in the depiction of children between the book and the film.
Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451 about children who hurt each other without remorse. Clarisse talks to Montag about being bullied in school in a way that I could identify with so much as a young person, but also a way that it feel like we are just beginning to really address now. Kids are awful to one another, and that isn’t just kids being kids. It does need to stop. I don’t think his portrayal was cynical: it was true. And he did give us Clarisse, too– there were young people in that world who were full of love and perspicacious enough to see the difference.
I used to think a lot about what book I would memorize if I had to do that, and certainly Fahrenheit 451 would have been on my list, although I can trust that many, many other people would volunteer to carry that one in their heart, which means that I would probably choose something else, by a lesser-known author, to take with me.
A few years ago, we adopted a cat named Rachel, and my mother wanted to change it, because I have a cousin, Raechelle, and my mother was like “I am not having a pet with the same name as my niece.” We were trying to think of a name, but nothing was sticking.
We had been keeping the cat down in the basement while she got acclimated, and to keep her separate from our older cat (it’s a finished basement, with a bedroom and a storage room), and we went down to check on her, and we could not find her. We looked everywhere we could think of, but no luck. It was as if she had vanished into thin air.
It was only later that we discovered her hiding, having made a cozy nest for herself on our bookshelves, nestled behind a stack of picture books. We named her Clarisse, which was only apropos, after she’d been hiding in the books.
At the end of From the Dust Returned, Timothy brings Nef to live in the museum. She is not living but not dead, a book and flesh, the story of every death. And Timothy tells D.W. Alcott, the curator of the museum, that she is still talking, and that he will be able to listen, if only he comes closer.