Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Something Joyful This Way Comes

In a way, Ray Bradbury invented writing for me.

I was 8 or 9, and I had always loved to read. But it wasn't until I picked up a book of Bradbury stories at the library that I realized a wonderful thing: words can weave magic spells. And this man, this man who was so full of joy and wonder that it spilled into every page of his work, even the sad parts, liked the same things I did: space, aliens, dinosaurs, Moby Dick. Maybe I could write stories too, I thought. And here I am.

About 15 years ago I had the honor of meeting Bradbury at Dragon*con. Fahrenheit 451 had just been re-released into a beautiful hardcover edition. I was 18 and poor, so I had brought my battered, definitely-not-first edition paperback of my favorite Bradbury novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. After hours in line, I finally shuffled up to my literary god, shaking all the way. I handed him my poor book and said, "Sorry I don't have a better copy for you to sign."

He smiled and replied, "I like seeing books like this, because it means it's been read and loved."

I didn't hear anything anyone said to me for the rest of the day.

Bradbury signed my book in permanent marker, RAY BRADBURY!. Exclamation point and all. And I think he lived his life with exclamation points, with eagerness always to see what's next while not forgetting what lay behind.

My husband called me today to tell me the news. I was at the museum with my kid, so I didn't cry. But goddamn did my throat hurt for a while.

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