R Is For Ray
I read Fahrenheit 451 at an impressionable age, and it scarred me for life. Since childhood, I have committed to memory everything I love, so that the Firemen can’t take it away from me.
In my head is a snowy forest, and in it, a small crowd of European character actors wandering around, murmuring. (The European character actors are a lingering after-image from the unjustly maligned Truffaut film, but the forest, and the colony are purely Ray’s.) They’re murmuring quotes from Hammett and Cain and Burroughs (Edgar and William) and for that matter Fellini and Preston Sturges and (let’s not kid ourselves) The Simpsons. Burn my bookshelves, torch my DVDs, that stuff will still be in there.
This morning, thinking about Bradbury, I realize how many of those murmuring Europeans in my head are reciting his stories, recalling his images. Images that have stayed with me since I first read them, 30 or more years ago. I can’t think of any writer whose work is so imprinted on my imagination. Tall blue shadows behind Mink, who says “Peek-a-boo”. Falling astronauts, Edgar Allen Poe on Mars, murderous babies, golden-eyed sad telepaths. I remember Spender’s haunted last stand, sneakers and summer, that prehistoric butterfly, the monster in love with the lighthouse, the endless, maddening rain on Venus. The past and the future meeting on a lonely highway. The Illustrated Man rolls over in his sleep, revealing another nightmare. There’s always another nightmare, another dream, from Ray.
In the end, the Firemen lose, Ray… because I know there are millions of us, out there in the forest, reciting you…