Ray Bradbury, once called “Poet of the Pulps,” considered himself a graduate of the library, where he spent much of his time. Although he didn't attend college, he said, in an interview with Public Libraries,"there's no use going to a university if you don't live at the library." Bradbury, one of my favorite authors, is no longer with us, as of last Tuesday. Like several of my favorite writers, I discovered him with a certain amount of unwillingness and skepticism.
Bradbury may be most famous for Fahrenheit 451, his novel about a "fireman" whose profession is burning dangerous books. In Fahrenheit's futuristic society, all books are dangerous. As a library lady I can appreciate this story. I like a hot new (or old) book, but below a hundred degrees works best for me. That way I can be sure it won't burst into flames, or burn my fingers - particularly important with page turners and books I want to pass on to other people. In other words, most books. Even books I hate deserve a fate safe on a fireproof shelf. Someone else may really enjoy them and everyone has a right to express themselves. As much as I agree with the message of Fahrenheit 451, it wasn't exactly where my Bradbury reading adventures began.
The Martian Chronicles sat on my shelf for months. I wouldn’t touch it – I kept picturing it as something silly with goofy little cartoon green guys. Not that that would necessarily be a problem, but it just wasn't what I was in the mood for that year. I don’t know what finally made me pick up the book. Maybe I ran out of stuff to read. But I did break down and read the entire novel. Of course, I loved it.
The Martian Chronicles is a social satire and a beautiful, bewitching, lyrical tale that takes place on a fictional Mars – a Mars I could never have imagined, left to my own devices. The beginning of the book is told from the point of view of a couple of intelligent Martians who are naïve as to what awaits them.
An advanced civilization of earthlings arrives out of seemingly nowhere, to overtake the primitive culture on Mars.
The Martians and their environment are exploited in a variety of ways, one chapter at a time. There is some inventive and spooky retaliation on the part of the Martians, but with only short term results.
I felt that the story was a powerful, fascinating, vividly original analogy of modern Western expansion and the negative effect that can have on other cultures and the environment.
The Martian Chronicles is technically a collection of short stories that were put together to create a single well told tale.
That tale is the one that got me voraciously reading Ray Bradbury’s other short stories and novels, several of which we have at Langsdale Library. They can be seen this month in the library display case and requested for your personal reading pleasure here.
Although Ray Bradbury is, sadly, no longer around, his fantastic books, fortunately are, safe from the flames of Fahrenheit 451.