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Bradbury Stories
by Bob Cheeks
19 December 2003Bradbury Stories

Ray Bradbury is to our society what the shaman, chronicler, and sage were to their villages and clans. A review of Bradbury Stories.


 


Ray Bradbury was not formally educated beyond high school, which in his case may have been something of a blessing, not only for himself but his constant readers as well. In lieu of a conventional education, which in the 1940’s was a markedly superior product when compared to today’s core curriculums, Bradbury became an autodidact.

Ray Bradbury is not a genius; he is, however, a prophet. Genius, at least as far as writers go, comes along, maybe, every couple of generations. Tolstoy springs to mind, and the agrarian, Wendell Berry, writing in the Kentucky foothills and that’s enough for me. But, we have any number of talented writers and Ray Bradbury is at the top of the list. Acknowledging his writing talents is, of course, required but his forte -- his gift, if you prefer -- is his art as a storyteller.

Ray Bradbury is to our society what the shaman, chronicler, and sage were to their villages and clans. He tells us who we were, and what we will become, while nurturing the old myths and weaving new ones out of an intense and vibrant imagination. Bradbury’s stories are predicated on the accumulated knowledge of three thousand years of Western Orthodoxy, his moral acuity, his talents as a writer, and his vivid imagination.

He is thoroughly nostalgic, poignantly so, and maniacally clever. He is a man at peace with God’s Universe, yet, conjures up spirits, banshees, and demons to trouble our evening hours. He cajoles the reader and he lays bare the dreadfully dark side of human nature. There was a time when he may have worshipped at the alter of the Utopian Future, but certainly no longer. Age, maturation, and experience reveal truths that many prefer remain unspoken; redemption, salvation, and forgiveness are not found in the philosophies of modern man. Ray Bradbury is well aware that given time, the gods of technology will consume the human spirit. He doesn’t predict the future -- that’s too easy -- rather, he is sounding a warning!

In Bradbury Stories the author delivers one hundred of his favorite works of shorts fiction. An exciting trip down memory lane, visiting some old friends that first appeared in those wonderful pulp magazines: Super Science Stories, Fantastic, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and the irrepressible, Weird Tales. And, these superbly crafted stories are commingled in a delightful concinnity with his later work that appeared in major publications such as: The Saturday Evening Post, Omni, Playboy, Collier’s and Good Housekeeping.

Bradbury is not a skeptic. Many of his stories reveal nihilism’s cultural domination; man seeks but can never obtain utopia as the author artfully discloses the essentially flawed nature of our species. Certainly there are raiment’s of hope: boundless and eternally love, compassion for the downtrodden, fealty, and knowledge but is it enough? Has the old orthodoxy been effaced by the technocrats? Will technology and science answer our intrinsic questions or destroy our race?

In “The Visitor,” Saul Williams and his coevals are slowly and inexorably dying from the “blood rust” -- a virulent lung disease native to Mars. A rocket arrives carrying a passenger, one Leonard Mark, a fey man with, if not a salvific gift, at least one that will ease the suffering. Given man’s connate nature Leonard Mark is doomed, no matter how great his magic!

“Lafayette, Farewell,” is one of the best short stories ever written. It is the story of old men and old wars. Eschewing platitudes, Bradbury delivers a colloquy on the cost of war. He gives us a certain truth, that this cost goes beyond the national treasury and human sacrifice. For the survivors it is on going, a lifetime of memories and ghosts. Bradbury made me remember my father, a combat veteran, and his ghosts. I think they were with him until the day he died.

“Junior” is a horror story for all men over fifty. A nostalgic memoir of one Albert Beam, aged eighty-two, and a fond farewell to an old friend on his birthday. The story is superficial, farcical, humanistic, and funny!

“Banshee” is a moralistic fable that clearly illustrates that you should never anger a man who buys ink by the gallon. The author also warns that those who habitually abuse others will get their comeuppance. Life, Bradbury shows us, has a natural proclivity for balance.

“The Man” tells us of the universal nature of Jesus Christ. That, indeed, many are called but few are chosen. Man, the supplicant, the sinner, if he is “becoming a Christian” as Kierkegaard suggested, is required to surrender self, a concept unfathomable in our contemporary society.

“The Messiah” takes a Priest, Rabbi, and Minister to Mars where the author provides dialogue worthy of Aquinas. The Priest seeks the physical Christ. When his wish is granted by a japing Martian, who risks his own demise in his performance, the cleric procures the Martian’s promise to return very Easter, in mufti!

Bradbury’s Stories is an excellent place to begin reading this fabled author or if you’re already a fan it’s like visiting old friends. Perhaps a cold winter’s night is the best time to read him, as the wind sounds against your door, and your fire flickers gently in the stove. The wife and children are nestled in their beds fast asleep. And, except for the occasional settling of the old house a sweet silence prevails.

A good cigar, your favorite chair, a decent port, now let Ray Bradbury take you on a splendid trip to Mars or beyond the Pale in old Ireland. But, beware dear reader, Mr. Bradbury’s stories will cause, from time to time, a furtive glance among the darkened corners of your chamber where, surely, something wicked your way comes!

Bradbury Stories is available at Amazon.com.

Bob Cheeks has written for The American Enterprise, Human Events, Southern Partisan, and The Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

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