March 14, 2008

Bradbury’s Astounding Memory

Category: Literature,Miscellaneous :: Permalink

Recently, I’ve been reading a collection of essays on writing and creativity by Ray Bradbury.  In one of these essays, which was first published as the introduction to Bradbury’s Collected Stories, he talks about his memory, which, it turns out, is far, far better than mine.  The context is a discussion of his short story “The Veldt,” and, to give you the rest of the background you need in order to see why this comment astounded me so much, this particular essay was written in 1980 and Bradbury was born in 1920:

The lions in that room, where did they come from?

From the lions I found in the books in the town library when I was ten.  From the lions I saw in the real circuses when I was five.  From the lion that prowled in Lon Chaney’s film He Who Gets Slapped in 1924!

In 1924! you say, with immense doubt.  Yes, 1924.  I didn’t see the Chaney film again until a year ago.  As soon as it flashed on the screen I knew that that was where my lions in “The Veldt” came from.  They had been hiding out, waiting, given shelter by my intuitive self, all these years.

For I am that special freak, the man with the child inside who remembers all.  I remember the day and the hour I was born.  I remember being circumcised on the fourth day after my birth.  I remember suckling at my mother’s breast.  Years later I asked my mother about the circumcision.  I had information that couldn’t have been told to me, there would be no reason to tell a child, especially in those still-Victorian times.  Was I circumcised somewhere away from the lying-in hospital?  I was.  My father took me to the doctor’s office.  I remember the doctor.  I remember the scalpel. — Ray Bradbury, “Drunk, and in Charge of a Bicycle,” Zen in the Art of Writing, pp. 53-54.

Posted by John Barach @ 1:45 pm | Discuss (3)

3 Responses to “Bradbury’s Astounding Memory”

  1. Callie Says:

    When I was pregnant with my first child my doctor told me about a book called The Secret LIfe of the Unborn Child. I read it and thought a lot of it was strange but it was very interesting. It had a lot of stories similar to this one.

    I haven’t read Ray Bradbury in years but I think I’m going to have to go searching in my boxes of stored books for my old friends. Thanks for the reminder. =)

  2. Dad B Says:

    When I was young (in the early 1950s), I had read a number of Bradbury’s SF novels. I found a book written by him that preceded any of the SF books and bought it. It wasn’t SF, but a detective-mystery story. From what I understand, it was his first novel.

    In recent years I re-read some of his SF novels but found that they lacked some of the fire that I enjoyed when younger.

    His TV series also lacked the fire too. Of that era, I’d rate Asimov as head-and-shoulders above Bradbury.

  3. John Barach Says:

    In some ways, Bradbury isn’t exactly a fantasy or science fiction writer. He’s something of a poet, though he professes that he was surprised when Aldous Huxley called him one.

    All of his writing tends to be a rush of images and hop-scotching words and firefly-flashing phrases, like the ones I’m using here. Sometimes that’s a lot of fun, but Bradbury is (it seems to me) more interested in creating an atmosphere than strictly in the plot.

    He says, in the book I’m reading, that he often comes up with a word or a title (e.g., “The Old Man,” “The Veldt,” “The Small Assassin”) and then writes what is essentially a prose-poem about something. Until he introduces characters, that is. Then the characters run away and he follows them.

    I suppose what makes his stories “science fiction” is that they’re often set in the future or on another planet, but he’s generally more concerned about human emotions than about rocket ships.

Leave a Reply