<$Susan Goodwill$>

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bradbury Speaks

Bradbury Speaks the latest by Ray Bradbury, one of my all time fave fantasy/sci-fi/Night Gallery writers, is on the shelves today. Here is the text excerpt off Amazon from Chapter One:

Chapter One
About Writing
My Demon, Not Afraid of Happiness (undated)
I have a strange and incredible muse that, unseen, has engulfed me during my lifetime. I have renamed my muse. In a Frederick Seidel poem, I found a perfect replacement, where he tells of "A Demon not afraid of happiness."
This perfectly describes the Demon that sits now on one shoulder, now on the other, and whispers things that no one else hears.
My Demon warned me one night years ago when I saw some glum theater at UCLA. Later I said to the director, "You want me to stick my wet finger in a wall socket for electrocution. Instead I will screw a brighter bulb in the same socket and light the room."
So my Demon warned me off such encounters and provided invisible material for my future life.
Dandelion Wine, for example, began as an essay in Gourmet magazine in 1953, and over the years my Demon tripped me, sprawling, into a novel to be read in American schools.
On my twenty-fourth birthday, I discovered Winesburg, Ohio, which is indeed not a novel but a short-story collection by Sherwood Anderson. How fine, I thought, if someday I could birth similar grotesques to inhabit Mars.
My Demon, provoked, secretly made travel plans to landfall Mars, live there, and arrive at an unplanned novel, The Martian Chronicles.
Green Shadows, White Whale resulted from my life in Ireland, when for eight months I wrote the screenplay of Moby Dick for John Huston. At the time I thought I was not sponging in any of the green atmosphere or the characters of sad and beautiful Ireland. But then one night, a year later, a voice spoke in my head and said, "Ray, darlin'. "And I said, "Who's that?" The voice said, "It's Nick, your cabdriver. Remember all those nights of my driving you back from Kilcock to Dublin and describing the mist and the fog and the rain along the way? Do you remember that, Ray?" "Yes," I said.Then the voice said with the voice of my Demon, "Would you get up and put that down?" I got up, surprised, and went to my typewriter and began to write a series of poems, essays, and one-act plays that finally shared a San Francisco theater with Sean O'Casey.
Twenty years passed with more essays, poems, and stories, and I woke one morn to find in that litter Green Shadows, White Whale, a novel, complete and intact.
A short tale, "The Black Ferris," melded itself into a screenplay for Gene Kelly, and when Kelly couldn't find the money for the film, I spent three years turning the screenplay into the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Then at last there is my late-on offspring From the Dust Returned, commenced when I drew skeletons, age six, to scare my cousins, continued in secret when I helped redecorate my grandparents' house with Halloween broomsticks, and ended with a gothic story, "Homecoming," rejected by Weird Tales as needful of Marley's ghost and lacking Poe. I sold the story to Mademoiselle, and over the years it grew in rain and mist and arrived in fogs as a novel just last year.
What we have here, then, is a very unusual approach to writing and discovering, not knowing the outcome. To move ahead on a blind journey, running fast, putting down thoughts as they occur.
And along the way my inner voice advised:
If you must write of assassinations, rapes, and Ophelia suicides, speak the speech, I pray thee, poetry in your breath, metaphors on your tongue. Remember how glad Iago was to think on Othello's fall. How, with smiles, Hamlet prepared his uncle's death.
Shakespeare and my Demon schooled me so: Be not afraid of happiness. It is often the soul of murder.

I haven't read this book yet, but if it is anything like his other work, it will be a strange and wonderful treat. What a unique voice. And he wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a public library typewriter that he had to feed a dime every half hour! (Nine dollars and eighty cents for the first draft...)

Writers out there or interested readers, pick up Zen in the Art of Writing also by Ray. You will get the Fahrenheit 451 story and so much more to inspire you.

Bradbury suggests a life list of subjects that intrigue you--to be used as candy for your muse (or your demon.) His includes lightning rods, carnivals, graveyards, and skeletons... What about yours?


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