For Ray

One of the reasons I ended up in a Geography program was because of this vague sense I had about the importance of places to literature. Phrased differently, what role did books play in crafting a sense of place? Where did our sense of the world come from? They're questions that are answered -- at least in part -- in Scott Timberg's notes about "Bradbury the Angeleno":
It was the fields and front-porches of the Midwest that gave Bradbury much of his inner landscape, and a carnival magician back in Illinois who gave his imagination its early, crucial spark. But his teenage years and young adulthood in Los Angeles—he didn’t leave his parents’ house until his late 20s—were crucial to the kind of writer he became.
And while many of his early works—the novel 'Dandelion Wine,' the stories in 'The October Country' and 'The Illustrated Man'—were set either on other planets or in a small-town or pastoral setting abstracted from the writer’s early years, his most poetic and important book, 'The Martian Chronicles,' was as essentially the work of a Los Angeles writer as 'The Long Goodbye' or 'Ask the Dust.' [Via LA Observed]
I was talking to someone last night about my work in Istanbul -- they asked how things were going, and I replied, "Well, I've come to look at it this way -- if I can learn one new thing every day, I'm doing ok." And so when I was combing through some of the old links I had gathered about Ray Bradbury, this quote jumped out:
Action is hope. At the end of each day, when you’ve done your work, you lie there and think, Well, I’ll be damned, I did this today. It doesn’t matter how good it is, or how bad—you did it. At the end of the week you’ll have a certain amount of accumulation. At the end of a year, you look back and say, I’ll be damned, it’s been a good year.” [From a Paris Review interview with Ray Bradbury via, well, the Paris Review.]
And as a last note about Ray Bradbury, there's this passage from a letter he wrote describing the process of writing Fahrenheit 451:
All of my friends, all of my loved ones, were on the shelves above and shouted, yelled and shrieked at me to be creative. So I ran up and down the stairs, finding books and quotes to put in my "Fireman" novella. You can imagine how exciting it was to do a book about book burning in the very presence of the hundreds of my beloveds on the shelves. It was the perfect way to be creative; that's what the library does. [From Letters of Note via (again) Paris Review]
Any number of things to add, but maybe keep it to this: There are several ways we can think about writing. One would involve the image of a writer seated in front of her (or his) computer/typewrite/empty sheet of paper; and in this imagination, writing would be the expression of something individual, something that we could call inspiration or genius or the individual. But there might be a second way to talk about writing -- and E. with her fascination with Benjamin might be better positioned to explain this than I -- writing as a project of collection and collation. And I don't mean in the vulgar sense of plagiarism, but something different -- writing is a way of establishing a set of relationships with the world around us.

And as a last image, Ray Bradbury, Story of a Writer
Again, via Paris Review


Anonymous said…
This is a lovely post (and if you haven't read Bradbury's last piece for the NYer, it is incandescent: )

The thing about Benjamin is that he's--in that favorite phrase of anthropologists--good to think with (and so also, good to write with). The Arcades Project is a strange, half-curated collection, like a curiosity cabinet: full of quotations and asides, interruptions and accretions of old material. One can't really treat it like a 'proper' theoretical text, a standard piece of the analytic toolkit; instead you dip in and out of random pages & dog-eared ones, reading in fragments, and they help you work with the fragments around you.

Put another way, he throws sparks into the tinder of the world's debris, and that's one of the ways those makeshift stories can catch light.

("A conglomerate heap of trash, that's what I am. But it burns with a high flame." Oh, Ray.)

Popular Posts