Ray Bradbury: “The Things That You Love Should Be Things That You Do.” “Books Teach Us That”

“I sup­pose you’re won­der­ing why I’ve called you all here,” says Ray Brad­bury above, in a lengthy inter­view with the The Big Read project spon­sored by the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Arts. Break­ing the ice with this stock phrase, Bradbury–author of Fahren­heit 451, The Illus­trat­ed Man, The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles, and sev­er­al dozen more fan­ta­sy and sci-fi nov­els and short sto­ry col­lec­tions (and some tru­ly chill­ing hor­ror)–begins to talk about… Love. Specif­i­cal­ly a love of books. “Love,” he says, “is at the cen­ter of your life. The things that you do should be things that you love, and the things that you love, should be things that you do.” That’s what books teach us, he says, and it becomes his mantra.

Brad­bury, who passed away in June, was cer­tain­ly an ear­ly inspi­ra­tion for me, and sev­er­al mil­lion oth­er book­ish kids whose warmest mem­o­ries involve dis­cov­er­ing some strange, life-alter­ing book on the shelf of a library. As he recounts his child­hood expe­ri­ences with books, he’s such an enthu­si­as­tic boost­er for pub­lic libraries that you may find your­self writ­ing a check to your local branch in the first ten min­utes of his talk.  And it’s easy to see why his most famous nov­el sprang from what must have been a very press­ing fear of the loss of books. Brad­bury was large­ly self-taught. Unable to afford col­lege, he pur­sued his fierce ambi­tion to become a writer imme­di­ate­ly out of high school and pub­lished his first short sto­ry, “Hollerbochen’s Dilem­ma,” at the age of nine­teen. As he says above, he became a writer because, “I dis­cov­ered that I was alive.” But I’m not doing it jus­tice. You have to watch him tell it to real­ly feel the thrill of this epiphany.

The Big Read’s mis­sion is to cre­ate a “Nation of Read­ers,” and to do so, it posts free audio guides for clas­sics such as Bradbury’s Fahren­heit 451, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gats­by. They also fea­ture video inter­views with oth­er authors, like Amy Tan, Ernest J. Gaines, and Tobias Wolff. Each of the inter­views is fan­tas­tic, and the read­ers’ guides are superb as well. Bradbury’s, for exam­ple, nar­rat­ed by poet and author Dana Gioia, also fea­tures sci-fi giants Orson Scott Card and Ursu­la K. Le Guin, as well as sev­er­al oth­er writ­ers who were inspired by his work.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ray Brad­bury Gives 12 Pieces of Writ­ing Advice to Young Authors (2001)

Ray Brad­bury: Lit­er­a­ture is the Safe­ty Valve of Civ­i­liza­tion

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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