Stephen Colbert Reads Ray Bradbury Classic Sci-Fi Story “The Veldt”

I rarely think back to mem­o­ries from that busy­work-inten­sive con­tain­ment unit known as Amer­i­can ele­men­tary school, but when I do, I usu­al­ly arrive at lis­ten­ing to a Ray Brad­bury sto­ry — some­thing about a far­away plan­et, some­thing about mon­soons, I can nev­er remem­ber which one — dur­ing read-aloud time. Even then, on some lev­el, I under­stood that the author of Fahren­heit 451 and The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles (not that I yet had any idea at the time about books like Fahren­heit 451 and The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles) wrote with the human voice in mind. Not nec­es­sar­i­ly the momen­tar­i­ly defa­mil­iar­ized voice of a teacher read­ing to a post-lunch class­room of ten-year-olds, and not nec­es­sar­i­ly the flaw­less­ly pro­nounc­ing and paus­ing, many-takes-record­ed-per-sen­tence voice of the pro­fes­sion­al audio­book nar­ra­tor (though Brad­bury’s work did pro­vide mate­r­i­al for a few pro­to-audio­books), but, per­haps, the voice of the mind. Of all Brad­bury’s tales we love to read aloud, few seem quite so effec­tive in this way as “The Veldt.

The sto­ry first appeared, accord­ing to the web site of pub­lic radio sta­tion WNYC, in a 1950 Sat­ur­day Evening Post “with the title ‘The World the Chil­dren Made,’ which is a good descrip­tion of what goes on in this eerie tale.  It imag­ines the ‘mod­el home’ of the future, includ­ing a pro­gram­ma­ble nurs­ery that becomes the site of a pow­er strug­gle. [Fel­low spec­u­la­tive writer Neil] Gaiman says that Bradbury’s tale rais­es com­plex ques­tions: ‘Are our chil­dren our own?,’ and ‘What does tech­nol­o­gy do to them?’ ” Pub­lic Radio Inter­na­tion­al com­mis­sioned no less a speak­er than Col­bert Report and future Late Show host Stephen Col­bert — a satirist high­ly attuned to the ironies inher­ent in mankind’s visions of its own future — to read it for their “Select­ed Shorts” series, and you can hear the whole thing above.

Giv­en how much progress our pur­suit of total automa­tion and vir­tu­al stim­u­la­tion (and our par­al­lel desire to escape those con­di­tions) has made in the past 64 years, “The Veldt” has grown only more rel­e­vant. Pair it with “There Will Come Soft Rains,” Brad­bury’s oth­er famous­ly read-aloud­able sto­ry of the home of the 1950 future, for a rich­ly fun­ny and trou­bling dou­ble-fea­ture of the mind.

For anoth­er son­ic angle on the mate­r­i­al, see also our pre­vi­ous­ly-fea­tured radio adap­ta­tions of “There Will Come Soft Rains” on Dimen­son X and “The Veldt” on X Minus One — or you can hear Leonard Nimoy read both of them in the 1970s.)

Some of the read­ings list­ed above appear in our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Leonard Nimoy Reads Ray Brad­bury Sto­ries From The Mar­t­ian Chron­i­cles & The Illus­trat­ed Man (1975–76)

Dimen­sion X: The 1950s Sci­Fi Radio Show That Dra­ma­tized Sto­ries by Asi­mov, Brad­bury, Von­negut & More

X Minus One: More Clas­sic 1950s Sci-Fi Radio from Asi­mov, Hein­lein, Brad­bury & Dick

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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