Saturday, June 20, 2009

Libraries raised me

I was quite a science fiction fan in my youth. I still love science stories and Sci Fi movies, and although I don't read as much science fiction as I used to, Ray Bradbury's name in an article can still attract my attention, especially when it is in connection to libraries.

...among Mr. Bradbury’s passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles library; his novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” contains a seminal library scene. Mr. Bradbury frequently speaks at libraries across the state, and on Saturday he will make his way here for a benefit for the H. P. Wright Library, which like many others in the state’s public system is in danger of shutting its doors because of budget cuts.

Pretty good for a guy who is 90!

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

And he was probably better read than most college students then and certainly of today!

Anyway, he is going to try to help raise money for a library to cover a shortfall dues to property tax decreases. I look forward to the day when Margaret Atwood will be doing the same.

Mr. Bradbury is not fond of the internet, which is surprising, given his scientific bent; he thinks it a distraction from gaining real knowledge. Maybe he is right.

Fiscal threats to libraries deeply unnerve Mr. Bradbury, who spends as much time as he can talking to children in libraries and encouraging them to read.

The Internet? Don’t get him started. “The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked from his perch in his house in Los Angeles, which is jammed with enormous stuffed animals, videos, DVDs, wooden toys, photographs and books, with things like the National Medal of Arts sort of tossed on a table.

“Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’

“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”

That's not what they tell us. They tell us that once it's out there in cyberspace you can't get it back. Hard to burn anyway which is how many libraries were lost. But that's neither here nor there; we applaud Mr. Bradbury's spirit and his continuing support for literature, books and libraries.

When he is not raising money for libraries, Mr. Bradbury still writes for a few hours every morning (“I can’t tell you,” is the answer to any questions on his latest book); reads George Bernard Shaw; receives visitors including reporters, filmmakers, friends and children of friends; and watches movies on his giant flat-screen television.

He can still be found regularly at the Los Angeles Public Library branch in Koreatown, which he visited often as a teenager.

“The children ask me, ‘How can I live forever, too?’ ” he said. “I tell them do what you love and love what you do. That’s the story on my life.”

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Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
Dorothy Parker, Not So Deep as a Well (1937)