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Ray Bradbury: The accessible literary giant

June 12, 2012|By Paul Thornton
  • A reference to the book "Illustrated Man" is placed on the star of Ray Bradbury on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A reference to the book "Illustrated Man" is placed on the star… (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images )

After an important cultural icon dies, it isn't unusual for a handful of readers to reflect on how the recently deceased's work touched their lives. Author Ray Bradbury, who passed away last week, was no exception. Of the 42 (and counting) submissions sent to letters@latimes.com, several readers credited Bradbury's work for stoking their own imaginations and inspiring them to pursue careers in a number of creative fields.

But the preponderance of submissions responding to Bradbury's death -- which are still trickling in, a week after the author passed June 5 -- have a personal dimension. Four of the five letters on Bradbury that ran on Saturday's page were from readers who said they had met the author, a mix reflected in the dozens of other submissions that weren't published in print.

Below is a selection of letters from teachers, authors and others who eulogized Bradbury using their own experiences with the literary icon.

From teachers:

A few weeks ago Venice High School hosted the author James Patterson. He spoke to many of our students and his presentation brought back fond memories. 

In the early 1980s Bradbury visited our campus and held an assembly, to which all the English classes were invited and all the students had read several of his short stories and books prior to his lecture. It was wonderful. Oddly enough, the day Bradbury died, I taught a lesson on his biography and we were reading his short story "All summer in a Day." 

Bradbury was an exceptional man and will be missed.

Bev Broger

Los Angeles

I too feel a loss with Bradbury's passing. Not having his sharp, creative mind is plenty enough to feel as I do.

Some years ago I taught at Lincoln High School in Los Angeles. The kids staged Bradbury's "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit," after which Bradbury appeared on stage to congratulate the actors, and then he talked to the student body. He was so comfortable to listen to, and it seemed as if he was a part of Lincoln High.

That was Bradbury, a part of the community, as it was a part of him.

Christian Vance

Desert Edge, Calif.

Bradbury was not only a champion of fantasy, but also a champion of youth, of reading and the arts. 

Back in the day (the late 1960s and early 80s) on numerous occasions Bradbury visited La Habra High School to speak to all the English students regarding the joys of reading (all genres, not just science) and how fulfilling writing can be. Four or five of my journalism students (I taught English and journalism) were graciously received by him on lunch break for a free-wheeling discussion. I went as an observer with some trepidation, knowing these particular teenagers were apt to ask outlandish questions.

They did, and Bradbury discussed with them such disparate subjects as Andy Warhol, John Coltrane and Ronald Reagan. He did not patronize them, but listened and replied thoughtfully. He was unfailingly encouraging to their aspirations. He made an unforgettable impression that liberal arts and science are what really matter, not just test scores.

Mary D. Dodd

Oxnard

From authors, actors and others:

I am very saddened by Bradbury's passing. He was a truly inspirational man, always encouraging, and I shall sorely miss him.

In 1998, I met him at the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference and sent him a copy of my UCLA student film, "The Duel." He called me right away when he received it, for he understood exactly what I was trying to do in the film. It was an homage to the Two-tone Technicolor films of the 1920s, and he totally got it. He told me his middle name was Douglas, after Douglas Fairbanks, so I should not be surprised.

God bless you, Mr. Bradbury. The world is a far better place for having had you in it, and your passing is a huge loss for all America. Thank you so much for everything!

Sean Coughlin

Acton, Mass.

In 1964, as a reporter at Channel 2 News (KNXT-TV in those days), I interviewed Bradbury for a story about the future of Los Angeles. We became friends, and that friendship lasted all these years. In the many interviews, lunches and dinners we shared, Bradbury always brimmed over with his unique and boundless imagination. He wished the gift of imagination on everybody, from newborn to president, from here to the stars beyond.

Bradbury deeply believed that we are stardust, and with each scientific realization of our place in the universe, his belief has been validated.

Joseph Benti

Camarillo

Bradbury was not a friend or confidant, but I felt a deep sadness at his passing.

I was invited to his West L.A. home several years ago to interview him for a radio program I was doing at the time and never forgot  the "gift" I was given: to be spending some time with one of one of America's great living writers.

To be "up close" and seeing him, sitting in his easy chair, with his cat on his lap and reminiscing about his past and his friend Ray Harryhausen, was something I could not ever forget. 

I am sad but, grateful, for this moment in my life. 

Gary Mercer

Glendale

Twenty years ago my wife, who is a screenwriter, took me to a lecture given by Bradbury. He was charming as well as magnetic, and he encouraged any of us with a story in our minds to write it.

I took his urging to heart and wrote a short story titled "Cheating Satan," which I then mailed to him. He actually took the time to read it and sent me a signed note saying, "I like it!"

What a wonderful and gracious person he was, and I'll always cherish his note.

Ray Uhler

Rancho Santa Margarita

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