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Ray Bradbury Interview Excerpts

Ray Bradbury and Martin Landau

Bob

It’s funny how parents, and schools, discouraged that sort of fantasizing and daydreaming among children when it might often be put to a constructive use.

Ray

Yes, I’ve often wondered about that, where it got started. I don’t understand not respecting imagination and fantasy, but I’ve seen it in a lot of librarians and a lot of teachers over the years. Not as much as recently. I think when I was younger; it was looked down upon more.  When I used to travel across the country from Illinois to Tucson or to California; I’d rush into the nearest library as soon as the car stopped each night in the local “bungalow court.” (That ‘s what they were called, not motels, “bungalow courts”—a   dollar a night for four people)  I’d rush to the nearest library to see if John Carter was there, or Tarzan was there, or the Oz books were there and they never were. They weren’t allowed on the library shelves. That’ s a variety of book burning, isn’t it, when you don’t buy a book? That’s not true for the whole country, but in most of the libraries that I went in the librarian would say, “Oh, no that ‘s bad for you, that’s make-believe, that’s very bad, it will turn your brain to mush .” And a lot of intellectuals still believe that, I find.     Among a lot of modern so-called liberal parents who are afraid of those subjects, they want their kids to be keyed into nothing but fact.

“Facts are good for you”. Well, that’s not true. It’s what you do with the facts. There’s a lot of facts in me, but it’s the way I handle them that makes me special.

Bob:

Yes, if you could ever look at the real facts of life, everything would be upside-down and what seems solid would consist of spaces separating molecules.

Ray:

Yeah ….which facts are we talking about? We all have to die someday and we all do it differently .Some people do it bravely, some people do it in a cowardly fashion, other people are bored.   There are different kinds of ways of taking age and sickness and death.    So the facts are the same.     You give the same fact to one person, and they will turn it into a silk purse.

Bob:

You also have had a lot of your books or stories turned into films or into the theatre. Were you satisfied with Fahrenheit 451 and did you have any part in putting that on the screen?

Ray:

He wanted me to do the screenplay and I had just done a stage version of it and I was exhausted with the topic and I just couldn’t do it. And I told him, “If I try to do this for you, I will do a bad job. So, I trust you, you do it with your adapter and we’ll see what happens. “Well, it turned out very well. It’s one of my favorite films, and it’s gotten better over the years. It’s in most of the colleges now, constantly, it comes back.    It’s a very touching, haunting, sad strange movie about a man who falls in love with books instead of with Julie Christie.

:Bob

What a bad choice.

:Ray

It would be nice to have a combination, wouldn’t it?  Use her as a bookmark.

:Bob

Absolutely.   I come from back East and Cambridge has always been one of my favorite places…you have a lot of women who are into books.

:Ray

I’m so glad to hear that. That’s the story of my life. All the women in my life, starting as a child, were librarians, booksellers, English teachers . My first love was my English teacher when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, the English teacher I had in L.A.High School, Jeannette Johnson. I stayed in touch with her until she died at the age of ninety-two about two years ago . And my wife is a teacher and a lover of language.     She tutors technical French at U.S.C. Before that she did various kinds of tutoring and     teaching in English, years and years ago. But I met her when she was a seller of books in a bookstore.    So that’s the proper place to meet a woman and make her a wife.

Bob:

It’s much less oppressive than bars.

Ray:

Well, my wife on the way up here today, we were talking, and she said, “Aren’t you glad you have a bright wife?” I said, “Yes! I am glad! ”       Cause, we have to talk, don’t we?   Wouldn’t it_be awful to be in love with someone you couldn’t talk to and couldn’t read books and go to movies and plays with, and have all this wonderful chatter when it’s over.    If you don’t have that, I just don’t think you have a love affair or a marriage.

Bob:

There’s only, in the greatest lust, a couple of hours a day you’re going to make love to the person you’re with, and then you’re left with twenty-two hours to deal with.

Ray:

Indeed.     And with some people, you’re lucky to have twenty-three hours.

Bob:

Sometimes, when I’m writing music , what I have is a tape recorder I keep by my side, and I get little pieces of things that don’t make sense necessarily, with each other. They keep piling up and I’ll grab a few of them that I see work together. Did you do something like that say with Illustrated Man?

Ray:

 Stories collect up. Someone was asking me the other day at an English teachers conference why I wrote certain things about people in certain ways . I said, I don’t know … I am not in charge. This thing inside of me is in charge. There’s two of me: the one who writes and the one who watches. So for whatever reasons, I fell in love with carnivals, the magicians and tattooed men–illustrated men, and later on it just seemed natural that I would write about them
out of love. Everything is out of love or the love to hate. There are certain people that are worth hating and then you must write about them with a loving hate . Make a list and get rid of them .

Bob:

Just as I fall asleep and have put down my axe the best ideas come.

Ray:

Oh yeah.   It depends. I make a lot of notes and put them away over the years and then I go down in my files every once in a while and pull out a file and look at all these headings . I keep a lot of them in huge letter folders with titles I’ve made up on the tops of the folders so they are easy to see. And you run your hand over two or three hundred of them in one file, and then two or three hundred more, thousands of them. Then one of these titles will jump out saying, “Me! Me! I want to be born next !” And then you go ahead and birth that one, if it yells loud enough.

We all work the same, composers, as you were saying; Berlioz put away all kinds of tunes in his head, and then when it came to doing “Symphony Fantastique,” later on, he remembered a tune from here and a tune from there, and he said, “that fits,” and he put the whole thing together and it spelled mother.

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