Medicine for Melancholy

Ray Bradbury died today. At 91, he’d lived the life most writers only dream about: a long and healthy one filled with books and magical worlds he’d created and generations of readers inspired by them. He was that rare writer who worked in genres typically ignored and disdained by the literary establishment—namely, science fiction, fantasy, and horror—yet garnered critical acclaim for his work. He was one of my favorites.

Bradbury was also one of the few writers I remember reading as a child yet still enjoyed immensely as an adult. In fact, I have a very specific memory of reading “All Summer in a Day” when I was 9 years old. I couldn’t believe a story that short could move me so much. The idea of Margot locked in the closet as the sun shined on Venus haunted me for decades. When I returned to the story after years of writing my own fiction, I marveled at his prose–clean and deceptively simple but, at the same time, incredibly alive with the moment, like this scene:

The children lay out, laughing, on the jungle mattress, and heard it sigh and squeak under them, resilient and alive. They ran among the trees, they slipped and fell, they pushed each other, they played hide-and-seek and tag, but most of all they squinted at the sun until the tears ran down their faces, they put their hands up to that yellowness and that amazing blueness and they breathed of the fresh, fresh air and listened and listened to the silence which suspended them in a blessed sea of no sound and no motion. They looked at everything and savored everything. Then, wildly, like animals escaped from their caves, they ran and ran in shouting circles. They ran for an hour and did not stop running.

What I also love about Bradbury was his dedication to storytelling, literacy, and education. He was wary of technology but believed in the power of imagination and the inherent goodness of humanity. He also encouraged other artists to dream big and work hard.

One of my favorite quotes from Fahrenheit 451 is this: “Books were only one type of receptacle where we started a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical about them at all. The magic is only with what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment.”

But he didn’t just encourage writers and readers. His pithy quotes on how to push yourself into living the life you must easily apply to everyone.

Important reminders on how to fully live from a man who lived fully. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury.

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