THE BRADBURY CHRONICLES
His first collection of short stories was the now-famous "Dark Carnival," followed by the dystopian "Fahrenheit 451," brought to the screen by director Francois Truffaut. But the full list of his accomplishments could more than fill the space allotted for this article.
Bradbury was in Portland last week for a speech at the Oregon Graduate Institute. In a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles, the 78-year-old author spoke easily on a variety of subjects.
ON READING AND LIBRARIES
"You go and live in a library, stay there forever, go through all the books you love. I reread all the Oz books every summer when I was 9, 10, 11 years old. Tarzan and John Carter, Warlord of Mars, these were all endless fun, and this goes into your intuition, it goes into your recording system in the brain somewhere. I reread "Alice in Wonderland," Grimm's fairy tales, Edgar Allan Poe, but really, the important thing is to take advantage of what you've read plus what you've learned about yourself.
THE EDUCATION OF A WRITER
"You educate yourself in all the new poetry, going down through Alexander Pope and Emily Dickinson, and then you learn all there is to know about the Roman and Greek myths. What I discovered about myself only in recent years is that I've been a collector of metaphors since I was 3 years old.
"I've seen every movie ever made, all the important movies.... In every field, it's the metaphor, that's nothing but pure poetry. So if you know all the great poems and all the great films as metaphor, you'll be able to start thinking about them as plot, you'll get them directly from the poets and directors.
"When I give people my talk, I tell them, every night to read one poem, and to do that for five or 10 years and then to read all the best short stories of the last 20 years, one a night, and then to read art, architecture, archaeology, science so that you educate yourself, and you only have to take half an hour every night, and all of this goes into how to write short stories. And then write about only what you love, don't be influenced by anything else."
"You don't lay it out. Everything has to be intuitive. Everything should be explosive, nothing should be thought about. I hate these books that try to tell you how. I want to do it inspirationally. I live by the motto that I learned years later from Federico Fellini. He was a friend of mine in Rome 20 years ago. He summed it up like this. 'Don't tell me what I'm doing, I don't want to know.'
"Every day use the explosive action, put things down on the paper with passion; I asked Fellini and he said he never looked over the day's filming. (Fellini said) 'I want to wake up each morning and try to remember what I did. What shall I do today? Well, let's experiment. And so there's another day's filming. At the end of 30 or 40 days, you go into the projection room and you run the film.'
"That's also the way you can write a novel. I've been working on this novel now for a couple of years, but I've never read it. I write on it, have great fun, then put it away, try to remember what I've written the next day. That way you can stay fresh on it."
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMIC STRIPS
"Comic strips were a huge part of my life. They educated me into plot, especially for screenwriting. Comic strips for Tarzan or Buck Rogers were storyboards. The sort of thing that can be helpful later on in your life."
ON "FAHRENHEIT 451"
"'Fahrenheit 451' was written in nine days. I was very excited, just 30 years old. I was looking for an office, and I went down to the basement of UCLA and saw they had an office where you could rent a typewriter for 10 cents a half-hour, so I got a bag of dimes and hyperventilated running up and down stairs, and I looked at strange books in the library there, and the more I looked and read the more excited I became. I never went to college, I went to the library, and if anyone touches the library, they touch me. So I ran back and forth, and in nine days I finished the first draft of the novel."
June 21, 1999
Robert Sheckley of Portland