I first encountered Bradbury's writing when I was pretty young. He's a great bridge author between young-adult fiction and literature.
Ray Bradbury's connections to fantasy, space, cinema, to the macabre and the melancholy, were all born of his years spent running, jumping, galloping through the woods, across the fields, and down the brick-paved streets of Waukegan.
Although he moved away from the Midwest for good at the age of thirteen, Ray Bradbury is a prairie writer. The prairie is in his voice, and it is his moral compass. It is his years spent in Waukegan, Illinois – later rechristened by Ray as 'Green Town' in many books and stories – that forever shaped him.
Andrew Carnegie loved libraries; he knew their importance to an educated society and as anchors to our communities. And so, just as some loyal baseball fans travel to attend games at all 30 major league stadiums, over the last decade or so, I have slowly, casually, visited Carnegie libraries whenever I am on the road.
Ray Bradbury published his first story 29 years before I was born. He established himself as an international writer long before I arrived. When my mom was nine months pregnant with me, my father read Bradbury aloud to her as I listened intently, in utero. And I later became his biographer.
Libraries are at a cultural crossroads. Some proffer that libraries as we know them may go away altogether, ironic victims of the information age where Google has subverted Dewey decimal and researchers can access anything on a handheld device. Who needs to venture deep into the stacks when answers are but a click away?
Bradbury would have said his plots are myths and metaphors that tell stories about the human condition. That's what sets him apart from other science-fiction writers: He doesn't write about technology, but about the human heart and psyche.
Ray Bradbury has a vacation house in Palm Springs, California, in the desert at the base of the Santa Rosa mountains. It's a Rat Pack-era affair, with a chrome-and-turquoise kitchen and a small swimming pool in back.
Browsing for books with a mouse and screen is not nearly as joyful an act as wandering the stacks and getting lost in the labyrinthine corridors of knowledge. The best libraries are places of imagination, education and community. The best libraries have mystery to them.