The Illustrated Man is classic Bradbury – a collection of tales that breathe and move, animated by sharp, intaken breath and flexing muscle. Here are eighteen startling visions of humankind’s destiny, unfolding across a canvas of decorated skin – visions as keen as the tattooist’s needle and as colorful as the inks that indelibly stain the body. The images, ideas, sounds and scents that abound in this phantasmagoric sideshow are provocative and powerful: the mournful cries of celestial travelers cast out cruelly into a vast, empty space of stars and blackness…the sight of gray dust selling over a forgotten outpost on a road that leads nowhere…the pungent odor of Jupiter on a returning father’s clothing. Here living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, Martian invasions are foiled by the good life and the glad hand, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth, widely believed to be one of the Grandmaster’s premier accomplishments: as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.
Last week sometime I found myself in a recognizable yet not quite familiar mall. It was tall rather than wide. And not in the best of conditions. I was to meet my good friend Ole (Of Ole’s Truth) and another fellow writer Elliot. P. McGee for some good clean fun bowling, and later pool/snooker.
The traffic surprised me with its clarity and I was uncharacteristically early for our meeting. Which led me to a heavily chained, second-hand book store run by an elderly man with shocking white hair. His suspicion was momentary as I explained I was looking for books, specifically fantasy. The bushy eyebrows raised a fraction and he hobbled forward to unlock the great chains protecting his store. Oh the smell of old books. The endless shelves. How I adored that place, and even more the two gems I found within it. One was a collection of short stories by renowned authors Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke among others. The other was another anthology but solely written by Frank Herbert. The stories were a combination of horror, science fiction, and science fantasy. How I fell in love.
I don’t know why it took so long to actually read Ray Bradbury’s books. I am enthralled by his writing and the worlds he creates. A masterful writer! I need more!
Author Ray Bradbury
American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.
His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden.
On the occasion of his 80th birthday in August 2000, Bradbury said, “The great fun in my life has been getting up every morning and rushing to the typewriter because some new idea has hit me. The feeling I have every day is very much the same as it was when I was twelve. In any event, here I am, eighty years old, feeling no different, full of a great sense of joy, and glad for the long life that has been allowed me. I have good plans for the next ten or twenty years, and I hope you’ll come along.”