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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury dead at 91: Raise a glass of Dandilion Wine

by John MacBeath Watkins

Lift a glass of dandelion wine: Ray Bradbury is dead at 91.

“I don’t try to describe the future,” he once said. “I try to prevent it.”

Edgar Rice Burroughs gave us a Mars fit for a white man to come and seduce the princes. Bradbury gave us a Mars that made us think. Both versions of Mars were filmed. John Carter bombed at the domestic box office, although it set records as a hit in Russia, but it was bombastic, action-adventure imperialism that belonged to another age. The Martian Chronicles was arid and arid and intellectual by comparison, and a modest, low-budget television miniseries as well.

The fireman in Fahrenheit 451, Montag, was memorable to me not just for his reform from burning books but also for the wall-sized television sets and the sad people acting as if the shows were their lives, and treating their lives frivolously. His books had the complexity that the firemen in Fahrenheit 451 found so dangerous in literature. In his dystopian future, special-interest groups had objected to books that offended them, so authors tried to avoid offense, and all books began to seem the same, but that was not enough, books were dangerous, so they started burning them.

And of course, Fahrenheit 451 has been banned repeatedly, a circular joke that Bradbury must have marveled at.

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