Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

Review: From the Dust Returned

Cover From The Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
From the Dust Returned

Title: From the Dust Returned
Author: Ray Bradbury
Twitter:  Ray Bradbury considered the internet a waste of time
Published: 2001
ISBN-13:  9780380973828
Publisher: William Morrow
Twitter:  WmMorrowBooks
Publishers’ Blurb: In an extraordinary flight of the imagination a half-century in the making, Ray Bradbury takes us to a most wondrous destination: into the heart of an Eternal Family.

They have lived for centuries in a house of legend and mystery in upper Illinois — and they are not like other midwesterners. Rarely encountered in daylight hours, their children are curious and wild; their old ones have survived since before the Sphinx first sank its paws deep in Egyptian sands. And some sleep in beds with lids.

Now the house is being readied in anticipation of the gala homecoming that will gather together the farflung branches of this odd and remarkable family. In the past-midnight stillness can be detected the soft fluttering of Uncle Einars wings. From her realm of sleep, Cecy, the fairest and most special daughter, can feel the approach of many a welcome being — shapeshifter, telepath, somnambulist, vampire — as she flies high in the consciousness of bird and bat.

But in the midst of eager anticipation, a sense of doom pervades. For the world is changing. And death, no stranger, will always shadow this most singular family: Father, arisen from the Earth; Mother, who never sleeps but dreams; A Thousand Times Great Grandmére; Grandfather, who keeps the wildness of youth between his ears.

And the boy who, more than anyone, carries the burden of time on his shoulders: Timothy, the sad and different foundling son who must share it all, remember, and tell…and who, alone out of all of them, must one day age and wither and die.

My Review:
From a very young age, I’ve loved Ray Bradbury’s stories. In a time when I read indiscriminately, I remember Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and, The Illustrated Man.  Even now they’re floating around my stacks waiting their turn for a re-read.

Bradbury is hard for me to review because his work is almost too liminal to be reviewed.  The stories prey on me at a different level than most books.  I can’t describe what it is to read him and be swept into his liminal space.

“… I had been having trouble with Weird Tales all along because they complained that my stories were not about traditional ghosts. They wanted graveyards, late nights, strange walkers, and amazing murders.
“I simple couldn’t do that; I tried again and again but along the way my stories turned into tales of men who discovered the skeleton inside themselves and were terrified of that skeleton. Or stories about jars full off strange unguessed creatures.”

The Eternal Family in From the Dust Returned is preparing for the gala homecoming of family around the world.  The House has always been there, high on the hill, waiting for this.

There’s great excitement, especially for Timothy, the only human in the family.  Left as a baby on the doorstep of the House, he only knows this family and loves them dearly.  As they love him, and turn to him to be historian, to write things down and remember what happened.

Members of the family arrive to the great delight of each other.  Then, one who finds himself unwelcome  does the most horrific thing which can be done to a family such as this.

“The Family was strange, perhaps outré, in some degree rococo, but not a scourge …”

John the Unjust arrives.  His introduction implies he was once known as Vlad the Impaler.  He finds “…there was no room for his decayed persona and his dreadful past.”

And so, in a fit if pique, John the Unjust arrives at the police station to report on the goings on at the House.  Torches and pitchforks are recruited and the Family flees as best it can while this home to a loving family is burned to the ground.

Timothy survives.  He goes to a museum with A Thousand Times Grandmère in his arms and makes a deal.  Grandmère, revealed to be Nef, mother of Nerfititi must have a new home and Timothy must be allowed to visit whenever he wants.  The curator, Alcott, is most understanding and impressed by this boy, and Nef.  A deal is struck and a new home welcomes her.  Of course, Ray Bradbury, tells it more eloquently and makes it seem like the most logical thing of all.

Such is the magic of good tales, and Ray Bradbury was a master.

Review: Bound to Last – 30 Writers and Their Most Cherished Book

Bound to Last – 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book edited by Sean Manning

Title: Bound to Last – 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book
Author: edited by Sean Manning
Published: 2010
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Publishers’ Blurb: In Bound to Last,an amazing array of authors comes to the passionate defense of the printed book with spirited, never-before-published essays celebrating the hardcover or paperback they hold most dear — not necessarily because of its contents, but because of its significance as a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable object. Whether focusing on the circumstances behind how a particular book was acquired, or how it has become forever “bound up” with a specific person, time, or place, each piece collected here confirms–poignantly, delightfully, irrefutably–that every book tells a story far beyond the one found within its pages.

Not too long ago, in a pre-pandemic life, an excited writer came to me with an idea to write a book.  It would have to do with asking a large number of writers in sf/f what they were reading and how it might be informing their process.  It was meant to be a long term project so we built in room for churn.  Since this writer was a full-time writer, I knew the research and analysis would fall to me.  My exuberance spilled onto a Google spreadsheet code named Project Algorithmic Despotism – a  bleak nod to the part algorithms play in the world, from buying books to getting routes as a gig driver.

The writer called my spreadsheet, “shiny.”  And we plotted and planned what needed to be done.  Several months later I asked if, not when, we would still be working on this book.  The pandemic by then had closed the world and it just felt impossible we would be doing anything with it until things normalized.  Devastatingly, the writer’s response was, “Remind me what book?”  That they couldn’t even remember the pitch or the work we had already done shut me down nearly completely.  For over a year, I didn’t read or write.  What was the use?

But while still in the thrall of this project, I came across Bound to Last and thought it might give me some perspective and ideas about our own project.  And to be completely honest, it was Ray Bradbury’s name on the cover which sealed the transaction.

The world is not post-pandemic yet as the Delta Variant makes its way through the willfully unvaccinated, putting us in danger again.  In the process of jettisoning people from my life, including the reliably unreliable writer, I found my energy to read and write again.

30 authors, most of whom I’d never heard of, and 30 books, most of which I’d never heard of either.  Their stories are of an unexpected book whose impact remains with them as  it shapes their lives.

For Rabih Alameddine, whose The Hakawati I adore, the book was Harold Robbin’s The Carpetbaggers, one in common during our indiscriminate reading adolescences.   Our love for Robbins probably lasted about the same time, about a year.  Where I put it back on the shelf (library or otherwise, I don’t remember), Alamaddine kept his, until war swept through Lebanon and he was shipped off to  boarding school in England.  By then, his tastes in literature had changed, Robbins no longer a part of Alamaddine’s narrowing taste in literature.

It is the memory of that book which brings others to the fore.  He and his mother sitting in easy chairs at opposite ends of the room reading.  The Carpetbaggers holds a powerful place in Alamaddine’s heart.  Memories of a lifetime of reading and an awareness of how he changed and evolved both as reader and as writer.

Upon his return to the bombed and charred childhood home, he finds his copy of the book.  The one book not even the looters and thieves could bring themselves to steal.  “I don’t know.  I thought it was too dirty or something, I never saw it again.”

Then, at a dinner party, a friend brings a copy meant as a gag gift because Almaddine burst into tears when he received it.  That copy remains on his shelves.  A reminder of his childhood and all the memories wrapped up in becoming the writer, and reader, he is now.

While The Carpetbaggers was not something I would have figured Rabih Almaddine for, The New Professional Chef, Fifth Edition is exactly what I would have picked for Michael Ruhlman, whose books about the life and work of a chef I devoured.  My housemate at the time became a devoted Food TV watcher and brought these gorgeous books into our home.  Mostly I watched Anthony Bourdain with him, having little to no interest in learning to cook.  Somehow, Bourdain’s friendship with Ruhlman influenced me to read the books.

For Ruhlman, the Fifth Edition, is the one which resonates the most.  It came at a time when he pitched the idea of going to the Culinary Institute of America and learning to cook so he could write about becoming a chef.  Waiting for an answer, he read The New Professional Chef, as gibberish.  It made no sense to him.

Now, there’s a Ninth Edition.  But it is the Fifth which reminds Ruhlman of where he started both as chef and writer about food, and where he is now, a highly acclaimed author who writes about food.

Such is the powerful memories of books, which lead us down the path of compare and contrast, looking to understand who we are now and why that particular book remains stuck in our minds.