The Color of Lightning

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One of the best days of my life when I was a kid was the day I discovered Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Reading that novel was like gorging yourself at a buffet, except you could keep eating and eating and never get full and probably never get enough.

How did someone decide that women were like clocks, for instance?

Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it…How men envy and often hate these warm clocks, these wives, who know they will live forever.

I’m not sure what I was thinking at 11 or 12 years old reading about “the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity.” But I knew something was happening. I was sliding down a hill made entirely of nothing. But the nothing was made of sounds which were words and ideas, and this kind of nothing was stuffed fuller than any previous nothings I had ever known.

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Bradbury, a voracious reader, especially loved (not surprisingly) Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, and L. Frank Baum. Amazingly, after graduating from high school during the Depression and not having enough money for college, he then spent the next ten years educating himself at the public library, leading to, years later, the ability to turn something as normal and everyday as insomnia into a thing of tortured beauty:

Oh God, midnight’s not bad, you wake and go back to sleep, one or two’s not bad, you toss but sleep again. Five or six in the morning, there’s hope, for dawn’s just under the horizon. But three, now, Christ, three A.M.! Doctors say the body’s at low tide then. The soul is out. The blood moves slow. You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying. Sleep is a patch of death, but three in the morn, full wide-eyed staring, is living death! You dream with your eyes open. God, if you had strength to rouse up, you’d slaughter your half-dreams with buckshot! But no, you lie pinned to a deep well-bottom that’s burned dry.

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At 14, Mr. Bradbury scored a writing gig for George Burns and Gracie Allen’s radio show just by walking up to Burns outside the theater and asking if he could sit in on the show. How different things were back then. I can imagine myself walking up to Jay Leno (his show used to be right down the street at NBC from where we live) and saying—Whoop, except I would never get that far, because I would have already been tackled and/or Tased by security guards, right? And no amount of yelling out, “Hey, Jay–I have a bunch of funny jokes!” was going to help me. Especially later, when it came time to post my bail.

That reminds me of how my father, when he was a boy in Boston, worked on a train when he wasn’t in school, and one day Eleanor Roosevelt got on and started a conversation with him about how important education was (although he was already well aware of that fact; but she was evidently very kind and compassionate). Completely alone, no bodyguards, no nothing. Unbelievable!

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Ray Bradybury was a quirky character who, similar to Jack Kerouac of (ironically) “On the Road,” fame, never got a license or learned to drive. While Kerouac didn’t give an explanation for his lack of learning (other than saying, “All I can do is typewrite,”) Bradbury’s stemmed directly from witnessing a terrible car accident when he was 16 in which six people were killed. And while “On the Road” was written almost entirely in stream of consciousness (apparently; I admit I’ve never read it), Bradbury was no stranger to labyrinthine wanderings and abrupt, unexpected segues:

Why the Egyptian, Arabic, Abyssinian, Choctaw? Well, what tongue does the wind talk? What nationality is a storm? What country do rains come from? What color is lightning? Where does thunder go when it dies?

And deep feelings that had only gently brushed past but had yet to penetrate expressed so succinctly:

Somewhere in him, a shadow turned mournfully over. You had to run with a night like this so the sadness could not hurt.

As I got older I recognized Ray Bradbury as one of the authors who had affected me the most and realized that I wanted to wander that road, too, musing about the death of thunder and an insomnia-fueled desire to slaughter my half-dreams.

When I read “Fahrenheit 451” later in school, we were informed that he’d written it in just one week. And while I never imagined that I could spit out a classic like that in such a short amount of time, I had already decided, after discovering Carson McCullers had written “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” at age 23, that I would eclipse her by writing something great, at the very least really good, before I was 21.

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And although that never happened and my plans evolved with time, I knew I’d never stop writing–save a zombie apocalypse, in which case, once the power went out and the only thing available was pen and paper, my hand would cramp up too much to be able to write manually—and I’d never stop appreciating the story-tellers whose words and ideas had zinged like bullets to the brain, a feral and fearless onslaught that sent me on the (in varying degrees, at least for me) tortuous, solitary, satisfying, unrewarding, self-enlightening, unprofitable, fulfilling, frustrating, worthwhile, ambiguous, abstract, irrational, raving and urgent pursuit of writing.

 

30 thoughts on “The Color of Lightning

  1. Ah yes, Ray Bradbury. Tubularsock has read every word Ray has written. In fact, two, maybe three times. But that was then and this is now.

    Something about Bradbury just seems like common sense that even Thomas Paine would recognize.

    But Tubularsock has become a bit concerned with the idea that a mere “zombie apocalypse” may slow you down with hand cramps with the inability to write manually.

    The ONLY solution to that scenario that comes to Tubularsock’s mind is you puncturing small gaping holes in the tips of your fingers and controlling the blood flow as red ink and writing your award winning zombie apocalypse treatise.

    Of course, your Treatise would later be shown on Zombie Showtime as a documentary.

    Ahhhhhh, dead but famous. Can it get better than that? Well maybe wondering the earth looking for live flesh to consume ……. to each their own.

    Cheers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ah. You loved him too, eh?
      If I could puncture my fingers and control the blood flow and write my great zombie treatise, the only problem I’d have after that would be fighting off the vampires……
      But hopefully the zombies would protect me. After the Hunger Games. On Pandora!

      Liked by 3 people

  2. ‘…tortuous, solitary, satisfying, unrewarding, self-enlightening, unprofitable, fulfilling, frustrating, worthwhile, ambiguous, abstract, irrational, raving and urgent pursuit of writing…’ … this, a thousand times, this! 😀

    Liked by 4 people

  3. The 14 adjectives you used to describe the noble pursuit of writing are all arrow-in-the-centre-of-a-bullseye accurate for me too Stacey.
    BTW, did you ever get to read the rare translated version of FAHRENHEIT 451 ?
    Apparently it went by the name of CELCIUS 232.7778

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I had to go back and count them. I was like–did I really use 14 words?! Lol! And it’s probably not enough.
    Rare translated version, huh? Ha ha ha!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Loved this!! Bradbury was a great favorite of mine growing up….between him,Kenneth Robeson and the Perry Rhodan series,he was the stuff that pushed me to read,read,read. I never got the urge to write until much later which is rather strange in looking back at where I had come.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I had to look up Kenneth Robeson and Perry Rhodan. Yeah, interesting that the writing bug didn’t bite till later in life for you. Obviously it was all just in there brewing like a fine wine, Michael. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Annalisa. Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I do think you’d like him. Also, once again, congrats on your novel placing second in the Retreat West prize!! That’s really thrilling!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Isn’t it fantastic when we find a writer whose style and words we adore? Someone who transports us into another world and time? Stephen King, despite the creep factor in his material, does that for me. I could read his words all day, every day.

    Thank you for educating us on Ray Bradbury. I don’t think I have ever read anything he has written but I am adding him to my list. So many books, so little time. I could lock myself in a library (or a Barnes and Noble) for months and never get bored.

    I take it you’re from Burbank, California since you mentioned living down the road from where the Jay Leno show taped. I hope to make it out to Cali one day. What’s that like? Living in the land of the rich and famous and beautiful? 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks, Racquel, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I loved Stephen King too but haven’t read much of him lately…….

    As for L.A., um, I wish I could say lots of positive things but, really, it’s not somewhere anyone wants to be unless you don’t mind spending your life in a car driving everywhere, if you don’t mind walking down a sidewalk–the only two people on the sidewalk for miles and miles, I might add, because nobody walks in L.A., as we all know–and the other person just looks straight ahead or at the ground and doesn’t acknowledge your existence as you pass each other.

    When I lived in NYC, that was understandable–you get SICK of being surrounded by people 24/7 and sometimes you just don’t want to say hi. L.A.–no excuse. People are airheads out here and don’t read, traffic is beyond incredible–to the point of I’m amazed people don’t get murdered every single day on the freeway, etc. during road rage episodes–and that’s why when I read your post about Utah the other day and no cars anywhere and being able to park, etc., it sounded like….pure….heaven! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
    “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
    “You fail only if you stop writing.”
    Ray Bradbury.
    So you live in LA?
    I lived there for 31 years until two years ago.
    You are right about LA nobody walks, and few people care to read, except my friend Bob, and a few others, by the way he sits at the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax & Third, at the same table every day you can recognize him right away, if you happen to pass by, please say hello from me.
    Here you can see him, there is a picture of him, there seating at the market with a stash of books:

    https://konekrusoskronos.wordpress.com/2016/11/14/my-friend-bob-calendars-and-the-relativity-of-systems-of-measure/

    I used to seat there with him on my days off, talking about books. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for the Bradbury quotes!
    And it’s funny to think you lived here for 31 years! We no doubt have passed each other on the road.
    I would love to go to that farmer’s market and say hi for you! Bob would probably not find it strange at all that we’ve never even seen each other in real life. He might find that amusing.
    I know I sound very cranky whining about L.A., since peace is internal and one can be happy anywhere, more or less….. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Not really, LA it is as you described,

    My friend Bob, loves to talk to anybody who is interested in books, he is retired his job is to go to the Farmers Market every day and seat there early, until mid afternoon, then go back home to his wife, and diner.

    He seats there reading books, and talking to whoever, he loves good literature, so he will love to talk to you, if you mention my name, he probably will be excited, to talk to you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well, going from the stack of books he has in front of him in the photo, I’d have trouble keeping up with him… but I could try, lol !!

    Like

  13. I’m still to see “Something Wicked This Way Comes”. I have it but strangely never got around to it. Now I never knew it was a Ray Bradbury story! Now that changes things. I need to see it immediately ! It’s been bumped right up the list
    Jeepers what a line from Bradbury “You’re the nearest to dead you’ll ever be save dying.” well that whole quote is brilliant.
    “I would have already been tackled and/or Tased by security guards, right” LOL I love that. hehe “I gotta a bunch of jokes!!”
    Nice story of your Dad (is that your dad proudly standing in the picture?) and Lady Roosevelt.
    Was nice to read after my Terrance Dicks post. To see your love, the wonder and imagination Ray B brought to you reading at such a young age.
    You have a lovely writing style. Something I hope to have one day.
    All the best
    Mikey

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for much for stopping by, Mikey! That is, indeed, my dad standing there in the picture. Mrs. Roosevelt said something like, “Education is very important for your people,” which would have been insulting today but she meant it in the kindest way back then. So happy to stimulate a renewed desire to see Something Wicked, and thanks so much for your encouragement. I totally think you have a fantastic, snappy, engaging writing style yourself, sir. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  14. So cool your Dad meet such a historic figure. Yeah the wording back then comes off dated but kudos to her for acknowledging the importance of education. Reading her wiki page she sounds like quite the First Lady.
    I watched Something Wicked last night. Really enjoyed it. It was good fun. Johnathan Price was wonderfully sinister. Big surprise for me after doing my last post featuring my love for Pam Grier. I had no idea she was in this. She may of not actually said anything but she looked mighty fine.
    It was interesting to read all the filming chaos that arose from the film. I did think something fishy was going on when you notice the kids change ages in different parts, hehe… I’m gonna have to track down the book one day and see how much of the Ray Bradbury’s story they used. Bet the book was incredibly brilliant, spooky and exciting reading in your youth. Thanks for inspiring me to watch it.
    I did do a post on The Illustrated Man which is a crazy ass film!
    https://wolfmanscultfilmclub.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/the-illustrated-man-1969-back-to-the-future/

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Well, I have to do the opposite and see the movie, then, lol !! I think Jonathan Price is great as a villain. He pulls it off well.
    Saw the Pam Grier post and noticed that you guys used to go out, lol !! Will dive into that soon along with Illustrated Man. Thanks for the links, man!

    Like

  16. Pingback: What’s Been Watched This Month – September 2019 – Wolfmans Cult Film

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