An Illustrated Life
by Jerry Weist, Ray Bradbury
William Morrow Hardcover: ISBN 0060011823PubDate May 02
Review by Ernest Lilley
208 pages List price $34.95
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Here's a great book for anyone who's a Bradbury fan, and if you're not...what's wrong with you? Sorry. I get carried away. But I'm not alone, because when SFRevu's Associate Editor, Sharon Archer, saw this copy in my hands it took all my editorial power and prestige to hang onto it. Sharon is a second generation Bradbury fan, and she loved looking through this book replete with great reproductions of the covers that had been around the house during those formative years that consigned her forever to fandom.
At $35.00 (like you're really going to pay full price considering you can get it for $24.47 at Amazon) it's a steal. This book has gift giving potential written all over it. Okay, enough yak, yak, yak. What's it about?
It's about the life and career of one Ray Bradbury, told in copious pictures and words that place this extraordinarily talented writer at the heart of the imagination industry's growth during the last century. For as you know, dear reader, not only did Bradbury pen such great tales as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man, the latter of which creeped me out at an early age, but he managed the nearly impossible feat of bringing these...and others...to the Big Silver Screen...virtually intact.
Can you say that about Asimov? Clarke? (At a tender age I was of the opinion that my ABC's were Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke...I think I was up in the air about who D was.) Ok, Asimov did Fantastic Voyage, which starred Raquel Welch...but what else redeemed it? Clarke/Kubrick put out 2001...which is in a class by itself...but they only did it once. You know why? It's because the well that Ray Bradbury draws from is inexhaustible. It's a well from which he draws all those feelings of waning summer days and looming dreads of terrors to come...terrors like growing up.
In the preface Bradbury describes a conversation with legendary director Sam Peckinpaw, who says he wants to make a film out of one of Ray's books. How will you do it, Bradbury asks. "Rip the pages out of your book," said Sam, "and stuff them in the camera."
The book takes you on a tour of not just Bradbury's life in SF, but of SF itself, since he lived close to the center of the action through the genre's waxing and waning in the past 50 (plus) years. Flip the pages and you can see the field evolve before your eyes like some sort of time machine special effect. The only distressing thing about this book is that it show lots of fascinating pages from the author's work that make you wish you could stop and read the whole thing...right then and there. I was entranced by a comic that Ray wrote the story for titled "I Rocket" (p 95) which the book shows a few pages of...but I'll never know how it ends. Well, actually, I know how it ends because it starts at the end, but I'd really like to know how it gets there.
There is so much in the culture of might yet be that we owe to this author, often without knowing it. Have you ever taken the "Spaceship Earth" ride at Epcot? Bradbury laid out the scenes. Have you watched Moby Dick? John Huston shares the writing credits with Ray. Seen the classic "It Came From Outer Space"? It was based on his screenplay "Atomic Monster".
There isn't a lot of narrative, just enough to keep things moving along from chapter to chapter. What there is the most of is artwork, which narrates in an even more compelling way, telling us how many creative people reacted to Bradbury's work. Their interpretations tell us more about the author and his times than thousands of words could.
All in all, it's a great book and would make a fine addition to any SF lover's shelf.