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Ray Bradbury, on Fellini and the bag of dimes it took to write 'Farenheit 451'

L.A. Festival of BooksRay Bradbury


Ray Bradbury is an old-timer at the Festival of Books.  He’s been a featured speaker for nearly every one of the festival’s 13 years.  But this may be his last, he warned, in an ultimatum at a panel on Saturday.

“They used to burn books; now they’ve burned the Book section at the L.A. Times,” Bradbury opined in reference to the book-burning heresy of his famous dystopian novel "Fahrenheit 451."  He demanded The Times “resurrect the Book section,” which, like most of the paper, has seen staff and page count cuts over the past year.

“If they don’t, I’m not going to come here again.”

And Bradbury, who calls himself the world’s greatest lover of books and who “does what he loves, and not what makes money,” may just be idealistic enough to do it.

He worked for the Los Angeles Times Book section early in his career, more than 40 years ago.  He told the story of the first review he wrote in 1977 about a book of still photographs from the set of Italian director Federico Fellini’s movies, for which he was paid $30.

He described with pride a phone call he received shortly after publication.  It was Fellini, praising the review as the "best article ever written about me in my life.”  He gave Bradbury a personal invitation to visit him in Rome, which Bradbury did.

“I wrote with my love and he gave me my love back,” Bradbury said.

The UCLA campus also has a special place in Bradbury's heart. It was here, in a basement room under the Powell Library, that he spent nine days typing the original manuscript to "Farenheit 451."  The pay-to-type typewriter he clicked away on had to be fed 10 cents every 30 minutes. To an awestruck audience he described moving in with a bag full of change and typing for nine hours at a time, a labor of pure love.

“It had nothing to do with money, except dimes.”  He spent $9.80.

Click here for more photos of the Book Festival.

-- Stephanie Harnett

Photo: Ray Bradbury signs books at the Book Festival on Saturday. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

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When Ray Bradbury visited Richmond, Virginia years ago, I got to walk through the Poe Museum with him. I was in heaven. (Poe is one of Ray's favorite writers.) I read Fahrenheit 451 and October Country my second year in college; I loved the poetic prose and his style. I read more of his books. My third year I switched my major from economics to English. I taught English and reading for one year in Edinburgh, Scotland and twenty-nine years in Richmond. A man I had never met, at the time, changed my life by his use of words and language. I loved every second of teaching. If not for heart problems, I'd be teaching today. I'm now a free-lance writer

The first copy of my new book, The World's Most Creative (And Dangerous) Quote Book (www.knowords.com), I sent to Ray. The book is dedicated to Ray Bradbury. He's made my life so much better than it would have been without him. He's inspired the world be more creative and loving. He's inspired the world to read and to question authority.

When you see the thousands of people at the Los Angles Festival of the Book, each one is a vote to resurrect the book section as Ray asked. Honor Ray Bradbury, books, and reading. In this economy we need more reading not less.

A few years ago I filled in a beautiful blank book with quotations from many of Ray Bradbury's books. I had the title put on a shirt and I put the shirt on the Poe statue and took pictures to send to Ray along with the book. He loved it. I took two of his titles and combined them into a new title for this collection of his quotes: Bradbury Wine -Something Wondrous This Way Comes.

If not for the label science fiction, Ray Bradbury might have won a Nobel Prize; he should have anyway.

This wont be a plug for my book or my website. I question 'When you see the thousands of people at the Los Angles Festival of the Book, each one is a vote to resurrect the book section.' Not each one, perhaps not even close. It is about time that the editors of book reviews around the country lose some of their power in shaping what we read. They make or break books. The power these book sections have has been abused for too long. It is good to see some of that power distributed to other voices and other media. As for Mr. B's protestations--surely a futurist such as himself can understand the inevitable movement into the future, and the changes that will necessitate.


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