Friday, October 12, 2012

Great Minds One (Jeffreys on Bradbury): Something Wicked (and Wondrous) This Way Comes

Dust-jacket art by Gray Foy from the first edition 
Simon & Schuster, 1962

Today I’d like to introduce you to “Great Minds,” a new blog post series on Bareback Alchemy. At inspired, irregular intervals, I’ll share guest posts in which writers, artists, and intellectuals make tributes to others who have influenced their work. Of course, the title is a play on the phrase, “Great minds think alike,” but I’m looking to bring you heart, soul, and inspiration too.

I’m honored now to present the first post, an homage by R Jeffreys for Ray Bradbury. Enjoy!

Something Wicked (and Wondrous) This Way Comes
by R Jeffreys

When Melissa Studdard first graciously asked to me to write this guest post, of course I was thrilled. However, when the topic of who has most influenced me as a writer sunk in, I hesitated with the thought that this would be a difficult piece to compose. There are so many writers who have had a profound impact on my own written works.

Being that I am a purveyor of both poetry and prose, one could well assume that I would gravitate to like-minded writers. It is true that in general those who have excelled in both poetry and prose have most influenced my work. Many of the Transcendentalist period writers fall under this category for me. Exemplary and double-duty writers like E. A. Poe (who referred to Transcendentalists as those “Frogpondians”), Henry D. Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are obviously at the top of my list.

Subsequently, once having made this most difficult of decisions, I realized it was a more contemporary writer/poet who inspired me above all others. It was then that I told Melissa, “There is one outstanding writer who has most influenced my own writing, and that is Ray Bradbury.”  

A number of years ago, the very first essay I wrote on my blog was a homage to Bradbury. I added an accompanying video of a 2001 keynote address titled "Telling the Truth" where Ray shared stories about his life and his love of writing at The Sixth Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea. I was profoundly affected by his lecture. Over the years I have listened to and read many other remarkable talks on writing by Ray Bradbury. Each time his words have resonated deeply in me, and then set firmly into my writer’s marrow.

Ironically, soon after my conversation with Melissa, the world lost the great Ray Bradbury, about whom Aldous Huxley once remarked, upon reading his prose, “You, sir, are a poet!”

Bradbury is one of the most endearing and influential writers of our times. His phenomenal collection of essays, with connecting passages, Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You is a must read for anyone truly committed to effective creative writing. Bradbury’s seminal works have reached every corner of the globe. They have been adapted for film (he wrote the screenplay for John Houston’s classic film, Moby Dick); further widened our perspective on the inherent evil of censorship (Fahrenheit 451); and led us onto other worlds (The Martian Chronicles). There are many more exceptional novels by him, such as The Illustrated Man and Something Wicked This Way Comes that have left an indelible mark on the world.

Bradbury’s characters are so deftly written, it is as if we have always known them, intimately. His writing flows as smoothly as a gentle rain off a copper cupola. The list of wordsmiths who have also so effectively accomplished this literary feat to me would include iconic word weavers Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Harper Lee and Edgar Allen Poe. What excellent company Ray Bradbury now joins in legend and literature!

I once had the honor of having a letter I wrote handed to Ray Bradbury, via a mutual friend, during Ray’s 90th birthday celebration at his home in Cheviot Hills, California. I could not force myself to add my return address to that letter, but was told that Ray had read it and then asked that his appreciation for my congratulatory words be conveyed to me.

Needless to say, I will never forget that day. Nor will I ever forget Ray Bradbury, our preeminent writer and poet—the man who I feel I know, intimately, through his characters—the writer who I have had the absolute pleasure to read and from whom I honed my own writing craft.


  1. I think you and Ray would have been instant friends. Both of you have an easy, casual way, without pretension that invites us in to your world. I love Ray for many of the reasons you mention and for specific recollections too, like the passage in "Zen" where Ray decides he will never be oppressed by anyone again (I think he was 7 or 8?) which is remarkable -- if only each one of us made a firm commitment to ourselves to love our work and work at what we love at such a tender age. Ray is a man of great integrity. Thank you for these personal insights Jeff. He truly IS one of the most endearing, influential writers of this or any century. I hope he's happily hanging out with Curiosity on Mars and planning his comeback!

    Always a pleasure to read you and Melissa, a wonderful start to an exciting series!

    1. Okay, that's it. I simply must read "Zen." I've heard too many great things about it! Deciding never to be oppressed again at 7 or 8 is remarkable and just emphasizes what an amazing man he was--of such strong will and character, yet, as you pointed out, so unpretentious. I do agree about the similarities too! So true, so true. We are so often drawn to what is most like us.

      Lois, I'd love to have you contribute to the series.

    2. How wonderful to read Lois that you know Ray Bradbury’s amazing body of work so intimately, too. I sincerely appreciate your most generous and kind remarks regarding my piece here on Ray. This was truly a labor of love to write. Hope he’s celestially smiling down on us today. You’re most welcome, and it’s always my absolute pleasure to read your work, as well. I totally agree with Melissa that it would be marvelous if you did add a piece of your own here on Great Minds!

      Warmest regards,

  2. Yes yes please read it! You will adore him even more. I need to return to it myself.

  3. Melissa, I am truly honored in being the first entry in your wonderful new blog series "Great Minds." Such a marvelous concept for an essay theme. I look forward, in earnest, to reading all the next posts here at Bareback Alchemy. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my work, and my love for Ray Bradbury here with you and your readers.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Jeff, the honor is mine! Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a marvelous essay for Great Minds!

  4. Well done and nicely worded "RJ". We are all proud of you here in Florida.

    1. Thank you for you most kind words. I hope that you know how very much your sincere comments mean to me, "JP".