Today’s required reading is The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, by Neil Gaiman, an incredible and moving excerpt from an upcoming Bradbury tribute anthology, Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, which comes out July 10th. You can also hear him read it on Amanda’s SoundCloud account or read his blog posts on the matter here and here, which are also beautiful.
Ray Bradbury died on June 5th at the age of 91 as Venus was transiting the sun, mythic to the end. May his words reverberate through history forever.
Here Neil Gaiman explains the background of his perfect eulogy, originally written as a birthday present to the author (may we all be so lucky to receive such a gift):
I wanted to write about Ray Bradbury. I wanted to write about him in the way that he wrote about Poe in “Usher II” — a way that drove me to Poe.
I was going to read something in an intimate theatre space, very late at night, during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. My wife, Amanda, and I were hosting a midnight show of songs and readings. I promised myself that I would finish it in time to read it to forty people seated on sofas and on cushions on the floor in a tiny, beautiful room that normally contained the Belt Up Theatre Company’s intimate plays.
Very well, it would be a monologue, if I was going to read it.
The inspiration came from forgetting a friend of mine. He died a decade ago. And I went to look in my head for his name, and it was gone. I knew everything else about him — the periodicals he had written for, his favourite brand of bourbon. I could have recited every conversation he and I had ever had, told you what we talked about. I could remember the names of the books he had written.
But his name was gone. And it scared me. I waited for his name to return, promised myself I wouldn’t Google it, would just wait and remember. But nothing came. It was as if there was a hole in the universe the size of my friend. I would walk home at night trying to think of his name, running through names in alphabetical order. “Al? No. Bob? No. Charles? Chris? Not them . . .”
And I thought, What if it were an author? What if it was everything he’d done? What if everyone else had forgotten him too?
I wrote the story by hand. I finished it five minutes before we had to leave the house to go to the theatre. I was a mass of nerves — I’d never read something to an audience straight out of the pen.
When I read it, I finished it with a recital of the whole alphabet.
Then I typed it out and sent it to Ray for his ninety-first birthday.
I was there at his seventieth birthday, in the Natural History Museum in London.
It was, like everything else about the man and his work, unforgettable.
— Neil Gaiman