By Z.S. Roe
Dear Mr. Bradbury,
This past Wednesday morning I heard the news of your death—for what it’s worth, I was sorry to hear it. All things considered, though, you lived a long life (91-years old), and left one hell of a legacy behind you. Sure, we all know you as the author of Fahrenheit 451, but your list of acclaimed publications is damn near monumental. I read that you sold more than 500 novels, short stories, screenplays and TV scripts. I also read that in 2007 you received a special Pulitzer Prize citation “for [your] distinguished, prolific and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.” And to that I say bravo, good man, bravo.
But here’s the problem: while I’ve read an awful lot about you, I’ve never actually read anything by you. For some people who read only a few novels a year (or maybe none at all), that may not seem like such a sin. For me, however, this oversight (if I can call it that) is pretty embarrassing, if not just a wee bit shameful.
You see, not only do I have an (Honours) B.A. in English Literature, but I’m also a voracious reader. While I’ve never counted how many novels I read in a year, my wife (who’s had to contend with my ever increasing mountain of books) might put the number somewhere between thirty and fifty. And I read all genres, too, be it literary, mainstream, horror, sci-fi and fantasy, chick lit, or even erotica.
Still, despite the many books that I’ve read, I’ve yet to read any of yours, and I don’t even have a good reason for not doing so. You never punched me in the mouth in some back alley, or poked fun at me in a crowded room full of my peers. Never once have I heard something about one of your books and thought, “Huh, well that’s certainly not for me.” Even worse, there have been a few times in various book stores when I did have a copy of one of your books in my hands, but later returned it in place of some other book by some other writer.
And for all that, I cry your pardon.
But I will read some of your work, and soon. I mean, let’s face it, many of the writers I read today (like Stephen King and Robert Charles Wilson and so on) were inspired to become writers after reading novels by you and writers like you. And if you were the muse upon which my favourite writers drew their inspiration, then I’ve done nothing but a disservice to myself by having thus far ignored your work.
So, again, I cry your pardon and wish you well on the other side (wherever that may be). I may not have read your work, but I’ve certainly felt its impact and quaked in the resulting reverberations.
Opinion is a bi-monthly column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.
Lemme guess…he was probably a man of quiet confidence, and is probably humbled by the fact that you acknowledged him. Enjoy your reading…
Description is what makes the reader a serosny participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s also a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing. Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2000) On Writing, 6I leave a quote every day for my writing students. I like this quote, but it doesn’t go far enough in a way. I’d add: Be specific in everything. Don’t say, `Jack bought a book.’ You have to name the book and if it’s important enough to mention, you might want to describe the picture on the cover. But don’t overdescribe. miki