Review

Bradbury: An Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor

by Jerry Weist



The fantasy-science fiction literary genre has seen its fortunes
wax and wane over the past several decades. I think the last big
"wax" was around 25 years ago, when the first "Star Wars" movie
hit. I walked into a chain bookstore around that time and they
seemed to have a whole wall --- the long one --- for science
fiction. Most places still have a pretty decent section, but
nothing like it really deserves. Some of the really classic
writers, the guys without whom there wouldn't even be a genre, get
short shrift as well. Where are the Murray Leinster books? The
Fritz Leiber novels? Where's the Robert Heinlein section? The
Philip K. Dick shelf? And where's the bookstore dedicated to Ray
Bradbury?

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if Bradbury was still alive.
I went ballistic. Like Al Capone, I'm a peaceful man. But I have my
limits. Still alive? Bradbury is still writing! If his prose lately
doesn't have the fire, the bite, of such stories as "Mars Id
Heaven" or "The Small Assassin" or "Judgment Day" or novels like
SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES or FAHRENHEIT 451, it's still
better than 90 percent of the stuff out there, and besides, lemme
ask you...do you do anything as well now as you did 50, 60 years,
ago? Besides dribble?! It's entirely possible that if you enjoy
reading it's because someone jammed a copy of a Bradbury book into
your little hands, or a teacher read you a Bradbury story in high
school. Still alive? He'll never die. I truly believe that, at the
end of all that, is the last sound heard will be Louis Armstrong's
trumpet and the last thing seen will be a sentence written by
Bradbury. Hope I'm here to see if I'm right. Then again, maybe I
don't want to know.

The foregoing rant will accordingly give you some vague idea of how
I felt when I cracked the binding of BRADBURY: AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE.
This labor of love by Jerry Weist is an absolutely indispensable
compendium of Bradbury in the print and movie media, crammed into a
coffeetable format book that despite its larger than regulation
size can barely contain the universe of the imagination that
Bradbury has been creating for your consideration and perusal for
over six decades. Paperback covers, illustrations, reproductions of
comic book adaptations, movie stills, advertisements --- I
guarantee you that, no matter how huge a fan of Bradbury you are,
there are sights in this book you've never seen before. There's an
artist's adaptation of The Illustrated Man that scares the living
sh...er, stuffing out of me every time I look at it, there's a shot
of the cover of the pulp magazine that initially got Bradbury
interested in the fantasy genre, covers of some of the fanzines he
wrote for --- and published, even reproductions of some of the
correspondence that occurred between Bradbury and William M. Gaines
when EC Comics, which went on to publish Mad Magazine, adapted a
couple of his stories without permission in a couple of their
science fiction titles (it all ended well, by the way). If you can
open this book the first, fiftieth, or five hundredth time without
getting chills all over your body then you need to treat yourself
to a neurological examination. Right now.

Not the least of this indispensable volume is Weist's accompanying
text. Weist was first a fan of Bradbury's, and the relationship
between the two blossomed into friendship through decades of
correspondence. The marks of both fandom and friendship are present
throughout BRADBURY: AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE. I approached this from
the perspective of "Ah ha! I bet he left out (blank)" and I was
wrong --- blessedly, happily wrong! --- on every count. Weist's
account of Bradbury, his life, his work, slides in and out and
among and between the illustrations, reproductions, and photographs
which are the be-all and end-all of this breathtaking,
breath-stealing work There is so much here that one marvels that it
can be contained between binding, that it can be held in one's
hands. And the price of admission would be a bargain, and
worthwhile, at twice the price.

BRADBURY: AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE is one of those rarities, a book
you'll spend hours at a time with, a spare few minutes, and
ultimately a lifetime. If you give it to someone, they'll never
forget you, and never open it without thinking of you. And if you
get it...well, this will be the book you'll grab on your way out of
your burning home, or when jumping off a sinking ship. No library
that calls itself one should be without it.

For more about Ray Bradbury,
please go to RayBradbury.com.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Bradbury: An Illustrated Life: A Journey to Far Metaphor
by Jerry Weist

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company
  • ISBN-10: 0060011823
  • ISBN-13: 9780060011826