Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations edited by Sam WellerRay Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations edited by Sam Weller

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRay Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, edited by Sam Weller, is actually several interviews, conducted over the last two years of Bradbury’s life, plus a handful of rough essays dictated by Bradbury to Weller, his long-time biographer. Despite this, the book is relatively slim, coming in at about 90 pages, with a lot of white space. This is not meant, though, to be an in-depth look at (or listen to) Bradbury; for that you’ll want to turn to other sources, including Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Listen to the Echoes: The Bradbury Interviews. This is just a chance to hear the near-final words of a true legend, and that alone makes it worth your time, I’d say.

Along with the relatively small amount of material, there is also some repetition of well-known stories. So those well-versed in Bradbury’s history will recognize Bradbury’s references to seeing a Mr. Electro at a carnival (appearing in Something Wicked This Way Comes) when he was a child, or to working on the script of Moby Dick. But as Weller says in his introduction, he did try to limit such repetition, so the familiar references are present, but not at any great length. Unfortunately, because some of the interviews are public ones, where Bradbury took questions from the audience, some questions are not particularly probing or substantive, and the same could be said about some of Bradbury’s’ responses.

That all said, there were several moments that either informed, tickled, enthralled, or moved me (sometimes simultaneously). For instance, I’d somehow missed or had forgotten that the folks at NASA had let Bradbury drive the Mars Rover for a while. So fantastically appropriate, of course, for the writer so associated with Mars via his Martian Chronicles, but also so fantastically ironic, as Bradbury has never actually driven a car. I loved his idea of a mummy statue outside the library that asks you “Where would you like to go in the library” and when you answer: “for the young and young at heart, he sends you down a rabbit hole into the library. When you slide down and arrive, there are books all around, and by every shelf there is a different mummy and you speak to them and ask, “What’s on this shelf?” and it tells you…”

Who wouldn’t love going to that library?

There were other such moments: his explanation of why magicians and writers are so similar, his grief over his cat’s death, his idea of life as just an interruption in a wider, better dream, and so on.

My one complaint is I would have liked to have some of Bradbury’s claims end or footnoted. These are the recollections of a frail 90-year-old, relating some events from 60 or 70 years ago, and so it would have been nice to know whether all he was saying was true or not, especially when it came to some pretty strong claims, as when he accused Rod Serling of stealing ideas. I can see why Weller would want to just have Bradbury’s words speak for themselves, but I still would have preferred at least some verification (or not).

So, Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, is a slim work without a lot of text, some of which is possibly familiar or a little banal or a bit repetitive, and some of which may just be poorly recalled. But if you’re a true fan of Bradbury’s work, or just love the guy for not just his work but for his outsized influence and his outlook on life, then you’ll certainly find some bits (small bits quickly read) of enjoyment in here. And you’ll mourn again the hole left by the man who recapped his own life by saying, “Everything I did was pure love. Pure love. And if you live that way, you’ve had a great life.” He did, and luckily for many of us, we got to share his life’s more imaginative moments.

Publication Date: December 2, 2014. Ray Bradbury was long the most influential sci-fi writer in the world, the poetic and visionary author of such classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. But he also lived a fascinating life outside the parameters of sci-fi, and was a masterful raconteur of his own story, as he reveals in his wide-ranging and in-depth final interview with his acclaimed biographer, Sam Weller. After moving to Los Angeles, he became an inveterate fanboy of movie stars, spending hours waiting at studio gates to get autographs. He would later get to know many of Hollywood’s most powerful figures when he became a major screenwriter, and he details here what it was like to work for legendary directors such as John Huston and Alfred Hitchcock. And then there are all the celebrities—from heads of state like Mikhail Gorbachev to rock stars like David Bowie and the members of Kiss—who went out of their way to arrange encounters with Bradbury. But throughout that last talk, as well as the interviews collected here from earlier in his career, Bradbury constantly twists the elements of his life into a discussion of the influences and creative processes behind his remarkable developments and inventions for the literary form he mastered. Mixed with cheerful gossiping about his travels and the characters of his life, it makes for a rich reading experience and a revealing collection of interviews.

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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