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From the Scrapbook

Jun 18, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 38 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Ray Bradbury, who died last week at 91, was “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream,” in the words of the New York Times. Which is certainly true: When he began writing stories in the late 1930s, Bradbury’s fiction appeared in pulp magazines, very much at the periphery of polite literary society. Just a week before his death he published an essay about his writing life in the New Yorker. Bradbury’s fanciful stories and novels—about the world beyond our world, the shape of things to come—struck a resonant, and enduring, chord with readers.

The Scrapbook’s appreciation of Ray Bradbury takes a different form, however. Coming of age during the Depression, the young, bookish Brad-bury couldn’t afford to attend college. Instead, he wrote later, “libraries raised me.” In the public libraries of Los Angeles, he immersed himself in the works of Edgar Allan Poe and H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. And at UCLA’s Powell Library, where students could rent typewriters for $.20 per hour, Bradbury spent $9.80 to pound out a story about the systematic destruction of books in a dystopian future, which was later expanded into his best-known novel, Fahrenheit 451

He never forgot, and never stopped extolling, the value of libraries in a free society. For Ray Bradbury, books and reading and libraries were intrinsic to life itself, nurturing a talent that enthralled the world.

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