The book I keep by my bedside, for those times when I can’t sleep, is Ray Bradbury’s Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales.
I first read Fahrenheit 451 for school and was fascinated by Bradbury’s tale of a dystopian future where to be a fireman meant to be a book burner.
That was when I first fell in love with Ray Bradbury’s writings.
I read the whole book in one sitting, even though we were supposed to be read the book over the course of the semester.
Bradbury Stories is a wonderful collection of stories chosen by Bradbury himself including “The Pedestrian,” the precursor to Fahrenheit 451.
In the introduction to this collection, Bradbury tells readers his inspiration for this story and many others:
I had dinner with a friend fifty-five years ago and after dining we decided to take a walk along WIlshire Boulevard. Within minutes we were stopped by a police car. The policeman asked us what we were doing. I replied, “Putting one foot in front of the other,” which was the wrong answer. The policeman looked at me suspiciously because, after all, the sidewalks were empty: nobody in the whole city of Los Angeles was using them as a walkway.
I went home, sorely irritated at being stopped for simply walking — a natural, human activity — and wrote a story about a pedestrian in the future who is arrested for doing just that.
A few months later I took that pedestrian for a walk in the night, had him turn a corner and meet a young girl named Clarisse McClellan. Nine days later, Fahrenheit 451 was born as a short novella called “The Firemen.”
Last night, I re-read In “The Garbage Collector,” the story of a garbage man generally satisfied with his life who learns that if a bomb hits the city (presumably an atomic bomb), he and his co-workers will have to collect the dead in his truck. He is torn between quitting his job to stand up for his morals and continuing to work to support his family (his wife prefers the second option); both lousy choices.
The Martian tales — “The Messiah,” “The Visitor,” and “February 1999: Ylla” among others — are truly original.
Click here to read the Table of Contents, courtesy of Wikipedia.
I know most folks pick bedtime reading to help them get to sleep. I read one or two of Ray Bradbury’s stories because Bradbury never fails to entertain while teaching me a bit about myself and humanity. For me, it’s the perfect way to end my day.