The second volume of the life of the esteemed science-fiction author.
Eller (English/Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ. Indianapolis; Becoming Ray Bradbury, 2011, etc.), director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, bases his authoritative biography on extensive interviews with Bradbury (1920-2012), 60 years of correspondence with his agent, Don Congdon, and additional letters and manuscripts. The result is a thorough documentation of Bradbury’s career, beginning with the publication of Fahrenheit 451 (1953). Besides fiction, Bradbury’s literary output in the second half of his life included TV and movie screenplays, which gave him new visibility and fame. While he greatly admires his subject, Eller admits that some of the author’s later fiction was marked by “sentimental and nostalgia-driven impulses” and “descriptions verging on purple prose.” Congdon feared that Bradbury often was “trying too hard to be intellectual and philosophic,” perhaps a result of increasing invitations to speak and lecture. Although Bradbury refused to fly, he had become “a lay spokesman for the Space Age.” Eller identifies several men who had a large role in shaping Bradbury’s career: film director John Huston, art critic and historian Bernard Berenson, and actor Charles Laughton, who became Bradbury’s “last true mentor.” The mercurial Huston hired Bradbury to write a script for Moby-Dick, a project that took Bradbury and his family on their first trip to Europe, where they lived for eight months. Although working with Huston proved extremely stressful, the project made his talents coveted in Hollywood. While in Italy, Bradbury visited Berenson, who opened up an appreciation of Renaissance art that Bradbury considered life-altering. Berenson’s assessment of Bradbury is borne out in Eller’s portrait: “simple, easygoing, no inferiority complex, not shy nor on the defensive….Seems to have escaped the pseudoproblems that worry young writers, and make them howl to the moon.”
Bradbury did howl, though, against “censorship and elitism.” This warm, informative biography depicts him as a thoughtful and disciplined writer who helped make science fiction a respected literary genre.