The news of acclaimed science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury’s death at the age of 91 on Wednesday has left the world saddened. That sadness is especially true in West Hollywood because of Bradbury’s close connection to the city.
Bradbury was the headliner in the annual West Hollywood Book Fair in 2008 and offered his support to the efforts to get a new library built in the city.
Bradbury’s classic novel about a book-burning future, Fahrenheit 451, was selected as the book for the city’s 2012 Big Read with over a dozen events tied to that that novel.
The city honored him by declaring Monday, April 2, 2012 “Ray Bradbury Day” in West Hollywood. Councilmember John Duran also went to his home to present him with the proclamation. The video of that visit, linked above, was shown during a recent City Council meeting.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Bradbury. He brought so much joy to so many,” said Mayor Jeffrey Prang. “His books took readers on imaginary journeys to the outermost edges of the galaxy without ever leaving their back yards. He will be missed, but his written words shall continue to inspire and transport us on a lifetime of adventures.”
“We have lost a true literary treasure, and one of the West Hollywood Library Foundation’s Literary Lions,” said Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land. “I’m so glad we were able to celebrate his life and work with the opening of our new library and through our most recent Big Read month of activities.”
“It is with great sadness that I learned today of the passing of literary great Ray Bradbury,” said Councilmember John D’Amico. “I will think of him as I walk past Powell Library at UCLA, where he wrote his classic novel Fahrenheit 451 in 1950 on typewriters that rented for 10 cents a half hour. Ray Bradbury was a trailblazing author whose loss is felt by us all. I send my condolences to his family and to his many fans all over the world.”
“One of the greatest moments of my Council service was to be with Mr. Bradbury in his home. He was such an American treasure,” said Councilmember John Duran.
“We have lost a literary giant and a hero for literacy and libraries in general,” said Councilmember John Heilman. “We were so fortunate that Ray Bradbury participated in our annual Book Fair. We are also very lucky that he was one of the Literary Lions who supported the construction of our new library.”
Ray Douglas Bradbury was born on August 22, 1920, in Waukegan, Illinois, into a family that once included a seventeenth-century Salem woman tried for witchcraft. The Bradbury family drove across the country to Los Angeles in 1934, with a young Bradbury plunder local libraries along the way in search of L. Frank Baum's Oz books.
In 1936, Bradbury experienced a rite of passage familiar to most science-fiction readers: the realization that he was not alone. At a secondhand bookstore in Hollywood, he discovered a handbill promoting meetings of the "Los Angeles Science Fiction Society." Thrilled, he joined a weekly Thursday-night conclave that would grow to attract such science-fiction legends as Robert A. Heinlein, Leigh Brackett, and future Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
After a rejection notice from the pulp magazine Weird Tales, he sent his short story "Homecoming" to Mademoiselle. There it was spotted by a young editorial assistant named Truman Capote who rescued the manuscript from the slush pile and helped get it published in the magazine. "Homecoming" won a place in the O. Henry prize stories of 1947.
Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in the basement of UCLA's Powell Library, where he had taken refuge from a small house filled with the distractions of two young children. Ballantine editor Stanley Kauffman, later the longtime film critic for The New Republic magazine, flew out to Los Angeles to go over the manuscript with Bradbury, plying the sweet-toothed perfectionist author with copious doses of ice cream.
The book came out to rapturous reviews. To this day it sells at least 50,000 copies a year and has become a touchstone around the world for readers and writers living under repressive regimes.
In 2004, Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts, a presidential award administered by the National Endowment for the Arts. He accepted a citation recognizing “his gift for language, his insights into the human condition, and his commitment to the freedom of the individual.”