Review: Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews edited by Sam Weller

Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews edited by Sam Weller
Hat and Beard Press (2018)
224 pages; $45 hardcover; $200 limited edition
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

I’ll speak more at length about this when I discuss the influence Ray Bradbury has had on me in a future edition of my column Revelations, but suffice to say: I discovered his work late in life. I’m sure I was assigned several of his short stories in junior high and high school—probably the oft-assigned “All Summer in a Day,” “Soft Rains Will Come” or maybe even “The Fun They Had”—but I never had a teacher really bring me to Ray Bradbury. This is probably why—as most of my former and present students will attest—I’ve made it my personal mission to ensure that all my students experience the work of Ray Brabdury while they’re in my class. Whether they love his work, are ambivalent toward it, or don’t like it, they’ll never be able to say they don’t know who Ray Bradbury is, or what his place is in American Literature.

In any case, I have vague memories of picking up Farenheit 451 in our school library around seventh grade, reading a few pages, and then putting it back again. Ironic, considering how it’s now one my favorite novels, one I teach every year. At the time, I apparently wasn’t ready, for some reason preferring Isaac Asimov’s grand space opera about Foundations and Second Foundations and R. Daneel Olivaw, instead.

Regardless, it wasn’t until I read Something Wicked This Way Comes—at the very late age of 34—that I fell head-over-heels in love with Bradbury’s work. By the time Tom Fury was making the disastrous decision to take a closer look at the frozen “most beautiful woman in the world” in the opening chapters of Something Wicked, I was hooked forever. Again, I want to save a fuller appreciation of Bradbury’s work for a later column; so I won’t go into the expansive details. For now I’ll just say this: as a life-long voracious reader who has a dozen “favorite” authors, Bradbury is one of the few whose work has left an indelible mark upon me as a writer, teacher, and most of all, human being.

Which, of course, made reading Listen to the Echoes a rare treat. A beautifully crafted hardcover tome peppered with photographs of the late Bradbury’s house and his apocraphal basement office, this collection of interviews delivers perhaps the most complete picture of Ray Bradbury I’ve ever seen, offering insights into his writing inspirations and dreams, his life as a husband and father, his feelings on education and politics, and intimate moments delivered in the kind of wide-eyed, vibrant innocence Bradbury was so known for. But not ignorance, no. Not naiveté. An innocence that Bradbury was determined and committed to cultivate and maintain all through his life, regardless of his circumstances.

It also expanded upon the tense relationship between him and the late Rod Serling (which has always fascinated me, given how much of an impact The Twighlit Zone has had on me, also), as well as delving into very personal matters, again, with a simple straightforwardness which is delightful. Also intriguing: this book offers the most insight (that I’ve seen, anyway) into Bradbury’s personal philosophies regarding religion and spirituality, what he believes about “God” and the universe.

In this collection, Sam Weller has lovingly crafted a staggering tribute to the man and creative giant that Ray Bradbury was (and still continues to be, for so many of us). This book is a must have for all Bradbury fans, and you know what? Even if you’re only a casual fan or have never read Bradbury’s work (correct that post-haste, please), this is worth every penny, and serves as a beautiful testimony to Bradbury’s legacy.

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