For local librarians and science fantasy enthusiasts, the loss of famed “Fahrenheit 451” author Ray Bradbury feels personal.
“I practically grew up with him,” said Sheldon Kaye, director of the Lee County Library System. “He’s so imaginative, you felt like (you were) home when reading Ray Bradbury.”
Bookworms, teachers, and literary lovers on Wednesday all mourned the loss of Bradbury, who died Tuesday evening at age 91. Kaye and other fans said Bradbury expanded the audience for science fiction writing and helped young readers connect with an imaginary world.
Collier and Lee libraries will put his books in front displays. Kaye said he will plan a special summer reading event based on the author’s works.
Bradbury broke through in 1950 with “The Martian Chronicles,” a series of intertwined stories that satirized capitalism, racism and superpower tensions as it portrayed Earth colonizers destroying an idyllic Martian civilization.
Bradbury’s most famous book “Fahrenheit 451” particularly speaks to librarians for its exploration of a future America that outlaws books, Kaye said.
“We in the library field are sensitive to censorship and preserving record of culture,” Kaye said. “He certainly does speak to us ... His imagination, his respect for intellectual freedom, his wonderful grasp of the mystery of childhood.”
“I heard someone say that when he reads his books, his toes curl up.”
Ben Bova, a local science fiction writer, knew the author personally. He knew that Bradbury never learned to drive and that he hated to fly.
But what Bova remembers most is Bradbury’s style of writing that nobody could copy.
“It was overly sentimental,” he said. “With a good deal of childish innocence.”
Others remember that Bradbury held a special place in his heart for libraries.
He spent a good deal of time there, said Marilyn Mathis, director of the Collier County Library System. He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” from the basement of the UCLA library on a public typewriter. It cost him $9.80.
“I imagine people in public libraries today writing their books not on typewriters, but on public computers,” Mathis said. “He made good use of his library.”
Until near the end of his life, Bradbury resisted one of the innovations he helped anticipate: electronic books, likening them to burnt metal and urging readers to stick to the old-fashioned pleasures of ink and paper.
But in late 2011, as the rights to “Fahrenheit 451” were up for renewal, he gave in and allowed his most famous novel to come out in digital form. In return, he received a great deal of money and a special promise from Simon & Schuster: The publisher agreed to make the e-book available to libraries, the only Simon & Schuster e-book at the time that library patrons were allowed to download.
“We will miss him,” Mathis said. “His books are still read and quoted today in print, electronic and even in film versions.”