Ray Bradbury in Long Beach: 6/25/08
Celebrated author, Ray Bradbury paid a visit to his favorite local bookstore, Acres of Books, Wednesday afternoon to show his love and support for the soon to be closing Long Beach landmark. With only a days notice, local press and fans still managed to fill the store's funky music room/gallery space to ask questions, take photos, get books signed and listen to reminiscences of a master story teller.
Mr. Bradbury is a great raconteur and no matter how many conventions, writers' groups or classrooms I've attended, I always enjoy hearing about his first sale of a story for 15 bucks or how Christopher Isherwood rang him up and told him Aldous Huxley wanted to meet him for tea or when he walked off the David Frost show. Not to mention, the sage advice to go out and do what you love and love what you do, but try to stay away from the movie business if you can help it, etc.. The author is in his eighties and doesn't make as many appearances as he used to, so if you get the opportunity to hear him speak like, let's say, at next month's San Diego Comic Con, do so. If instead you have a taste for the classics, the Fremont Centre Theatre in Pasadena has extended their run of Fahrenheit 451--the perfect play for these warm summer nights. (Story continued below photo gallery)
When asked what he was currently writing about, Mr. Bradbury teased us by mentioning Paris, a place he loves for its aesthetic sensibilities--if not its politics. He then held up the bling he was sporting: the French Commandeur Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal awarded to him last year. Guess he's right about good taste.
Ray Bradbury's love of books, libraries and bookstores, especially Acres, is a given.
As he gruffly put it: "My life is centered with books." "I find ME in this bookstore" "This is why I'm here, this is MY home." It is his firm opinion that bookstores and libraries are the real places of learning, not academia. He had much to say about the dearth of independent bookshops in Los Angeles, spouting a list of communities from Beverly Hills to Venice Beach that incredulously no longer have mom and pop booksellers. The sheer stupidity of such a thing seemed to anger and sadden him.
Bradbury was first introduced to Acres in 1948 by fellow genre writers, Leigh Brackett and Ed Hamilton, and he immediately fell in love with its labyrinthine stacks and musty appeal. By the way, if you weren't aware in these days of point and click purchases, "Old books smell like Egypt." He clearly recalled the copy of Steinbeck he'd bought on his first visit and how he'd noted inside where he'd purchased it. He was still tickled about the used volume of Bernard Shaw he got there for a steal. He recounted how he loved to browse the stacks on rainy days, listening to the patter on the tin roof and how good it felt to pick up a book and get to be alone with your "love."
When asked about the eminent demise of the store, he said that the city should have built around the place making it the center of new development. Also, that it should be a shrine. One that he'd gladly come down and bless. He even offered to call the mayor on the store's behalf. Though if you read my previous report, I think it's a little late for a call from the warden. Nevertheless, I still think the place got it's blessing.