In an interview at Comic-Con 2010, Ray Bradbury explained what makes public libraries so wonderful:
When I left high school, I had all my plans to go to college, but I had no money. And I decided then, the best thing for me to do is not worry about getting money to go to college — I will educate myself. I walked down the street, I walked into a library, I would go to the library three days a week for ten years and I would educate myself. It’s all FREE, that’s the great thing about libraries! Most of you can afford to go to college, but if you want to educate yourself completely, go to the library and educate yourself. When I was 28 years old, I graduated from Library.
Read and listen to more of Bradbury’s wisdom from the Comic-Con interview here.
One section of the interview gave me more fact-checking trouble than all the rest combined: the part that deals with Bradbury’s lifelong literary inspiration, Mr. Electrico. The story of their meeting is well-known—he told it often—but no one had ever confirmed Mr. Electrico’s existence. (The director of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies later told me, over the phone, that the search for Mr. Electrico was the ‘Holy Grail of Bradbury scholarship.’) I combed through contemporary newspapers from Waukegan, Illinois; I posted on circus-history message boards; I inquired into the American Circus Collection’s cache of posters and programs. Nothing. Not a trace.
“In Los Angeles in the early 1950s, Ray Bradbury went in search of a peaceful place to work. ‘I had a large family at home,’ he said five decades later. They must have been a particularly lively bunch, because at the time it was just Ray, his wife Marguerite and two young children.
The writing refuge Bradbury found was in the basement of the Lawrence Clark Powell Library at UCLA — and in fact, it wasn’t all that quiet. ‘I heard this typing,’ he explained. ‘I went down in the basement of the UCLA library and by God there was a room with 12 typewriters in it that you could rent for 10 cents a half-hour. And there were eight or nine students in there working away like crazy.’
So he went to the bank and returned with a bag of dimes. He plugged a dime into the machine, typed fast for 30 minutes, and then dropped another. When he took breaks, he went upstairs to the library, soaking in a book-loving ambience he was making forbidden in the fiction he was writing below. He took books off the shelves, finding quotes, then ran downstairs to write some more. Nine days — and $9.80 in dimes later — he’d written ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ Almost.
What he’d finished there was ‘The Fireman,’ a short story published in Galaxy magazine in 1951. Later, he expanded the story into ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ which was published in paperback by Ballantine.”
—“Ray Bradbury and the dime-at-a-time typewriter of ‘Fahrenheit 451’”
Thank you. I adore Ray Bradbury and this is
a most amazing and beautiful tribute to his work.
It helps connect us and ease the pain of
his transition. You, libraries, books… are
all miracles of the human spirit and this great
writer (who wrote on a rented library typewriter
at 10cents an hour) shines for us all.
Marilyn, who replied to an e-mail we sent yesterday commemorating Ray Bradbury.
Every so often, late at night, I come downstairs, open one of my books, read a paragraph and say, My God. I sit there and cry because I feel that I’m not responsible for any of this. It’s from God. And I’m so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is ‘at play in the fields of the Lord.’ It’s been wonderful fun and I’ll be damned where any of it came from. I’ve been fortunate. Very fortunate.