When I was a kid I read quite a lot, which was good. I enjoyed reading. I had ‘one-off’ books that I read once and then never again, and then I had ‘return’ books that I would read and re-read. As I grew older I went through a succession of series of books about boys (and the occasional girl) at my kind of age – The Secret Seven, William Brown, Jennings, Bunter, Molesworth, etc. – interspersed with Toby Twirl, RM Ballantynes ‘Coral Island’, the Alice books, and so on. There was a book that my auntie bought me, my first ever ‘grown up’ (I thought) hardback, called Cop Shooter that I loved to hold but never actually read.
But when I was about 12 or 13, music began to take over from books. This change was sparked by a number of things, but principally the fact that during a period of a few months I went to see a number of high profile ‘rock’ gigs (Country Joe And The Fish, Ten Years After, John Mayall, Deep Purple, Renaissance, and several other bands at The Albert Hall) as well as ‘Hair’ at The Shaftesbury Theatre. As a result of these my musical taste suddenly exploded beyond the pop charts and a few albums (mainly by The Beatles and The Monkees) into the realms of ‘rock’ music and by 1970 I was listening to Frank Zappa, Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention. And books took a very definite back seat, I doubt that I read much apart from Melody Maker, ZigZag, and my school ‘set books’.
A few years later I discovered science fiction. My dad had a few on our shelves at home (Silver Locusts, Last And First Men), and I read them, but it was Ben Weschke who introduced me to Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert and the rest. Dune I never got into, and Asimov and Clarke were enjoyable but I hardly ever felt like re-reading, but it was Heinlein that really caught my imagination – and particularly the Future History and Lazarus Long stories. I still return regularly to reread (ooh, spot the alliteration there) The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Time Enough For Love, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and To Sail Beyond The Sunset.
And then there was Ray Bradbury, who died a couple of days ago. I reread ‘Dandelion Wine’ and ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ recently, and ‘The Silver Locusts’ about 18 months ago, but to my shame I haven’t immersed myself in his short stories for far too long. I read Neil Gaiman’s brief piece on his blog the other day and almost cried (his wife is capable of having the same effect on me), I must listen to him reading his short story soon.
Bradbury was something of a god to me, as a writer. His use of language is almost unparalelled in modern literature aand every time I read that he had a new book out I praised the rabbit that he was still alive and writing.
And now he’s not. To be honest, his recent (ish) works aren’t quite up to his classic period but they’re still marvellous, rich, and enchanting. And now there won’t be any more. I’m going to miss him. And I’m going to make damn sure I reread all my Bradbury books before long.
And then I’ll do Heinlein, and then Kotzwinkle. My wife thinks I should read more modern stuff, listen to more modern music (though she likes 50s jazz FFS), see more modern films. I’m happy with the treasures I have – not in a sad sentimental nostalgic way, just in an ‘I know what I like’ way.
Not much of a blog post, really. Sorry. The intention was there. Come along to the choir one Tuesday and argue with me.