Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ray Bradbury Laments the Decline of Bookstores

With the kids heading back to college next week, we can't help but think about the good olde days, when weekends started on Thursday, bookstores were just off campus, and our friends actually had reading lists.

Ray Bradbury, the "timeless guy of Sci Fi" who will celebrate his 88th birthday on August 22nd, remembers the days. In “Ray Bradbury on Literature and Love,” a July 2008 interview with Steve Wasserman, Literary Editor of Truthdig and former editor of the now defunct Los Angeles Times Book Review, Bradbury spoke candidly about bookstores, book reviews, the news industry, and doing what you love. Here’s an exchange about bookstores:
Ray Bradbury: A lot of it is the smell of books. There are--a lot of those bookstores were used bookstores. Some were high-quality used books and new publications, but the other bookstores were ... a lot of used books, and there’s thousands of them in there, and they were covered with dust and the smell of ancient Egypt. So, you go into a used bookstore and surprise yourself. Surprise in life should be everything. You shouldn’t know what you’re doing. You should go into a bookstore to be surprised and changed. So the bookstores change you and reveal new sides of yourself. That’s the importance of a used bookstore.

Steve Wasserman: And is something being lost with the disappearance of these bookstores, even as the technology for conveying to people the contents of books seems to every day advance?

Ray Bradbury: The bookstores are there for you to stumble over yourself. You must--that’s the trouble. ... Universities do not teach you; they do not discover you. I raised myself in used bookstores. I went in looking for myself and I found me on every shelf. I opened strange books. I saw a mirror image of myself in there and said, “Oh, my God, that’s me! I’ll take that. I’ll go home.” So used bookstores are surprise boxes to be opened constantly. And they’re not there now, so there’s no chance of revealing people to themselves. They don’t get revealed with these new inventions, with the, the telephones that they use, with the Internet and what have you. That’s no surprise--it doesn’t work.
Thanks to SF Signal for bringing this interview to our attention.

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