Monday, August 28, 2006

Ray Bradbury and the Book-Signing

In October of 1992, I was a graduate student at the University of Southern California, when Ray Bradbury came to campus for a pre-Halloween book-signing. It was nearly Christmas-shopping time, and I knew my father was a fan of Bradbury's work, so I resolved to get there and endure any line for the chance to have Bradbury's book with Bradbury's signature.

It was important to me to meet Bradbury and get that signed book for my dad.... Earlier that same year, my dad had spent several weeks in Baystate Hospital's intensive care unit after coming within minutes of dying of septic shock. He was let out the hospital in February, but faced months (even years) of recovery still. Even though he was slowly getting better, when I left for grad school in August I felt I was abandoning my dad in the middle of a crisis.

I remember waiting in line for Bradbury's autograph, and wishing my dad was there himself. When my turn came, I summoned my thoughts and emotions about my dad's illness, and quietly told the author the important points about why I was so happy to meet him and have him sign a book for me. Bradbury told me that he himself had been recently ill, and he hoped for my dad's good health. He was friendly, he looked me in the eye, and he allowed me the extra minute for my special request. In my dad's copy of Yestermorrow, he wrote:
Tom, Stay Well! Ray Bradbury
October 23, 1992

And that was it. One minute with Ray Bradbury, but a quality minute. One short note inside a book, but a message that let me give my father a gift nobody else would have: that book -- with that note -- could only be for my dad.

In a recent interview with Pasadena's KPCC, Bradbury talked about his writing: "I write hours every single day for the last 70 years. So that's how I'm spending my 86th birthday," he said. "You just keep doing it because it's so great."

Ray Bradbury turned 86 just the other day. At the risk of sounding derivative, stay well Mr. Bradbury, and thank you!


Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, you made me cry
Love Daisy

Stewart Sternberg said...

A nice posting. I consider Ray Bradbury my metaphysical father. His work has been at my shoulder through most of my life and he has served as an inspiration to me as a writer.