I have been in love with the English language for as long as I can remember. I am a lifelong reader, and I am passionate about teaching the value of literature to high school students.
After all, there is a reason that we continue to study Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain, and Austen. We do not just read their work. We engage with the authors.
In fact, I believe it is essential for the intellectual well being of our society in this age of Twitter and truncated texting for new generations to understand how masters of letters have truly lain the foundations of our civilization with carefully crafted words, beautifully expressed ideas.
That said, I am not part of that new movement in academia that attempts to undermine the classics with the cloying compromises new age critics make in the name of multiculturalism.
In my opinion, a work must stand or fall on its own merit, whatever the background of an author. Formulaic fiction that panders to political correctness is easily forgotten. Real masterpieces endure, influence, and deserve to be read regardless of who wrote them.
A giant of American literature who would strongly agree with me on this point was Ray Bradbury. Known for exploring the destructive qualities of all that is PC in the arts through books like his seminal Fahrenheit 451, this beloved icon has sadly passed away this week. He will be greatly missed, as he has long been part of that pantheon of greats who have taken centuries to create the Western canon.
While I will always marvel at the keen societal insights and raw imagination on display in the dystopia he created for fireman Guy Montag, the first thing I ever remember reading by Ray Bradbury was “All Summer in a Day.”
I do not know exactly how old I was when the pale “other” as explored in that short story first penetrated my mind, but for more than thirty years, a young girl’s pain as she is locked in a closet on the planet of Venus has been imprinted inside of me.
For this reason, I know Ray Bradbury is truly a master.
In my estimation, classic works of literature must always accomplish three things. First, they must entertain. Second, they must make one think. Third, they must move the reader’s heart closer to understanding those special qualities that are universally human.
Ray Bradbury’s best work does all of these things. It is multilayered, like the onion that is his most famous character, Clarisse. It is fun to read, yet challenging and full of emotion. It is life on paper.
As he goes forth to a new plane of existence, perhaps to reunite with his beloved wife in the grey beyond, I am grateful Ray Bradbury took the time to hone his craft. I have enjoyed the many private, internal conversations I’ve have had with his ideas. I’ve reveled in introducing his creations to new generations. I am so glad he leaves so much behind for all to still consider for years to come.
Rest in peace, great American writer. You’ve earned your place amongst the stars.