Who is that Illustrated Man?

cover imageRevisiting childhood memories as adults can sometimes leave those memories… paled. Or smaller. Or totally rocking!

As a kid I loved reading Ray Bradbury, not an author usually associated with childhood reading. I can’t remember how I came across the iconic American writer in the first place. I was never assigned to read The Illustrated Man or Fahrenheit 451 in English class. Yet after this revelatory discovery, I consumed as many Bradbury books as the school library held. 

Recently, I reread The Illustrated Man (25 years after the first read) and discovered that time had erased most memory of this short story collection. I wondered what had so appealed to me as a child about this book? Published in the 1950s, much of  The Illustrated Man takes place in the future. 2005. Or 1979. Or 1990. Books that include rockets or interplanetary travel don’t interest me. Now I realize that these topics must have interested me once.

With this most recent read-through, I chose to not reject the book at every mention of Martians or space explorers, food-delivery tubes or electro-magnet dusting machines. Instead, I marveled at Bradbury’s extraordinary gift at exploring the subtle division between impressionable children and stoic adults, as well as humanity’s conflict between technology and psychology. The heartbreaking tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick at the end of the story, “Marionettes, Inc.” struck me as deeply devastating the second time through as it did the first.

Have you tried revisiting favourite childhood reads? What was your reaction?

Five book challenge on steroids?

coverProfessor Jim Flynn is a world recognised expert on intelligence. He has written The Torchlight List – two hundred books which he hopes people will begin to read (or re-read) to gain an understanding of the world.  Reading these books  will, he believes, free people from being just “swept along by the river of time with no real comprehension of what is happening to them”.

Like all lists, it is intensely personal. Prof. Flynn is an American who has taught at Otago University for many years. As a New Zealander you might want to see something of our culture reflected there . So instead of a book about American socialist Eugene Debs you might want to read something by John A Lee. He  recommends books by the American Civil War historian Bruce Catton and maybe reading Judith Binney or James Belich would be better for us New Zealanders. On the other hand the American Civil War has a powerful fascination and much can be learnt that is applicable to all internal conflicts. The treasure house still has a copy of Bruce Catton’s centennial history of the civil war.

In his introduction he launches a five book challenge – to read:

His bet:  “at least two of these will move you to tears and awaken emotions beyond anything pop culture can do”. The other challenge is “Read for forty minutes before bed each night to clear your mind of the day’s concerns”.

I’d have to say reading at the end of the day often sends me to sleep but I’m tempted to read two of the five just to see what I think.