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?