by Scoobie Davis
Exclusive: Ray Bradbury on Michael Moore
Yesterday, Ray Bradbury had a discussion and signing at the Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica. I found Bradbury's discussion of the creative writing process eye-opening. One excerpt:
My characters write themselves, just as in the case of Moby Dick. It was written by Ahab. Melville got out of bed one day and there was a rap on the door and he opened it and there was Ahab with a bloody harpoon. He says, "Ahab, what's the problem?" [Ahab] said, "That damned whale!" and Melville said, "Go get him!" and Ahab went to get him and the book was written--and it destroyed Melville's life, of course. It was his finest work but nobody wanted it, so it's very sad, very sad. So back about fifty-five years ago, I heard a rap on the door and I opened the door and Montag was standing there. And I said, "Montag, what's your problem?" He said, "I'm burning books." And I said, "You don't want to do that anymore?" He said, "No." I said, "Well, go unburn them!" and nine days later, the novel [Fahrenheit 451] was finished. Montag wrote the novel.
Bradbury also discussed his struggling days as a writer. I got a lot out of it.
Bradbury agreed with my position on higher education: "The real reason for going to City College was women. [laughter] I longed to impregnate dozens of them." Note: Bradbury, unlike me, realized it was the wrong reason and didn't go to college.
I had the opportunity to ask a question. I asked him what were his favorite and least favorite adaptations of his work. He must have only heard "least favorite" because he only mentioned his least favorite adaptation which was The Illustrated Man which he described as "a terrible film" (I agree; Roger Ebert does a good job of describing the film).
For those of you who didn't hear about it, Bradbury has been in a feud with Michael Moore over Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 whose title is based on Fahrenheit 451--which Moore appropriated without Bradbury's permission. Someone from the audience asked Bradbury his opinion of Moore. Here was Bradbury's response:
Will you ladies please shut your ears?
Here's the thing: tomorrow morning, Michael Moore is going to wake up trapped in the body of Michael Moore...
Tomorrow, I'm going to wake up trapped in the body of Ray Bradbury. There's a big difference.
[audience laughter and applause]
One final note: I made out like a bandit at the signing. I got my copy of Fahrenheit 451 signed. In addition, after the discussion, I asked the B & N manager if I could have the window banner publicizing the event. He let me have it. It's a 3' by 6' vinyl banner with Bradbury's picture and the date and time of the signing. I had Bradbury sign it also. In the margins of the banner were drawings of great writers. Next to Bradbury's picture was Shakespeare. Bradbury drew arrows pointing to his and Shakespeare's pictures and wrote, "Bill & Ray" and below it his signature. Totally phat.