Tag Archives: Ray Bradbury

One of the most brilliant book covers I’ve ever seen. – Fahrenheit 451

The October Country, the Martian ChroniclesA friend sent me this link in an email this morning. As Ray Bradbury, and this book in particular, occupy a special place in my heart I couldn’t help but share it with you.

Check out this fantastic cover for Bradbury’s masterpiece, Fahrenheit 451.

I’ve sat through more meetings than I count which focus on book covers. It’s a core part of my responsibilities at work. Our team strives to create innovative, eye-catching, sometimes profound, and always meaningful book covers. We take it seriously, and we work hard at it. While the old adage  “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” may be true. An equally true statement is, “Consumers determine whether or not they are interested in picking up a book in only seconds.” (Not as snappy a phrase, I know.)

But that’s it. That’s how long we’ve got to grab them with a book cover. Only a few seconds. So we’ve got to be creative.

In addition to that, publishing teams have to wrestle with the finances of book covers.  Most books in the bookstore are hardcovers with jackets, printed hardcovers, or paperbacks. That’s simply because those are the most affordable, consumer friendly formats for books. When publishing teams move away from those norms they risk two things: creating a format that consumers won’t like; or the more likely scenario – creating a format that’s too expensive to print.

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Book note: One more from Ray Bradbury

Ray BradburyI miss Ray Bradbury. Seriously.

Every October for the last five years or so I’ve read a lot of his work. October is the best time to read him. So many of his stories reference October, Halloween, autumn, and other related things. I think I’ve probably read The Homecoming on Halloween night for three or four years in a row now.

This year, however, I read so much of his stuff in the summer (Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, The Toynbee Convector, and pieces of Zen and the Art of Writing) that I’ve been giving him a break. And so I miss him.

As a result, I can’t tell you how delighted I was to stumble upon this book last week: The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012 with an introduction by none other than Mr. Bradbury. It’s now near the top of my “too-read” list.

I have no idea what his last published piece is, but this one has got to be close to it. Can’t wait to read it.

-AR

Telling Details: Some Examples

I’ve been thinking more about “telling details” this week and I thought that it might be helpful to post a few here for all of us to read. I’ve looked through various books on my shelf to find these. If you know of any other great examples off-hand please leave them in the comments section below.

Here’s the passage from chapter 2 of Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame that got me thinking about this in the first place:

“And we’ll need you to dress fifteenth-century French. I have just the items,” said Augustus as he joined them, arranging his poplin suit just so. He rearranged his silverware to perfection, then picked up the fork.

This excerpt from chapter 1 of Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham is a great example of “the telling detail” at work. Maugham not only inserts telling details about the housekeeper, Miss Fellows, but the narrator references them for the reader. Here’s the conversation between the narrator and Miss Fellows about a phone call that he neither wants to take, nor return:

“Is that the writer?” she asked me.
“It is.”
She gave the telephone a friendly glance.
“Shall I get him?”
“No, thank you.”
“What shall I say if he rings again?”
“Ask him to leave a message.”
“Very good, sir.”
She pursed her lips. She took the empty siphon, swept the room with a look to see that it was tidy, and went out. Miss Fellows was a great novel reader. I was sure that she had read all of Roy’s books. Her disapproval of my casualness suggested that she had read them with admiration.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1 of Fahrenheit 451. It’s easy to see that Guy Montag is confident in his work as a fireman:

He hung up his black beetle-colored and shined it; he hung his flameproof jacket neatly; he showered luxuriously, and then, whistling, hands in pockets, walked across the upper floor of the fire station and fell down the hole. At the last moment, when disaster seemed positive, he pulled his hands from his pockets and broke his fall by grasping the golden pole. He slid to a squeaking halt, the heels one inch from the concrete floor downstairs.

Here’s an interesting example from chapter 1 of Goblin Quest by Jim C. Hines. In this scene a large mean goblin captain (Porak) is bullying and tricking a younger weaker goblin to join his patrol that night. Notice how the telling detail is use and then interpreted for the reader. I think this is similar to how Maugham explained Miss Fellows’ above:

“Glory, fighting, and bloodshed.” The goblins puffed up like rock lizards competing for a mate. Porak smiled, a warning sign if ever there was one. “We want you to come along on patrol.”

As I’ve worked on my manuscript for the goblin project this week I’ve been focusing on inserting telling details along the way. I’m not trying to overdo it, of course, but I am finding that my manuscript lacks in this area. My plan now is to go into every major dialogue sequence in my story and see where I can re-write a sentence or two and insert telling details if they are needed.

Happy writing.

-Andy

A Book Nerd’s Pilgrimage: My visit to the Library of Congress

This week I visited the Library of Congress for the first time. For a book nerd like myself this was not unlike a pilgrimage to a holy place. The building felt like a sacred space (more than many churches I’ve been in). The longer I spent there the more I wanted to understand the world, seek out beauty and truth, and humble myself before the minds of great thinkers, and before the creator. Have you ever been to a place that made you feel that way?

By far, it’s the most beautiful and most extensive library I’ve ever been too. Just being in the presence of that many books made me want to read and write for days. I could also go on and on about the architecture and show you a myriad of snapshots but instead I’ll just stick to the highpoints:

My Favorite Statue: Neptune

This statue of Neptune and his court his outside the main entrance of the library. It’s incredible. My little photo here does not do it justice. There are many, many other great statues within the library. I’m sure I didn’t even get a chance to see them all, much less see them up close. This statue of Neptune, however, just struck me.

Library of Congress, mythology

My Favorite Book: The Gutenberg Bible

The importance of the printing press cannot easily be overstated. Read anything on world history  and you’ll run into a section about the Gutenberg Bible and Gutenberg’s printing press. It can be simply stated that the invention of the printing press with movable type drastically changed the world. Seeing this Bible was literally seeing a piece of world history.

Library of Congress

When I saw this Bible it was surrounded by a number of other tourists. I snapped this photo over someone’s shoulder only to realize afterward that we weren’t supposed to be using cameras in that area. (Lucky me!) According to Wikipedia I saw one of forty-eight copies of the Gutenberg Bible, and also, this book is considered the most valuable book in the world.

My Favorite Exhibit: Books that Shaped America

Truth be told, I didn’t get to go to that many exhibits while I was there. My family and I were only able to hang out at the library for about 90 minutes, so I wasn’t able to see and do everything that they had to offer. However, we did walk through this exhibit.

You could probably guess a good number of the books they had displayed (i.e. Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, etc. etc. etc.). However, I was pleasantly surprised by a few of their chosen books. One of my all-time favorite novels was included: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. And my toddler’s current favorite also made the cut: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss.

Some day I hope to return to the Library of Congress, get a library card, and spend a full day (or maybe two) reading books and checking out a big handful to read all week. Until then, this brief adventure will have to do. At the very least it’s one of a few book-nerd-pilgrimage-stops I can cross of my list. Now, if I can just figure out how to get to the London Book Fair

Thoughts on death, music by Longwave

I’ve been thinking about death lately. It sounds morbid, I know, but hang with me for a second here…

Recently good friends at work and at church have lost someone. I’m amazed by their persistence to carry on, and I’m profoundly affected by their pain. Another friend has a spouse who’s facing incredible (fatal?) health problems.

I also work in a part of publishing which keeps in me in constant contact with what’s going on in the world of church ministry. Right now many folks are celebrating lent. As a result I’m frequently reminded of the death of Christ right now. As I’ve mentioned before, that’s a pretty dark part of the Christian story.

And so, my thoughts to turn to death.

Death is popular literary character. I’m sure you’ve seen the angel of death, the grim reaper, or some other similar character in a number of movies (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 would be one example). Characteristically hooded and untrustworthy, he’s been employed by some of my favorite authors (Bradbury and Gaiman) and he’s more than hinted at in classics like A Christmas Carol and others.

But when real people die, is it appropriate to think of death in such terms? Doesn’t that seem crass, and disrespectful to the mourning? It’s common to think of death as a hooded guy with a scythe when we’re far from it (or him?). Popular movies and novels reveal as much. But when someone passes in reality, it’s the last thing we think of.

Interestingly, death is also personified in the Bible. Death can hold something (Acts 2:24); it is an enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26); it has a shadow (Psalm 23:4); and it’s the rider on one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rev. 6:8). If God thinks that personifying death is helpful for us to understand it – who am I to argue?

A song worth listening to when thinking about the person of death is this one. Lyrics are printed below.

when the weight is on your shoulders
come on your knees
when the weight is on your shoulders
come on your knees
wake me when it’s over
wake me please
wake me when it’s over
all the things you knew for sure
were not what they seemed
all the things you knew for sure
were not what they seemed
wake me when it’s over
wake me please
wake me when it’s over
when all the noise had gone
anything you want
i will give away just to watch you go

Book Review: “The Homecoming” by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, Dave McKeanHappy Halloween! If you have time to read only one story today then I suggest it is Ray Bradbury’s haunting short story, The Homecoming. Though it has appeared in a few collections of Bradbury’s work, it was republished in 2006 as a stand-alone hardcover book with illustrations by Dave McKean. If you can get your hands on this version you’ll be glad you did. It is quintessential Bradbury – chock full of metaphors that leave you spinning with dark imagery, cold autumn wind, and mysterious characters. I can’t help but feel sympathetic and even akin to the lonely main character, Timothy. He longs for something he can’t have, and may never have, despite reassurances that he’s better off without it.

I know I’ve felt that way before, have you?

“And the wind began…As Timothy leaned out, a flesh-and-blood gargoyle, the vast armada of tomb dust and web and wing and October leaf and graveyard blossom pelted the roofs even as on the land around the hill shadows trotted the roads and threaded the forests armed with teeth and velvet paws and flickered ears, barking to the moon.” – Bradbury, The Homecoming.