Guess who my favorite author is.
C'mon. Guess! Guess! Giveup? It's Ray Bradbury.
A college professor asked us who our favorite authors were. Then he asked us why. And then he observed that writers usually prefer people who write with a similar style to their own.
No, I said. I don't write like Ray Bradbury. I couldn't write like Ray Bradbury.
Except now, years later, maybe I could—sort of.
I don't reread books very often, but I recently read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the third time.
Ray does tend to go over the top and drown you in metaphor. I don't aspire to write exactly like him. (I prefer an area somewhere in between him and Isaac Asimov.) But I get such a kick out of Bradbury's use of words. And lately, after having my writing pruned to a nub in 2010 by a zealous critique group, I'm letting it grow back into something less wild and dense, but still thick and leafy the way I like it.
And maybe, if I do say so myself, it's a little more like Ray Bradbury than I ever dreamed.
Is that good or is it bad? I don't know go ask your dad. (I'm influenced by Dr. Suess as well.)
It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But who am I trying to please, here? Only myself. By imitating Ray Bradbury? No. Just letting all that reading I did in middle school come through.
The quote at the top is the first paragraph of the first chapter of Something Wicked This Way Comes, published in 1962. (And if you've seen the movie version of Something Wicked but never read the book—well, don't think they're the same thing. I don't think it's possible to translate writing like this into a movie without losing most of the substance.) Here's a little bit more:
So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.
No, not the grass. The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began.
“Howdy boys!” called the man all dressed in storm-colored clothes. “Folks home?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Got any money yourselves?”
The boys shook their heads.
“Well—” The salesman walked about three feet, stopped and hunched his shoulders. Suddenly he seemed aware of house windows or the cold sky staring at his neck. He turned slowly, sniffing the air. Wind rattled the empty trees. Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves gold. But the sun vanished, the coins were spent, the air blew gray; the salesman shook himself from the spell.