23 August 2013

"I don't believe in colleges and universities" - updated

From a 2009 New York Times article about Ray Bradbury, then approaching 90 years of age:
"...among Mr. Bradbury’s passions, none burn quite as hot as his lifelong enthusiasm for halls of books. His most famous novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” which concerns book burning, was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of the University of California, Los Angeles, library; his novel “Something Wicked This Way Comes” contains a seminal library scene...

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”
He is not a fan of the Internet, however: "“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.” More at the link.

Reposted from 2010 to commemorate Bradbury's death today.   Interestingly, I also found Bradbury's sentiment echoed by another SciFi legend, Isaac Asimov:
I received the fundamentals of my education in school, but that was not enough. My real education, the superstructure, the details, the true architecture, I got out of the public library. For an impoverished child whose family could not afford to buy books, the library was the open door to wonder and achievement, and I can never be sufficiently grateful that I had the wit to charge through that door and make the most of it. Now, when I read constantly about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that the door is closing and that American society has found one more way to destroy itself.
Asimov quote via A Writer's Ruminations.

Addendum:  Reposted from 2012 to add this observation by Bradbury on how to use a library:
I use a library the same way I’ve been describing the creative process as a writer — I don’t go in with lists of things to read, I go in blindly and reach up on shelves and take down books and open them and fall in love immediately. And if I don’t fall in love that quickly, shut the book, back on the shelf, find another book, and fall in love with it. You can only go with loves in this life.
And this:
I try to keep up with what’s being done in every field, and most children’s books are ten times more enjoyable than the average American novel right now.
Text from a public television interview in the 1970s, posted at Brain Pickings.


  1. Ray always has been quite the Luddite for a sci-fi writer. Still, I grew up loving his fantastical tales. Great storyteller.

    1. Not a Luddite, he simply avoided technology that decreased his immersion in the world, as I understand him. This is an important thing for a writer. One gains a different feel for a city walking or riding a bicycle than driving in a steel and glass bubble.

  2. This rings so true for me, In 4th grade I was placed in a "special reading" class,in my very small hometown in Missouri. Looking back, I wonder what that programme was about? But I got full and free access to the high school library, and that is where I discovered Ray. Before that, my big sisters friend was sneaking books to me, after I had already read everything on my mothers bookshelf that was forbidden.

    In my adult life I was delighted to find the vast expanse of public libraries, starting with the Dallas Public Library, and moving on to the Los Angels County system. In Dallas you could check out original art for two weeks or so. Hang it on your wall, enjoy and then return.

    But the L.A. County library system was the most amazing. I put in a request about stained glass books and they brought books 3 feet high on my desk from all over the place. I turned that into my "career." Every thing I know, I learned from the library for the most part.

    Ray Bradbury changed my life, at a very young age and has a great deal to do with who I am today. If we save anything, near the top of my list would be the public library.

  3. Remember what Groucho Marx said -
    "Outside of a dog a book is mans best friend, Inside of a dog it's too dark to read"

  4. Jerry the DallasiteAugust 23, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    As a hearing-impaired boy, I grew up haunting the city and the local college libraries in my small town. I hope they will always be available to everyone.

  5. As a kid and young teen, I would often go with my dad to his workplace at Tandy Center when he had to work on a weekend. I would go hang out in the library for four or so hours reading while he worked. I learned more about literature in those days than I every have.

  6. I still could not exist without libraries! I'm retired with a limited income, and simply could not afford to buy at least three books a week. Even Ebooks are quite expensive.

  7. I do understand Bradbury's remark about the internet's distractions, but find it short-sighted. Yes, it's a mile wide and an inch deep, but if you spot the right ripple you're free to explore to your heart's content, and certainly not just on-line. (The story about stained glass becoming a career is a perfect example.)

    Thank you, tywkiwdbi, for providing so many ripples daily. And thanks to my local library for providing follow-up resources as needed.

  8. There is no technical reason why we couldn't have virtual libraries along with a 3D Environment to explore shelves of books, sorted by subject, theme or popularity. You could even add comments and ear-marks from other visitors and so on. It's all bogged down by the arbitrarily high price of books.

    Virtual libraries also have to somehow overcome the absurdity of having to "return" digital books.


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