Posted by: gillarbuthnott | June 8, 2012

Make Haste to Live…

When my much older brother went off to university I fell, like a swarm of one locust, on the contents of his bookshelf. He was an eclectic reader, and over the next few days I tried Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos by Miriam Rothschild and Poker, Game of Skill, among others. Then I picked up I, Robot and fell in love with science fiction. Hopelessly addicted, I frittered my pocket money away at Bobby’s Bookshop in Morrison St, Edinburgh, which effectively hired out Marvel comics (you bought them second hand, read them, and sold them back again) and was captivated by Hulk, Superman and, especially, Sub-Mariner.

Back at the bookshelf, I reached for Dandelion Wine, and found a whole new universe. Ray Bradbury saw the world through a prism that was subtly different from anyone else, allowing him to make the mundane and familiar beautiful or sinister – sometimes both. I enjoyed his novels, but it was his short stories that lit up my mind. I love so many of them, but here are two of my favourites.

 Jack-in-the-Box is about a boy kept indoors in isolation by his mother, who tells him he will die if he goes outside. When he finally leaves the house he is entranced by everything he sees, and runs down the street shouting ‘I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m glad I’m dead!’ That’s stayed with me for along time.

In Another Fine Mess the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy enlessly push a piano up a hill until two old ladies find a way to release them to rest…

Actually, it’s all but impossible to give a synopsis of any of his stories, because they are about language as much as plot.

And now he’s gone. Here’s how he ends the afterword to the collection Quicker Than the Eye:

Make haste to live.

Oh, God, yes.

Live. And write. With great haste.

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