Bradbury on writing

An interesting interview with the recently deceased Ray Bradbury is making the rounds on the Internet. He’s less than kind on the value of college in relation to writing.

You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices. They may like Henry James, but what if you don’t want to write like Henry James? They may like John Irving, for instance, who’s the bore of all time. A lot of the people whose work they’ve taught in the schools for the last thirty years, I can’t understand why people read them and why they are taught.

So how does one learn to write? The answer, according to Bradbury, is the library.

I’m completely library educated… I went down to the library when I was in grade school in Waukegan, and in high school in Los Angeles, and spent long days every summer in the library…with the library, it’s like catnip, I suppose: you begin to run in circles because there’s so much to look at and read. And it’s far more fun than going to school, simply because you make up your own list and you don’t have to listen to anyone. When I would see some of the books my kids were forced to bring home and read by some of their teachers, and were graded on—well, what if you don’t like those books?

I am a librarian. I discovered me in the library. I went to find me in the library. Before I fell in love with libraries, I was just a six-year-old boy. The library fueled all of my curiosities, from dinosaurs to ancient Egypt. When I graduated from high school in 1938, I began going to the library three nights a week. I did this every week for almost ten years and finally, in 1947, around the time I got married, I figured I was done. So I graduated from the library when I was twenty-seven. I discovered that the library is the real school.

This largely mirrors my own views. We go on and on about ways to educate people in this country but there’s a perfectly good educational institution — the library — in every city. People just need to find the will to use it.

I was just at the library today, in fact. I notice there’s a lot of homeless people there. It seems quite possible that they’re gathering knowledge, filling their brains with a total understanding of science, technology, culture and history. And then, when the unavoidable Armageddon arrives, when the water stops flowing, the oil dries up and food becomes scarce, the homeless will step forward and say, “We have the solution. We have spent our lives in the library gathering knowledge for this very day.” They will offer to save humanity, but only if non-homeless people have sex with grimy, smelly, unbathed homeless people. That will be their ultimate victory.

2 Responses to “Bradbury on writing”

  1. John Saleeby

    I used to be a big Library person when I was a kid which I eventually found left me completely unprepared for the Real World. I am now a Lay Around Staring At The Ceiling Motherfucker who will probably finish his Life on the Street – Or back in the Library, if they still have such places in the Future (Which I doubt).

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