I attended a fantastic event this afternoon as part of SB Reads (reading Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451): hearing Ray Bradbury speak in person! The event began with an un-named woman coming on stage and doing an impressive theatrical reading from F451. Turns out she is an actress.
After a short introduction by the director of our public library, Thomas Steinbeck (son of John Steinbeck) came on and gave a funny, interesting, and entertaining introduction of Ray Bradbury. It turns out John Steinbeck used to make his kids recite lines from literature to get their allowance, food at the dinner table, etc. Thomas Steinbeck used to quote Ray Bradbury.
Then they wheeled out 89 year old Ray Bradbury who immediately caught our hearts by asking to be wheeled to the front of the stage to "be closer to the people" instead of behind the table they had set up for him. Bradbury told the story of how F451 came to be, starting out as the short story thePedestrian. He wrote the Pedestrian after an encounter with a policeman who questioned him for walking! He told the well-known story of typingF451 in a UCLA typewriter room (at 10 cents for half an hour) over the course of 9 days and $9.80. It was published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and then he was asked to extend it to a novel, which he did by 1953.
He told a funny story about John Houston calling him soon thereafter to go to Ireland and write the screenplay for Moby Dick. Bradbury asked for 24 hours and raced home to read the novel since he hadn't ever, saying to his wife, " I have to read this book and give a book report on it tomorrow." He said yes to Houston and spent a year in Ireland working on the screenplay.
He was very complimentary to libraries throughout his talk, saying he learned more in libraries than in high school or college. He fell in love with books as a teenager and was horrified at 15 when he saw Hitler's Nazis burning books and heard about Stalin's controlling authors. He said it "killed his heart".
He told us that last year he got a call from the Alexandria Library in Egypt telling him that F451 had been translated into Egyptian and was now housed in the library in Alexandria. He thought that was very fitting since it is where books were first burned 5,000 years ago.
He is working on a new film of F451 with Mel Gibson, which I think is interesting. He has also been traveling throughout our area (Long Beach, Ventura, Simi Valley) to help save local libraries. He showed us a medal that he got from the French a couple years ago, making him a Commander in Arts and Letters; he finished with "so, I command you to love my novel!"