[REVIEW] ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING BY RAY BRADBURY

Dear Reader,

Remember when I watched that video by Ariel Bissett and was convinced that I, too, needed to buy a typewriter? Well, in that same video, she recommended the book “Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury. She said she loved to read this book whenever she needed motivation to write. So I requested it from the library because, just like how I’m a sucker for books about books/reading, I’m also a sucker for books about writing.

“Zen in the Art of Writing” is actually a collection of essays written by Ray Bradbury that were published in his lifetime. He talks about his processes and inspirations. He has essays about Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles–about how they came to be as well as what they have continued to be and mean to him. He also just has a lot of anecdotes from his childhood and even adult life that really prove just how weird of a character he was.

And I mean that as a sincere compliment. After all, everybody knows that the weird ones are always the ones to change the world.

Before picking this up, I had never read anything by Ray Bradbury. We didn’t have to read Fahrenheit 451 in any of my high school English classes and I had never even heard of his other stuff–though I understand now that his other work was extremely successful as well.

But I devoured this. It was a pretty easy read because of how short it is. All of his essays are so compact and he doesn’t really stray from his main point–which is something I tend to worry about when reading something written by “one of the greats.” Bradbury is a bit different, though. His writing isn’t overtly flowery and his vocabulary isn’t super complicated or outdated, even. He wrote about his editing process, so I know he has one, but his writing reads more like a stream of conscious thought. Even so, when he does use larger words or phrases something in a more poetic fashion, it doesn’t seem out of place. In fact, one of my favorite things he does is using multiple beautifully-stated examples or metaphors to explain something. It is how he thinks. It just comes across as authentic.

Like I said, I checked this book out of the library, meaning I had to resist marking the pages. I do plan to buy my own copy, though, so I can highlight, star, and underline to my heart’s content. For the time being, though, I decided to take notes on my typewriter of certain quotes or sentiments I liked. I might even make a post later of my favorite parts. It’d be too much to include here, though, because my notes go on for pages.

At this point, it probably goes without saying that I rated this book 5 stars. It’s one of my new favorites and I’m so excited to not only reread it, but to share it in my future classroom. There were so many passages and lines that I wrote out because I know they can benefit students. There are a few entire essays that I want my future classes to read, but there are also so many quotes and sentiments I want to share with them about writing and editing and reading and living.

In this book, Bradbury talked about why we read–and why we read what we read. About science-fiction, he said “It’s not escapist, it’s essential; it’s problem-solving.” He also talked about why we write. Everyone has a story–and just like how there was only one Shakespeare and one Dickens, there is only one of every single person in the world.

“You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw. Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper. Make your own individual spectroscopic reading.”

Everyone is a poet, he said. This is clear when you get them talking about something they love–when you see their passion burning through them in front of your eyes.

Of course, everyone has their own story and their own things to share, but they might get caught up when they try to communicate. Language trips them up. So it is vital that we learn the tricks of the trade–you must learn technique so you don’t trip when you try to run.

God that man was a genius. Not only was he great, but he had the power to make everyone else feel like they could be great, too.

Sincerely,

Sammy

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