June 25th, 2024

"Six Masterpieces of Tomorrow"


It took about a year to get to me, but I finally found a copy of the complete Ray Bradbury box set I quietly spirited off the bookshelf over dad's desk when I was ten.

Tolkien and Star Wars mattered a lot around that time, too, as did anything to do with King Arthur; and someone thought it was okay to sell me a copy of Brave New World  for a dime at a yard sale. But this collection blew my mind and set some sort of lifelong belief about how this kind of writing is supposed to work. When I finally got around to taking a creative writing course in my late 30s I realized how indelibly I'd been stamped by these books.

I try not to get hung up on having things, and when I lose things I try to receive their loss with equanimity: They're just things, and sometimes we lose things. And I don't collect many mementoes: I have done that at different times of my life, and as much as there is sometimes something nice about having an object that sparks some kind of memory, there is also something about them I struggle with — the parts of them that are about staking some claim to a permanent self or identity.  

But in this case it's not possible for me to see that box art and not feel some echo of the little stomach flip it gave me as a ten-year-old kid, or the way that I'd return to these stories over and over as I grew up, each time having a little more living to bring to the experience. Things I could appreciate on the level of ironic twists would land harder and become more terrifying.  Things that simply didn't register to me except as odd little sketches with no resonance would suddenly take on new poignancy. 

As much as I avoid holding on to objects or gathering mementoes because I don't care to fix some parts of myself too firmly, there are no books that have stayed with me over my entire life the way these have.