Ray Bradbury begins his last-published essay, a piece in The New Yorker (June, 2012), with these words: “When I was seven or eight years old, I began to read the science-fiction magazines that were brought by guests into my grandparents’ boarding house in Waukegan, Illinois.”
It’s telling that the late science-fiction author, who would have turned 92 this year, began an essay in the prestigious New Yorker not with a statement referencing his pedigree but rather with a hat-tip to both his youth and his grandparents. Such a man was Ray Bradbury!
If Benji Dunn was the first of Simon Pegg’s characters to inhabit my consciousness, then Tim Bisley is perhaps the closest of all Pegg’s characters to a personification of my own repressed and pseudo-nerd psyche. Tim is the slacker comic book artist from the short-lived TV series Spaced, Pegg’s first foray into mainstream British culture and his gateway into future work with various Hollywood projects. It is the character of Tim, as well as Graeme Willy of Paul that are the closest manifestations to Pegg’s own true geek, and these characters allow Pegg to publicly explore the various social influences that have been so strong in his formation. Most prominent in both projects are references to Star Wars, comic book enthusiasm and an interest in the paranormal.
Simon Pegg first came into my consciousness as Benji Dunn, the nerdy-capable tech whiz who aids and abets Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series. Playing a lovable, dweeby scamp who shies away from violence in favor of technological trickery, Pegg navigated his way into my heart. And that was before he gave me zombies. Benji is an innocent nerd sucked irrevocably into a bigger story, and it is this same subtle but lovable nerdiness that Pegg explores and delivers in his autobiography, Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid. In detailing the particulars from his upbringing in rural England to starring in some of our generations’ funniest movies, Pegg makes it clear that his journey from boy to kid was simply unavoidable.
Dreams Past, Dreams Future: On Steve Erickson's Obama Novel
by Eric Meckley
On November 4th, 2008 I was in my apartment in Evanston, Illinois. As far as I remember, I wasn’t watching the results of the Presidential Election. Whether I was paying any attention or not, the events of the night made little or no lasting impression on me. What took place that night hangs no more vibrantly in my mind than the facts I learned about the Whiskey Rebellion in fourth grade, the first time my particularly desolate corner of northwestern Pennsylvania was mentioned in our history book. I was nearing the nadir of my political disaffection. I did not vote in the election.
(I should note here, on the outset, that this is not a real book review. There are a number of good and bad reviews of the book already available, including the New York Times 1946 review.)
There are really only two reasons to write a review of a National Book Award winning novel published in 1946. One is to celebrate the author. The other is to ask why we’ve stopped reading the book. InAll the King’s Men those two purposes meet hand in hand. When we begin to extol Robert Penn Warren and consider the extent and variety of his success, we must ask why he is fading so quickly from prominence.
Warren is the only author to receive a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and for poetry. His three Pulitzers place him second (behind four others) on the all time list. He was selected the national Poet Laureate in 1945. All the Kings’ Men won the National Book Award, and the collection Promiseswon the National Book Award for Poetry. He was selected for the Jefferson Lecture, rewarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and elected as a MacArthur Fellow. Yet now compared with his contemporaries – the great American novelists Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner – Warren has almost disappeared from our literary history, relegated to the occasional odd course on Southern American literature.
In this, the first of our monthly conversations, we discuss the late Ray Bradbury’s masterful short story collection The Illustrated Man. Blake & I set out to cover the book in one sitting, but discovered we just had too much to talk about… So, this will be the first part of a conversation carried on throughout the month of August. Click the photos above to learn more about Bradbury or order the story collection.
Eric: So, what’d you think of the collection? Have your read any Bradbury before?
Blake: I’m happy to say that both were required reading. And, perhaps more importantly, I had a buddy who was really into Bradbury. He was always talking my ear off about Bradbury.
Eric: That’s fantastic. I think my younger brother read 451 in high school.
Blake: Nice. But not you?
Eric: Sadly, no. Somehow (unsurprisingly) my high school thought it would be better for us to read Heat and Dust about the love affairs of British colonialists in India, rather than one of America’s great contemporary writers.
Blake: Ahh, I see…
Eric: But oh well. My one consolation is the fun I’ve had reading him now for the first time. And I’ve got lots to look forward to…