Anyone who lives as long as Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles author Ray Bradbury and accomplishes as much as he did is likely to sound as fulfilled as he does throughout Listen To The Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews. Sam Weller, who wrote 2005’s biography The Bradbury Chronicles, conducted Echoes’ interviews during research for Chronicles and after, so it can be hard to fix Bradbury’s occasional “today”s in time, but what matters is that Weller arranges the book into themed chapters that stick to their subjects. That helps make Echoes a speedy read, but it also minimizes the kind of discursion that’s vital to keeping a straight back-and-forth lively.
Bradbury is so enthusiastic that he can frankly be a little wearying. He’s certainly opinionated, and not afraid to be contrary, with opinions like “The Watergate thing destroyed [Nixon], and it shouldn’t have,” or his recounting of an argument with the Smithsonian Institution’s planetarium over a presentation he wrote: “they said, ‘Well, you said the Big Bang occurred ten billion years ago.’ And I said, ‘Well, when did it?’ They said, ‘Twelve billion years ago.’ And I said, ‘Prove it.’” But Bradbury can just seem overly precious, as when he meets Gene Kelly: “he told me he loved The Martian Chronicles. I said, ‘Gene, let me top that. You just made the greatest musical ever made, Singin’ In The Rain. It is simply an incredible movie with a great screenplay, a great cast, and great numbers.’ He was enchanted with the fact that I loved him as much as he loved me.”
That exchange appears in an entire chapter dedicated to Bradbury meeting celebrities—occasionally entertaining, but not exactly enlightening. Nor are his distinctly old-fashioned views on non-narrative art (“Jackson Pollock didn’t know how to paint. There’s nothing to see there”), though it’s hard not to see their roots in his political turn rightward after the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago: “When Humphrey gave his speech that night, I was watching on television at home with [wife] Maggie, and I turned to her and said, ‘You have just witnessed the destruction of the Democratic Party.’” Bold pronouncements like these are part of the reason Bradbury earned such fame even when that was more common for writers. They’re also far less interesting than Bradbury’s work itself.