Whenever an author compiles a book of essays or little-known pieces that may have been published as introductions to various articles by other authors, there is a problem. When a writer corrals his miscellaneous articles or newspaper columns, this translates into, "He owes the publisher a book, and this is the easiest way to fulfill his obligations." It has happened time and time again with everyone from Tom Robbins (his recent collection, Wild Ducks Flying Backward, reviewed in these pages, was pathetic) to T.C. Boyle's anthology of short stories previously published in a host of magazines (Tooth and Claw, also covered here, was a terribly uninspired book and nothing like his earlier and wondrous amalgams of short pieces).
And now Bradbury, the master science-fiction/fantasy storyteller of all time has constructed a book of ego-laden essays written in such a heavy hand as to make one wonder if he was even serious. All of a sudden, Ray is the know-it-all on every subject from Los Angeles traffic, amusement parks, and Hollywood to space exploration and why it's more important to land a man on a distant planet than it is dealing with a plethora of homebound problems.
Someone has told the masterful writer of The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451 that he possesses the answers to all the world's ills. And in this overstuffed tome, he tries to lay his ridiculous and pompous - and impossible - observations on us, the poor readers.
Example: "Turn off everything. patrol your house to pull the plugs on the TV, the radio, the fax, the e-mail-transmitting computer and its ingrown Internet." He's insane. Here's a man who had a series on TV, and rather than embracing the computer/Internet, the most important advancement since either TV or radio, he wants us to ignore it.
And then it a chapter called "All's Well That Ends Well ... Or Unhappily Ever After” (2003) he tells us his versions of the endings of various films including Rosemary's Baby, Adaptation, Rocky, Lawrence of Arabia, and several others.
Bradbury, someewhere, has turned into a pompous poseur. Even worse, the writing here is hackneyed and hollow and not deserving of a man of such impeccable vision. This one is not worth having.