Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations edited by Sam Weller
Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, edited by Sam Weller, is actually several interviews, conducted over the last two years of Bradbury’s life, plus a handful of rough essays dictated by Bradbury to Weller, his long-time biographer. Despite this, the book is relatively slim, coming in at about 90 pages, with a lot of white space. This is not meant, though, to be an in-depth look at (or listen to) Bradbury; for that you’ll want to turn to other sources, including Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Listen to the Echoes: The Bradbury Interviews. This is just a chance to hear the near-final words of a true legend, and that alone makes it worth your time, I’d say.
Along with the relatively small amount of material, there is also some repetition of well-known stories. So those well-versed in Bradbury’s history will recognize Bradbury’s references to seeing a Mr. Electro at a carnival (appearing in Something Wicked This Way Comes) when he was a child, or to working on the script of Moby Dick. But as Weller says in his introduction, he did try to limit such repetition, so the familiar references are present, but not at any great length. Unfortunately, because some of the interviews are public ones, where Bradbury took questions from the audience, some questions are not particularly probing or substantive, and the same could be said about some of Bradbury’s’ responses.
That all said, there were several moments that either informed, tickled, enthralled, or moved me (sometimes simultaneously). For instance, I’d somehow missed or had forgotten that the folks at NASA had let Bradbury drive the Mars Rover for a while. So fantastically appropriate, of course, for the writer so associated with Mars via his Martian Chronicles, but also so fantastically ironic, as Bradbury has never actually driven a car. I loved his idea of a mummy statue outside the library that asks you “Where would you like to go in the library” and when you answer: “for the young and young at heart, he sends you down a rabbit hole into the library. When you slide down and arrive, there are books all around, and by every shelf there is a different mummy and you speak to them and ask, “What’s on this shelf?” and it tells you…”
Who wouldn’t love going to that library?
There were other such moments: his explanation of why magicians and writers are so similar, his grief over his cat’s death, his idea of life as just an interruption in a wider, better dream, and so on.
My one complaint is I would have liked to have some of Bradbury’s claims end or footnoted. These are the recollections of a frail 90-year-old, relating some events from 60 or 70 years ago, and so it would have been nice to know whether all he was saying was true or not, especially when it came to some pretty strong claims, as when he accused Rod Serling of stealing ideas. I can see why Weller would want to just have Bradbury’s words speak for themselves, but I still would have preferred at least some verification (or not).
So, Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, is a slim work without a lot of text, some of which is possibly familiar or a little banal or a bit repetitive, and some of which may just be poorly recalled. But if you’re a true fan of Bradbury’s work, or just love the guy for not just his work but for his outsized influence and his outlook on life, then you’ll certainly find some bits (small bits quickly read) of enjoyment in here. And you’ll mourn again the hole left by the man who recapped his own life by saying, “Everything I did was pure love. Pure love. And if you live that way, you’ve had a great life.” He did, and luckily for many of us, we got to share his life’s more imaginative moments.