I remember the frightening weekend nights from a distant adolescence back in Romania, unable to move from in front of the TV where I watched paralyzed with horror a series of enthralling adaptations from Ray Bradbury’s stories. But apart from that, I cannot say that I am a big fan of the “weird tales” genre. Yet, how could I resist a book called Zen in the Art of Writing?
This is a collection of essays on writing, quite auto-biographical and self-absorbed, tempered by no fake modesty or excuses. It’s a true ars poetica, like all great, successful writers should leave behind.
It is a very short book, made of nine essays and eight poems, at places self-indulgent, at times overwhelmingly brilliant.
The main piece of advice Ray Bradbury gives about writing is to be true. Because “when a man talks from his heart, in his moment of truth, he speaks poetry.” Be in love with life and unafraid to explore it, like “a drunk in charge of a bicycle”. Don’t think, don’t restrain or distort the muse. Dare “to love silly things”. Dare to confront your “thing at the top of the stairs”, the thing that keeps you too paralyzed to live your life.
“It took me many years to write myself out of the attic, where I had to make do with my own eventual mortality, make it to the living room, then out to the lawn and sunlight where the dandelions had come up, ready for wine.”
One biographical detail which I found interesting is that Ray Bradbury is able to remember all his life, from the moment he was born. He remembers the place, the doctor, the scalpel–details of the circumcision on the fourth day of his life.
I would like to close with another quote, which summarizes it all for me: “We have our Arts so we don’t die of Truth.” How beautiful and perfect is that?