Gary Earl Ross - WBFO Commentary 2:59
An Open Letter to Ray Bradbury
Dear Mr. Bradbury,
Picture a black boy of ten in the early Sixties in
There are books at home, some he has read, others his parents say he’s too young to read. He enjoyed Tom Sawyer but didn’t quite understand Huckleberry Finn. One Saturday morning in the spring, his mother takes him for his first library card. The librarian directs the boy’s little brothers to picture books and the boy himself to the junior section. Just when he is certain that section contains more books for babies, he chances upon a volume titled R is for Rocket by someone he has never heard of, Ray Bradbury.
The boy uses his brand new library card to check the book
out. At home he spends the rest of Saturday and part of Sunday reading. For the
first time he understands irony, when a time traveler changes history by
stepping on a prehistoric butterfly in “A Sound of Thunder.” For the first time
he identifies with a character, the boy whose father flies into the sun in “
R is for Rocket
becomes this boy’s gateway to the infinite world of books, imagination, and
ideas. In weekly trips to the branch library he discovers other writers, from
Fast forward forty plus years. With undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, the boy is now a professor, fiction writer, and playwright. Imagine his delight when the literary center on whose board he sits selects Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 as the book the entire community will read for the NEA’s Big Read Project. Yes, Fahrenheit 451 is the ultimate book about the importance of books and keeping totalitarianism at bay. But for one child who found a particular book at a pivotal moment in his life, the selection is a chance to say, “Thanks, Ray.”
Gary Earl Ross.
A professor at the UB EOC, Gary Earl Ross is the author of two short story collections, The Wheel of Desire and Shimmerville, and the play Matter of Intent, winner of the 2005 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.