Ray Bradbury Has Died

by Henry Farrell on June 6, 2012

“Locusmag notice here”:http://www.locusmag.com/News/2012/06/ray-bradbury-1920-2012/. His earlier work was better than his later, and his short stories were better than his novels – some of them (especially the ones where over-ripe sentimental Americana turns into horror) are unforgettable. I’ve always had a specific weakness for the handful of stories he set in Ireland (where he lived for a bit, while working on a John Huston film), even though they’re far from his best. His piece, “The Anthem Sprinters,” about Irish cinema-goers’ mad rush for the exits after the film had finished, so as to avoid having to stand for the obligatory rendition of the National Anthem, captures something that America could learn from (I was reminded of it last week during the Chris Hayes disrespectin’ Memorial Day nonsense-kerfuffle). But his Mars stories and one-offs like “The Small Assassin” and “There Will Come Soft Rains” are what I think he’ll be remembered for.

Life, fate and irony

by niamh on June 6, 2012

Not long before I read Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty, I happened to read Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (prompted by BBC Radio 4’s excellent 13-part dramatization), so I was very struck by the parallels in scale and approach between the two works. Both are conceived on a vast scale; both draw the reader into the lives of a large number of characters at all strata of society. In both books, real historical people mingle with fictional characters. The long shadow of Tolstoy is apparent in both. Grossman had a real advantage over Spufford in that he’d lived through the siege of Stalingrad which features so centrally in his novel, and he’d had exceptional freedom as a war reporter to talk to people from many different backgrounds. Of course Tolstoy had to recreate Napoleon’s invasion of Russia from research and imagination, but he too was immersed in his own society and culture, and was able to avail of first-hand encounters with veterans of the campaign. Spufford has had to re-imagine the world of Khrushchev’s Soviet Union much more thoroughly, through extensive engagement with scholarly literature, memoirs and other sources, in this vivid and beautifully written book.

But it’s the contrasts between Grossman’s and Spufford’s books that are perhaps more striking.

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