Sunday, June 17, 2012
This record album is one we had when I was a kid. "Where Are You?" is still one of my favorite Sinatra songs. We used to make my Dad pose just like Sinatra, arm over the face, cigarette held just so ... I swear, he looked just like him that way. Dad would sometimes pretend he was annoyed when we clamored for him to pose, but he was such a ham, and he always did it for us. He did everything for us. He adored my Mom and devoted himself to her and his seven kids He was a good writer and photographer, a devout Catholic who worked hard to put us through Catholic school. He taught me to love reading, Shakespeare, classical music, and started me on my life-long love of classic movies. He was wonderfully funny, with the kind of dark and intelligent wit I've always liked the most. He was like ... well, like Robert Preston in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Clifton Webb in Cheaper By The Dozen, Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird ... all rolled into one. Shakespeare always says it best, it seems ... when Hamlet describes his dead father to friend Horatio, he says, "He was a man, take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again."
My Dad, Don Barnes, died in 1978 at the age of 52. The youngest of his well-loved children was only 15. The absence of that powerful presence left its mark on all of us. We all knew how lucky we were to have had such a father, and his place has never been filled. When I think of him, I remember what went through my head the day he died. I thought of it because I had learned it from him. It is what Horatio said to his dying friend, Hamlet, "Good night sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Happy Father's Day, Dad.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I've heard it said that the world cannot afford to lose a great man. We lost one yesterday, and what his quote above says to me is that we can ill afford it in today's artistic culture (or lack thereof). Ray Bradbury shaped my reading tastes in a profound way, was responsible in a big way for my passion for reading, and his books have their own shelf in my big bookcase. When I read about Bradbury's death, I remembered working as a page at the public library when I was in high school. I would put away returned books and work at what we called reading the shelves, making sure they were in order. I knew every book in that library by the time I graduated. Fiction, biography, westerns, cookbooks, non-fiction of every sort ... I could tell people where everything could be found. I remember that the head librarian once said that Bradbury's work needed their own classification. They were always put into the science fiction section, but his incredible body of work just doesn't fit with technological space fiction, robots and cosmic wars.
Bradbury was a poet who wrote in prose. He could catch at your fears, your thrills and your heart all in one short story. He wrote many books, countless short stories, essays, and actually was able to improve Melville with his contributions to the script for the movie Moby Dick. That says a lot to me, as I tend to be a purist when it comes to filming literature. He remembered childhood better than any other writer, the feelings, the dreams ... his friends and family said he really was just a big kid all his life. How wonderful for us. In my small way, I would like to pay tribute to this great writer just by naming my very favorites of his books and short stories. Just the titles are like poetry.
Short stories: The Golden Apples of the Sun ... Kaleidoscope ... There Will Come Soft Rains ... The Veldt ... The Fog Horn ... The Sound Of Thunder ... The Homecoming ... Uncle Einar ... The Long Rain ... Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed ... The Whole Town is Sleeping ...
Books: Something Wicked This Way Comes ... R Is For Rocket ... S Is For Space ... The Martian Chronicles (collection) ... Dandelion Wine ... Fahrenheit 451 ... The Illustrated Man ...
It is so difficult to pick, but those are the ones that pop into my head first, which will remain forever in my mind and heart.