[dl] Books

Or if you’re legendary author Ray Bradbury, you get many more. The octogenarian continues to churn out new material for one reason: He simply loves what he does.

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WHEN RAY BRADBURY WAS A CHILD, a carnival performer named Mr. Electrico instructed him to “live forever.” The encounter inspired Bradbury to write, and he’s done so seemingly nonstop ever since, penning dozens of novels — including Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles — and thousands of short stories. Though the celebrated scribe turns 90 later this year, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. With three books due for publication in the next 12 months — including a reissue of The Stories of Ray Bradbury (Random House, $32), a collection of 100 of Bradbury’s short stories that were hand-selected by the man himself — Bradbury may well live forever through his work.

You released three books in 2009, have two more coming out this year and at least one in 2011. You’ll be 90 in a few months. Explain yourself, good sir.
Love is easy, and I love writing. You can’t resist love. You get an idea, someone says something, and you’re in love. I went to dinner in Denver about 20 years ago and heard the lady at the next table say to her friends, “Oh, my God, I’ll bet dogs think every day is Christmas.” I went up to her and said, “Madam, thank you. You’ve just given me a title. I’m going back to my hotel, and I’m going to write a book called Dogs Think That Every Day Is Christmas.” That’s how these things happen.

You’ve said that we write because we want to be loved.
That’s the best reason, isn’t it? Love is the answer to everything. It’s the only reason to do anything. If you don’t write stories you love, you’ll never make it. If you don’t write stories that other people love, you’ll never make it. People love The Martian Chronicles. People love Something Wicked This Way Comes. I’ve been well loved in this lifetime.

What’s been the key to being so prolific — and so well loved — as an author for some seven decades now?
It’s pure Zen Buddhism: Don’t try to do, just do. If you live this life without trying, it’s good. If you try too hard, it won’t be any good. It just has to be done, period — like an explosion.

You began writing when you were 12. At what point did you realize, “I’m pretty good at this”?
Right below my graduation picture in my high school yearbook, there are three quotes from me: “Likes to write stories. Admired as a thespian. Headed for literary distinction.” I hadn’t really written one story yet. All of my poetry was nonsense. I graduated high school not realizing I hadn’t gone anywhere yet, but that’s the quote I gave them about me. I kidded myself into thinking — into knowing — I would do what I had to do. It was the Great Depression, after all.

You could not afford to go to college, so you instead got your education in the public library.
I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves — you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories. We need to continue making possible these love affairs we have with literature, which makes us better people.

What would you like someone to take from reading your books?
I am a dog who thinks every day is Christmas. If you’re going to be with me, you’ve got to be a dog like me.