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06 June 2007

A story in the brain remembered is a story forever

As I was on my way home today I thought of a short story I hadn't read in years: Ray Bradbury's All Summer In A Day. And then I thought about what I wrote yesterday about reading & Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer. My remembrance of Bradbury's story, a seemingly randomness in my brain slowly drifting up to the surface of my consciousness, illustrates the point I was making in yesterday's post about how it is possible to read a work without looking at it as a literary work and considering the literary technique used in its creation.

I didn't think at all about how this very brief short story was constructed. In fact, as I thought about it, I could not have recited one line from it, told you the exact setting, or recalled the names of the main characters if the names were even given in the text. But, briefly, I was reminded about the nugget of truth in Bradbury's story and had the opportunity between stop lights to reflect on what it means in my world.

I had been listening to the radio weather report as I was reflecting on what a perfect day today was: 75 degrees, blue sky, a few clouds, slight breeze. Tomorrow we return to the abnormally hot weather we've had for the last month. It is suppose to be in the 90's, a temperature we usually don't have until August. Then, suddenly, I thought of Bradbury's story about a little girl on a planet where it rains and rains, with the sun only emerging briefly every seven years. In a gut-wrenching example of cruelty to another person, her classmates lock her in the closet during the hour of sunlight she had been awaiting desperately.

I'm sure I thought of this story because we've had such heat and there are areas that are experiencing horrendous drought. The "extreme weather" must have made those synapses fire and retrieve a story about extreme weather. Yet, that is not what Bradbury's story is about thematically. I went from thinking about too much heat, to too much rain, to the sadly too-human trait of cruelty and indifference to another's heart-felt desires. Funny how our brains work like that, isn't it?

Which lead me to thinking about how this is an example of one of the functions of literature: to make us think about experiences that aren't our own direct experiences, but to which we can relate. And we can pull that vicarious experience -- the idea of the experience -- from our grey matter sometimes years after we have read a story and think about it again, perhaps in a way completely different than our original encounter with the story.

(If you haven't read Bradbury's story, I recommend it. At less than 2000 words in length, reading it is a fine way to spend a few minutes. Although I could find copies using Google, I didn't find any site that looked like it had legit copyright permission to post. Sorry -- no link.)

2 comments:

Jill said...

I remembered this story when you wrote of it, but hadn't thought of it for years. It is such a painful story to read if you've ever been the outsider in the group.

Nice work here.

Melanie said...

This story has been popping up everywhere for me lately. How strange! It affected me so strongly that I remember when and where I first read it. (In silent class reading in Grade 7; it was in our textbook).