A bungled life or a life of joy…which makes a better story?

I love reading about people who achieve great success and manage to live happy, fulfilling lives. Conversely, people who give their all to their dream and succeed wildly but lead messy, sad personal lives, a la Elvis, are fascinating in a very different way. Even so, I don’t agree with the idea that the story of a badly-lived life is inherently more interesting than its opposite.

I stumbled on a good example of this when, looking to find out more about Christopher Buckley’s book about his parents, Losing Mum and Pup: A Memoir, I found myself reading his introduction to the Everyman’s Library handsome, hardcover edition of The Stories of Ray Bradbury. It’s a re-release of a collection published in the 80’s that seems to be the book to own if you only have one Ray Bradbury book in your library. It so happens that I don’t have any Bradbury books in my library, but I may have to change that after reading this from the introduction: “Ray Bradbury is a sunny, decent, loving, gregarious, generous man, both on the page (at least when he’s not scaring the bejeezus out of you) and in person.”

It turns out that Ray Bradbury’s life (which is a work in progress as he’s still very much alive – and writing – at 90) is a textbook example of achieving phenomenal career success alongside great personal happiness. This may largely be because, hanging out in Fowler Brothers Bookstore in downtown LA in 1946, Bradbury caught the eye of a bookstore employee named Maggie McClure. Maggie (who herself embodies another of my favorite biographical sub-categories – the interesting person close to a famous person) not only believed in Bradbury’s talent, but supported his early writing by bringing home the paycheck that kept them afloat. Maggie (who died in 2003) loved her four daughters, books, her cats and good wine – and her husband. You can read a wonderful tribute to Maggie Bradbury at the Bradbury website.

It looks like the biography to go to is The Bradbury Chronicles: the Life of Ray Bradbury, by Sam Weller, if only because Bradbury is quoted as saying – on the front cover of the book, no less – “…It’s as if Sam Weller slipped into my skin and my head and my heart. It’s all here!”

Sam Weller followed this up with Listen to the Echoes: the Ray Bradbury Interviews –due out in paper this June. Apparently there were a lot of interviews, done over ten years, so I’ll read this only if I’m still interested after reading the Weller bio and some of Bradbury’s actual stories. We’ll see.

Is it wrong to habitually read an author’s work after reading about his or her life?

8 Responses to “A bungled life or a life of joy…which makes a better story?”

  1. Katia Raina says:

    Hi Andrea,

    What an interesting post! I am a big fan of Ray Bradbury and his work, btw. I am definitely a big believer in having it all, lol. To me, there would be no success without personal happiness. And when I dive too deep into my writing, I sometimes make myself pull away, and remind myself of that. :)

    Katia

  2. Andrea says:

    Hi Katia, Thank you for posting the first comment on my blog!It sounds like you’ve got a handle on the whole work/life balance-thing. Your blog is amazing, btw. I love how you describe your determined efforts to distance yourself from your heritage, and yet there it is, cropping up in all your creative work…

  3. Hey Andrea. I liked this post. I grew up a Ray Bradbury fan, but what I liked is your easy to read, smart without being self conscious of it, style. Post again. Post again.

    Aaron

  4. Teresa says:

    Hi Andrea

    Great post and wonderful overall blog subject. Not too narrow at all. The simple design of the site makes it lovely to read. I like your title and think it’s a little cheeky, which is never a bad thing. I look forward to your next post.

    Teresa

  5. Cindy Gordon says:

    This is such a cool blog, I really like the name and the design as well as the content. Is this a WordPress template or did you do it your self. Very nicely done!

    Cindy Gordon

  6. boswellsgirl says:

    Aaron – thanks for your comment. I’d like to read more of Bradbury’s work after I finish reading about him, but this guy is prolific. If you have a chance, let me know which stories you liked best.

    Andrea

  7. boswellsgirl says:

    Hi Teresa,

    Thanks for all of your feedback, but especially for including the word “cheeky!” So gratifying.

    Andrea

  8. boswellsgirl says:

    Hi Cindy,
    Thanks for reading my blog – I’m glad you liked it. It’s not a WordPress template but was designed by my in-house illustrator (my husband Erik). I’m still trying to figure out those widgets, however…

    Andrea

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