UPDATED 06/06/12 1:53 p.m.
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — Author and Waukegan native Ray Bradbury has died at the age of 91.
Bradbury, best known as the author of such classics as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and It Came from Outer Space, died at his home in Southern California, his daughter, Alexandra Bradbury, told the Associated Press.
Bradbury was born Aug. 11, 1920, in Waukegan. As a youngster, he spent a great deal of time in Waukegan’s Carnegie Library, where he buried himself in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, L. Frank Baum and other fanciful authors.
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“My idea of living was every Monday to run down Washington Street directly to the library … the Carnegie Library built by Andrew Carnegie at the turn of the century,” Bradbury said in a 2006 interview quoted by the Waukegan Public Library. “I loved opening the library door and looking in and listening to all my friends in there. All the books talked to me, they all whispered. The stacks were dark and mysterious and wonderful.”
Also while growing up in Waukegan, a town he said was named “with neither love nor grace,” Bradbury often went to movies, magic shows and a lakefront carnival where he encountered a magician known as “Mr. Electrico” who could survive super-charges of electricity, the Waukegan Public Library said.
After the magician tapped Bradbury’s shoulder with his sword and commanded the future literary legend to “live forever,” Bradbury began writing each and every day without exception, the library said.
Bradbury grew up to transform his childhood dreams and Cold War fears into brilliant works of science fiction involving telepathic Martians, lovesick sea monsters, and his vision of a high-tech, book-burning future in Fahrenheit 451.
He also scripted the 1956 film version of “Moby Dick” and wrote for “The Twilight Zone.”
Bradbury’s series of stories in The Martian Chronicles was a Cold War morality tale in which events on another planet served as a commentary on life on this planet. It has been published in more than 30 languages.
Waukegan itself also figured into Bradbury’s literature as “Green City.” The north suburban city was the subject of fond memories for the author.
“Waukegan became part of my makeup,” Bradbury said in an interview with the library.
He wrote an homage to the town in the introduction to Dandelion Wine.
“From the age of twenty-four to thirty-six hardly a day passed when I didn’t stroll myself across a recollection of my grandparents’ northern Illinois grass, hoping to come across some old half-burnt firecracker, a rusted toy, or a fragment of letter written to myself in some young year hoping to contact the older person I became to remind him of his past, his life, his people, his joys, and his drenching sorrows,” he wrote.
In reading a portion of Bradbury’s work Wednesday, Waukegan Public Library assistant director Elizabeth Stearns could not help but become emotional about the author.
“‘With any luck, on my last day, the voices will still be busy, and I will still be happy,’” Stearns read from the Bradbury essay, “May I Die Before My Voices,” from his foreword to The October Country. “He talked about that a lot – writing is what made him happy.”
Stearns says she feels lucky to have known and worked with Bradbury.
Waukegan Library director Richard Lee explains even late in his life, Bradbury still wanted to be involved with the library.
“He agreed to be our spokesperson – we’re embarking on a capital campaign – and he’s lent his name to our annual storytelling festival,” Lee said.
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