Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ray Bradbury and Mr. Electrico

Reading a eulogy (an eulogy?) of Ray Bradbury today, it occurred to me that there may not be any such thing as what music/popular culture writer Greil Marcus called "the old, weird America". I think Ray Bradbury made it up.  According to Margaret Atwood's article, this happened to Bradbury:
At the age of 12 – as he tells us on his website – he had a definitive encounter with a stage magician called Mr Electrico. This was in the age of travelling circuses and the like, and Mr Electrico had a unique act: he sat in an electrified chair, thus in turn electrifying a sword he held, with which he in turn electrified the spectators, making their hair stand on end and sparks come out of their ears. He electrified young Bradbury in this manner, while shouting, "Live Forever!" The child had to go to a funeral the next day, a close encounter with death that led him to seek out Mr Electrico once more to find out how this living forever thing was to be done. The old carney showed him around what used to be called the freak show – complete with a tattooed man who was later to morph into the Illustrated Man – and then told him that he, Ray, contained the soul of Mr Electrico's best friend, who had died in the first world war.  
That seems unlikely, doesn't it? I'm sure he made it up, along with everything else he wrote.

I'm thinking when Stephen King sadly goes, we'll see America as it's always been - filled with iPads and bitter partisan politics and Pacquiao mysteriously losing in Vegas. The hobo-freight-hopping, dustbowl-fleeing, folk-singing, carney-following, cabinet-of-curiosity-making past will flicker out of existence, like William Gibson's Gernsback Continuum, except it'll be a past that never was instead of a future that never was.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Peromyscus said...

OK, done, thanks!

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