Monday, 12 January 2015

THE MAGICIAN'S HOUSE

I can still remember the day I first read that address on an envelope that dropped through my letterbox one day in the Kentish village of Chislehurst: '10265, Cheviot Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90664'.

With all the unfettered confidence and temerity of youth, I had written a fan letter to my literary idol, that master of science-fiction and fantasy, Ray Bradbury and he had replied...

For some years I only knew it as an address on the many envelopes that followed the first: envelopes containing long letters and short notes accompanying cuttings and clippings, theatre programmes, flyers for shows and – eagerly awaited every year – Ray's Christmas poem...

Envelopes often embellished with Ray's highly individual line in benign postal monsters... 


Then, the first visit (to interview Ray for a BBC radio series I was making) and the curious feeling of looking at the mailbox with its five-digit house number and thinking that this was where all my letters had been delivered...

Inside, it was a miraculous opportunity to see where Ray lived and dreamed and wrote his fantastical tales of spacemen, dinosaurs, freaks and small, insignificant ordinary people with huge, unexpected, extraordinary dreams and obsessions...




Painted the yellow of Dandelion Wine, the house was an extension of the man: it was the place where he crafted novels, short stories, plays, essays and poetry and it was crammed full of Bradburyness: his own books, of course, but those, too, of the writers and artists he loved, and then, all those paintings and pictures: animation and comic-book art and the work of two of his favourite artists: the mysterious Gothic or futuristic visions of Joe Mugnaini (who illustrated so many of his books) and stunning landscapes by Eyvind Earle, also known as the man responsible for styling Disney's most stylish animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. Not to mention all the toys, trinkets, trivia, nick-knacks ad geegaws...

Ray Bradbury in his basement writing den  in 2008. Photograph: Dan Tuffs/Getty Images 

I went there many times and spent many hours talking books and films and wild notions, and I took friends there who wanted to meet the Illustrated Man and the Martian Chronicler.

I would usually come bearing some addition for his library, a book of Piranesi prints or Victorian fairy art or an exhibition catalogue from his favourite London haunt, the Sir John Soane's Museum: a fantastical building that was featured as a sectional engraving on Ray's letterhead...


For several years I had, somewhat romantically, assumed that this was actually 10265 Cheviot Drive, until the day when I stumbled into the Soane Museum and realised my error. It was a misunderstanding that – when confessed – gave Ray considerable amusement!

Sometimes my gifts would be highly personal: a book of my own, perhaps, or recordings of BBC radio dramatisations that I had made from his stories. Always, I would leave with a copy of a something by Ray – it might be his latest novel or collection of stories, or, possibly, a vintage limited edition of a pamphlet, broadside or poster...

I loved visiting this house and when Ray died in 2102, I was saddened to think that I would never again call at 10265, Cheviot Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90664.

Then, last year, when the house went on the market for $1.5 million, I found myself wishing I might win the lottery in time to bid.

But yesterday... Oh, yesterday, I learned from Mark Evanier's blog, News from me, that the house is being torn down so that the purchaser can build something new...

And who is responsible for this unthinkable deed? According to Variety magazine, the owner of the plot of land that was once the Bradbury house is the avant-garde architect, Thom Mayne

Mike Glyer's File 707 has this sad eye-witness report:
There was no ceiling overhead. The dining room wall is now the dining room rug. The living room is the only place that’s remotely intact, but its floor is littered with twisted metal and broken glass.
So–– the temple of ideas, the workshop of words and the emporium of magic has fallen to the bulldozer of progress.

For myself – and for many others – deeply treasured memories of the big yellow house at 10265, Cheviot Drive will remain in tact and unassailable...

...and yet, I am deeply grieved.


Would you like to take one last look around...?

If you can bear to view them File 707 has posted photos of the wreckage.

When Ray died, I posted this tribute to our friendship: Farewell to the Martian Chronicler which includes that first letter I received from Ray in 1974.

Photographs by Brian Sibley © 2003

15 comments:

WendyLady@GoodBooks said...

That is sad news indeed. Thank you for posting pictures of the house (and the link to more). My son lives in Glendale, and he took me to a used bookstore on Brand Ave., "Mystery and Imagination", often frequented by Mr. Bradbury. I regret I never saw him live and in person there. It's a great little spot, and I can see why he liked to spend time there! I love reading your reminiscences about Ray Bradbury!

Michael G. said...

Brian -this is so sad! In the US they call it Progress, but i find it greedy and inccnsiderate! Sadly, this is the norm!

Boll Weavil said...

This man is one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Somebody should be buying this for a museum. It's frankly, rather hard to comprehend - a bit like knocking down the Statue of Liberty for development because its got a sea view.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks Mike for alerting me to this ghastly news. And thanks, Mike and Boll, for your thoughts.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks WendyLady, I wish you could have met the great man...

Val , Kate, The Cute Kitten ,Razzy, Kepsey,Darwin ,Charon and Echo. said...

When you become aware of the transience of life I think it is one of the hardest things to cope with at times.
I find that Places remaining the same even when people we know there have gone can be very comforting and reassuring so when that place is drastically changed or gone it can be most upsetting and far too final.
It sounds like you both enjoyed a rich and very enjoyable friendship. Thank you for sharing this and the links to the house some of the rooms look lovely and will now live on in our imaginations.

Phil said...

Brian, your readers might be interested to see this timely comic which recreates Ray's house with some accuracy. SHADOW SHOW is based on the tribute anthology of the same name, and was instigated by Sam Weller, Ray's biographer.

http://bigglasgowcomic.com/preview-shadow-show-3-5/

Brian Sibley said...

Val & Co: I so agree...

Phil: Thanks for this; I had only today, via your FB page I think, come across the comics and sent for copies...

Roger O B... said...

Ray's study reminds me of something- I can't quite put my finger on it...

Brian Sibley said...

Yep! My hero –– and exemplar! :)

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether Ray wanted his home to be preserved? If he did, couldn't he have put it into some kind of trust supported by his royalties?

Brian Sibley said...

There's more here on the demolition of the Ray Bradbury house: an interesting read giving architect/purchaser/demolisher Thom Mayne's response to the outraged public reaction, seemingly setting the record straight on a few facts and offering the hope of a memorial to recall Ray's association, but still painfully accurate in its concluding paragraph...

Why was Ray Bradbury’s home demolished? An interview with architect Thom Mayne

Anonymous said...

I recently had the odd experience of watching a TV programme in which an architect took viewers on a guided tour of a flat in which I'd lived for 28 years. With all my family's belongings replaced by someone else's, the flat seemed so changed that I could barely recognize it. Imagine that Ray's house had been bought by someone who'd kept it standing. After being emptied of Ray's belongings, redecorated and refurbished, would it have retained any of its Bradburyishness?

Boll Weavil said...

For all the arguments for and against that have surfaced over the past few days, my first reaction remains - this is an act of cultural vandalism. Not because Ray was a nice chap and it reminds us we've lost him or even because you, Brian, visited there with all the positive memories that visit evokes. The man has a place in American (and World) literature. I may say his genius and his accurate marking of his age has not yet been fully realised but even if it has, this man is one of the top writers of this or any other period and the house where he did his work has been knocked knocked down as if it was a disused McDonalds. Coming from a country where we put up blue plaques if a famous person just sneezed in the vicinity, this remains very hard to understand.

Mary Paddock said...

Thank you for this. It was a beautiful house inside and out--and "a temple of ideas" is a great description.

I firmly believe that Thom Mayne will never be comfortable in the house he's going to build for himself in place of Bradbury's, like a beautiful pair of shoes that you should love, but they don't fit quite right. The light won't enter the windows at the proper angles because they're in the wrong places. And his sleep will be interrupted by a persistent silence and the sense that something is missing. He'll wish for the music of a typewriter and he'll wonder why.