Ray Bradbury, on Fellini and the bag of dimes it took to write ‘Farenheit 451’


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Ray Bradbury is an old-timer at the Festival of Books. He’s been a featured speaker for nearly every one of the festival’s 13 years. But this may be his last, he warned, in an ultimatum at a panel on Saturday.

“They used to burn books; now they’ve burned the Book section at the L.A. Times,” Bradbury opined in reference to the book-burning heresy of his famous dystopian novel ‘Fahrenheit 451.’ He demanded The Times “resurrect the Book section,” which, like most of the paper, has seen staff and page count cuts over the past year.


“If they don’t, I’m not going to come here again.”

And Bradbury, who calls himself the world’s greatest lover of books and who “does what he loves, and not what makes money,” may just be idealistic enough to do it.

He worked for the Los Angeles Times Book section early in his career, more than 40 years ago. He told the story of the first review he wrote in 1977 about a book of still photographs from the set of Italian director Federico Fellini’s movies, for which he was paid $30.

He described with pride a phone call he received shortly after publication. It was Fellini, praising the review as the ‘best article ever written about me in my life.” He gave Bradbury a personal invitation to visit him in Rome, which Bradbury did.

“I wrote with my love and he gave me my love back,” Bradbury said.

The UCLA campus also has a special place in Bradbury’s heart. It was here, in a basement room under the Powell Library, that he spent nine days typing the original manuscript to ‘Farenheit 451.’ The pay-to-type typewriter he clicked away on had to be fed 10 cents every 30 minutes. To an awestruck audience he described moving in with a bag full of change and typing for nine hours at a time, a labor of pure love.

“It had nothing to do with money, except dimes.” He spent $9.80.

Click here for more photos of the Book Festival.

-- Stephanie Harnett