So much has changed. So much is new. New house, new job. A few new friends. New bike rout (and possible new bike). New degree (officially), new outlook, new bookshelf, new qualification (First Aider, but all I can really do is give you a band aid and call 999). Many good, new things.
A few changes were not so good. It's funny referring to death as a change, but that's really what it is. In the same way that Maeve Binchy and Ray Bradbury changed the world with their books (and changed my life like all my favorite authors have), their absence will also change the future. I can't say how sad it makes me that they are now gone.
It might seem weird for me to claim that Maeve Binchy and Ray Bradbury have always been two of my favorite authors (it's on Facebook, it must be true): they could not be more different. Maeve was introduced to me by my grandmother, back when I was in high school and eating up every book put in front of my face (and subsequently failing math). Her books are all (from the ones I've read) about the power of human relationships: friends, family, lovers. They are about the different turns your life can take and the people who'll be there along the way to help and hinder. Her books made me feel very grown up, since they were for the most part about people much older than I was. I read them eagerly and with each one I felt like I was gaining some new incite to life. They were like secrets about being an adult. Maeve's books completely took me away from whatever I was doing, and they always left me feeling just plain good. I love many authors and many books, but very few have put such a skip in my step and warmth in my heart. I don't care how cheesy that sounds because it's true. I am grateful that I haven't yet read them all, especially now that there won't be any more.
Ray Bradbury's books could not be more different, even if he had been from Mars as he so often enjoyed writing about. The fact that I can love those two authors equally goes to show the range of my ridiculous taste. When you want me to recommend something for you to read, first you'll have to tell me what your favorite genre is, because I just don't have one. Although to be honest, I'll probably just recommend The Princess Bride no matter what you say.
But back to Ray. Ray was, and in my mind still is, the King of Science Fiction. I discovered him around the same time as Maeve, in high school. I can't fault the US Education system too much as long as Fahrenheit 451 (the temperature at which books burn) is always on the required reading list. This dystopian epic blew my malleable teen-age mind and terrified me, scared me so much that I had to read more. I soon discovered that Ray could not only write novels, but that he was a short story champion. I think it's safe to say that he is my favorite short story writer of all time. Each is exceptionally short, but packs a punch you never stop feeling. His imagination was a wild, untamed thing that the world is not likely to see again, not in the same way anyway. Firefighters that burn books, literary ghosts exiled on Mars, living houses, illustrated men, Martians, artificial suns, killer nurseries, time travel disasters, Happiness Machines and many, many rockets: Ray Bradbury was a true creator of worlds, master of the fantastical and storyteller to the core.
A few days before his death, on a train to Edinburgh with my parents (another that changed: my parents became world travelers), I discovered yet another thing Ray Bradbury excels at: every-day magic. In Dandelion Wine, a simple book about one young boy's attempt to enjoy his summer vacation as much as humanly possible, Ray created the most magical portrayal of childhood I've ever read. It's not all hearts and rainbows either; magic isn't always nice. Bad things happen, but good ones do too, and every single page sparkles. It is magical realism at it's best, so subtle you'd have a hard time calling it that at all, yet so obvious that you can't call it anything else.
I love Ray Bradbury's stories, and again, I'm glad I haven't read them all. Although Ray and Maeve's passing upsets me a great deal, I take comfort in the fact that they will both live on in my heart and on my bookshelf.
Maeve and Ray:
As my circle of friends ebbs,
toward grassy fields and Irish seas,
I will miss how you took me,
(where I can go again, but never the same)
from my cowboy bedsheets,
across the ocean and through the stars.
You are my Happiness Machine.