What’s happening at the Library: Ray Bradbury’s birthday

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

By James Gardner

Clark County Public Library

Aug. 22 is venerated author Ray Bradbury’s birthday. I think of him a lot at this time of year, but it’s not because of his birthday.

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I first became aware of Bradbury in elementary school. Our class studied his story “All Summer in a Day.” It’s about a class of schoolchildren on Venus who finally have a chance to enjoy a moment of sunshine after almost seven years of rain. Many of these children have never even seen the sun. These children do not like the new girl Margot because she moved to Venus five years ago and has seen the sun. The other children lock her in a closet while the sun is out and she is only released after the sun goes away for another seven years. It was an early reminder that a short story can be rather understated; the power of that particular story comes not from the fact that it’s on Venus but it comes from the children’s cruelty to Margo, who is forced to go without sunshine for another seven years.

I gradually learned more about Bradbury’s other works, mainly through his anthology television show “The Ray Bradbury Theater” (all six seasons are available on Hoopla). I learned much more about how many stories he has written and how dark his work can get. There’s the story “The Screaming Woman,” which featured a young Drew Barrymore as a girl who hears a woman screaming in the forest, but no one believes her. There’s also “The Small Assassin,” a sinister story about a woman who thinks her baby is trying to kill her (this baby can also walk and turn a safety pin into a deadly weapon). There’s even a story in the series called “The Dark Ferris” about two boys stumbling across a mysterious carnival, which was later expanded into my favorite Bradbury story.

“Something Wicked This Way Comes” follows 13-year-old boys Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade as they discover a strange carnival has come to their small Illinois town. The carnival is run by the enigmatic Mr. Dark, who seems able to fulfill everyone’s desires, but his help comes at a very high price. One of the themes of this story that attracted me was how people deal with and overcome fear. It also captures the quietly glorious nostalgia of being 13 years old with autumn (and adulthood) closing fast. I imagine many young men like Will and Jim are watching summer quietly end, just as I’m watching. However, I am watching it end after I have lived through many autumns, and I hope to live through some more. Jim and Will’s trip to Mr. Dark’s carnival gets me thinking of Ray Bradbury around this time of year. The story also reminds me we only have a certain number of seasons afforded to us, so make those seasons count!

But there’s also plenty to do at the library before autumn gets here.

On Wednesday, Aug.23, at 2 p.m., the Kentucky Picture Show features a movie that takes place in rural Ireland In 1981. There, a quiet, neglected girl is sent away from her dysfunctional family to live with foster parents for the summer. She blossoms in their care, but in this house where there are meant to be no secrets, she discovers one—rated PG-13. Popcorn and snacks will be provided.

On Aug. 24 at 6:15 p.m., the library presents Learn@the Library: Sallie Ward, the Scandalous Kentucky Beauty. Dr. Randolph Paul Runyon will be discussing the life of Sallie Ward, a charmer whose beauty inspired poems and duels. Born to wealth in 1827, Ward used it to advantage, ordering expensive clothes from abroad, setting new standards in fashion and, to the outrage of many, wearing rouge. This program featuring Sallie’s life and exploits is funded in part by Kentucky Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. There will be a potluck meal before the program. If you would like to join us for dinner, please bring a dish for the meal starting at 6:15. If you would prefer to just come for the program, please join us a few minutes before 7. Please register to attend through Evanced or by calling the library at 859-744-5661.

On Saturday, Aug. 26, at 10 a.m., the library presents its latest book club, Book Brunch from Beyond. This month’s book features an evil that can’t be seen as we discuss “The Invisible Man” by H. G. Wells. What you can see (and taste) are the donuts that will be served along with the thought-provoking discussion of Wells’ classic. Copies are available at the circulation desk and on Hoopla.