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The LA Times Festival of Books and the Temperature at Which My Eyes Burn

The LA Times Festival of Books: I go to see the authors speak and to haggle with the McSweeney’s booth attendants (I got an amazing deal this year that I actually feel kind of guilty about). However, the people that gather at this event are enough reason to go. 98% Caucasian, bright-blue-spandex-pants-wearing lunatics, these people have no right to turn their noses up at Renaissance Faire participants. I haven’t seen this many dorks in a long time, and considering who I am and who I hang out with that is saying a lot.

The Temperature at Which My Eyes Burn: 71 degrees.

I didn’t have tickets to hear Ray Bradbury speak on Saturday, so I decided I would wait stand by and hope for the best. I got lucky, but I had no idea how important that stroke of luck would end up being.
Mr. Bradbury
I wasn’t expecting much as I sat there waiting for him to speak. I‘m a fan of Bradbury, but I won’t pretend that I am a long-time devotee. All I had planned on was hearing some fun anecdotes and a few notes on some of his work.

What I ended up hearing was one of the most inspiring speeches I’ve ever heard. I’m not sure if it was because I could identify with every word that came out of his mouth or if it was because everything he said was pure poetry. I really don’t know.

After an actor took the stage as Guy Montag and explained his reasoning behind book burning, the crowd applauded and Mr. Bradbury cleared his throat. Then he said, “you are looking at the greatest lover the world has ever known.” The crowd laughed a bashful laugh and then fell silent. Mr. Bradbury went on to tell one of the best love stories I have ever heard: his love affair with writing.

It was beautiful. It made my eyes well-up and my throat close. Then, as he recounted the night he had to read Moby Dick and report back as to whether or not he was up to the challenge of writing the screenplay, I lost control. He was talking about how he was unsure how he’d ever be able to read this book. It was so long and he’d never been able to get through it before. Now he needed to read the thing in one night!? The UCLA ballroom, filled to the brim, was so quiet it seemed as though everyone stopped breathing. They were hanging on his every word. That’s when he said, “then something amazing happened…Shakespeare turned the pages for me.”

That was it. That’s all it took for me to start crying. Here was this incredible individual, made so by his love of the written word, and I just couldn’t hold back. He poured his heart and soul into his writing and never did anything for money’s sake. The temperature in the room was a semi-cool 71 degrees and my eyes were on fire.

I want to thank Mr. Bradbury for that moment of clarity and for reminding me that there is more to life than money, expectations, disappointment and applause – there’s love, and he really is one great lover.

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