On the Case

I learned today that Donald J. Sobol, author of the Encylopedia Brown mysteries, passed away on July 11.

The Encyclopedia Brown stories were a huge influence on me as a kid. I’m pretty sure I made a sign for my own detective agency much like Encyclopedia did. The books certainly encouraged me to continue being bookish and hungry for information of all kinds. (I always hoped some tough girl would be my friend and defend me from bullies, like Sally Kimball defended Encyclopedia.) And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion Encyclopedia Brown is one of the subconscious reasons I became a librarian.

Can you imagine an Encyclopedia Brown story written by Jorge Luis Borges? How sad that Borges is also dead. Wait, what about Umberto Eco? Somebody get Eco to write an Encyclopedia Brown story RIGHT THE HELL NOW!

Rest in peace, Mr. Sobol. Thank you for turning me and countless other kids on to the joys of reading, learning and retaining vast amounts of random information in our heads.

For the solution to this blog post, turn to the end of this website.

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There is a Light That Never Goes Out

Ray Bradbury has passed away. I got the news at work and broke down crying. I couldn’t stop crying, so I left work. I still have tears in my eyes as I write this.

He was 91 and lived a life stuffed so full of experiences and dreams, you can’t say he left this world too early. I had a gut feeling he wasn’t long for this world. But to have him go so soon after my dad’s passing is really, really difficult for me.

In many ways, I considered Bradbury a father figure, even though we never met and he had no idea I even existed. Without knowing me, he taught me, he encouraged me, he inspired me. I’ve had so much love and admiration for him, my heart is fit to burst right now.

Last year, I wrote this letter to him. I should have mailed it to him, just on the off chance he’d actually read it, but…oh well. Another writer who has touched my life, J.M. DeMatteis, wrote, “Unfold your soul and let his words wash over you.  If you’re a budding writer, he’ll fill you with burning passion for your chosen field.  If you’re an old hand like me, he’ll make you feel like a newborn, just beginning on the most miraculous path God ever created.  And if you’re not a writer, I suspect he’ll touch and move you in surprising ways that will echo on through your heart—and through your life.”

To be honest, I haven’t felt like I’ve been living life as fully as I could. I’ve been walking when I should be running. I’ve been working when I should be playing. I haven’t been writing like I’ve wanted to. I haven’t had the trust in myself that I should have. I’m sorry, Ray. I’ll do better. I know you wouldn’t want me to do anything less than to live life to the fullest.

Rest in peace, Ray. Your body has gone cold, but the fire you started will never die. You really did it, huh? You’re going to live forever.

War, What is It Good For?

This line spoken by Faramir in The Two Towers goes a long way towards expressing my view on soldiers and warfare (and the glorification of both):

…I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend…

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury

Dear Ray Bradbury,

I’m writing you this letter and posting it to my blog, even though I’m pretty positive you’ll never read it, because you’re a cranky old man who hates the internet. But on this, your 90th birthday, I have something to say to you, and this is my best forum for saying things that I want people to read, so…here goes.

I love you, Ray Bradbury.

Not only have you filled my life with beautifully written stories, you have (through your words–your stories, your essays, your poems) encouraged me to live my life with my heart on my sleeve, my passions and my dreams out front for all the world to see. Like Mr. Electrico did to you, you’ve shot me full of lightning and told me to “Live forever!”

I’ve done my best to do that. I’ve walked in dreams and nightmares, played with my toys and danced through life as much as I can. I’ve sometimes lost my way, but whenever I do, I just reread your stories, your essays, your poems. I stop walking with my eyes trained on my feet and start running again, my eyes gazing up at the stars. You laugh and whisper in my ears, reminding me to love life, to love people, to love the world. And most importantly, when I need it most, you remind me that I can do what I want to do.

You’ve touched my life, inspired me and driven me, in so many ways, at some many times in my life. You’ve been with me more than any other author. You’ve been my friend and my teacher. And we’ve never even met.

I don’t know that I’ll ever get the chance to tell you this to your face, but I want you and the world to know how much you mean to me. You’re a cranky son of a bitch, but dammit, I love you! I love you so much, Ray Bradbury. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with all of us.

Happy Birthday, Ray Bradbury.

Your friend and fan,

Joshua M. Neff