By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 15, 2016
“I work from ten to twelve hours, sometimes fourteen,” he says, “and then at midnight I go dancing, dancing dancing until four or five in the morning and go to bed and sleep until ten and then up, up to work by eleven and another ten or twelve or sometimes fifteen hours of work.”
When Bradbury asks how he can do that, Laurent replies:
“Easily,” he says. “To be asleep is to be dead. It is like death. So we dance, we dance so as not to be dead. We do not want that.”
When Laurent asks Bradbury what he does in the morning, Bradbury says he writes.
“Write!” Laurent says, astonished. “Write?”
“So as not to be dead,” I say. “Like you.”
“Yes,” I say, smiling now, myself. “At three in the morning, I write, I write, I write!”
The day after diving into The Illustrated Man for the first time, I read about Cancer hitting David Bowie. Bradbury’s story came to mind, of dancing and dancing and dancing, and writing and writing and writing, so as not to be dead.
If you know only one thing about Bradbury and Bowie, know this: they were ALIVE.
Both were writing and dancing and creating — and always in the direction of roads less traveled.
Toward the end of “Dancing, So As Not To be Dead”, Bradbury returns to his opening story about Laurent:
I end as I began. With my Parisian waiter friend, Laurent, dancing all night, dancing, dancing.
My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M.
So as not to be dead.
And in not being dead, I owe them for keeping me alive.
When I wanted to sleep, their works brought me to life — fought back death, pulling me up like Lazarus. Food for my soul. Fuel for my engine. They trigger that “thing” within me that I’ve often struggled to turn on myself. Read a little Bradbury and within minutes my head is spinning with stories of my own. Jotting down ideas. A little Bowie and I can conquer the world. No wake-up coffee for me. Just some Bowie and Bradbury please.
When I hit “The Exiles” within The Illustrated Man, I was comforted in thinking of Bowie and Bradbury on Mars, mixing it up with other artists (including Dickens, though he sounds like an ass), but without the the book-burning censorship and dangerous thinking that landed Bradbury’s characters there in the first place. More a place where the greats go to keep an eye on the rest of us and send down jolts of inspiration from above.
Thank you Bradbury. Thank you Bowie. You are among the greatest gifts of my life. Will keep the air waves crystal for messages from Mars.