The death of Ray is a hard one to take. I discovered him in our little library when I was a child, in a small village of Kabale, and started writing letters to him but never sent them because they were in my head. For me that was the beginning of liking fantasy as a genre, and pushing the imagination beyond the realms of reality.
When i read Fahrenheit 451, I didn’t understand much, I was eleven or twelve, but I held onto that world and fought for books because I couldn’t imagine a present, let alone a future, in which books would be destroyed. Besides, one of the characters was named Mildred. It was my first time to come across my name in print. I took everything personally and my admiration for Ray’s works grew larger as I became an adult.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read I Sing the Body Electric. I liked it so much that I even tried to write my own version. But you know imitation is the worst thing a writer can do. Yet it took me seven pages and a year of terrible revisions to find out. Eventually I let go and stayed with admiration.
Last year I borrowed from Bird Library all his short story collections, plus I Live By the Invisible: New & Selected Poems. Wasn’t aware that he wrote poetry. It was very inspiring and magical, just like the titles promised. There was a dreamy magical feel when I finished We’ll Always Have Paris. It wasn’t an extraordinary collection, but the stories felt so honest and true, so simple and charming.
I think for all those who loved Ray and his works, We’ll Always Have Ray. Gone from this earth, We’ll live by the Invisible. But I have a small confession: A few year ago I named my teddy after him… One of the greatest magical writers I’ve had the pleasure and gratitude to read. Cheers to Ray.
Read a sample from I Live By The Invisible
I Have Endured Much to Reach This Place
I have endured much to reach this place in time
Yet I have not been sick, nor mad,
Nor ruined in a wreck.
And yet I feel I have.
There is a thing in me, the walls of cells are thin,
My veins are glass, my heart the merest whim
Of beat and pause and beat,
Deaths in the street are mine. I would not have it so.
I know much more than I would want to know.
The breakfast headlines tell me of a war,
I know they die out there; put down my spoon.
Men land on the moon tonight, I know their joy,
The boy in me goes with them as they tread
Far overhead on dust world beyond reach
They teach my tired blood to love again.
There’s rain in downtown Peru tonight,
I wash my face in it. In Indo China, one more massacre,
I run a race in it and lose.
I cannot choose to be or not to be.