Below is the little review I did on Goodreads yesterday:
Jonathan R. Eller's Becoming Ray Bradbury a very fine literary biography that focuses not on picayune personal matters--issue such as those sniffed at by the Russian Formalist critics of the 1930s, like whether Pushkin smoked--but instead on how a once-unknown, bookish mama's boy evolved into a writer whose work millions love and whose very name even more millions at least recognize.
Eller is a top-notch scholar of Bradbury's work, and as he delineates the events and relationships that shaped the development of this author's distinctive craft, he is able to bring in useful bits and pieces formerly lost to history. Who but Eller, for example, can refer casually to the "[m]ore than 200 known pages of discards moving forward from 'The Fireman' toward Fahrenheit 451..." (277-78), or can show us the first page of the story draft, composed back in 1943, of the tale that eventually became the final chapter of the 1950 The Martian Chronicles? At the same time, though, Eller illuminates the broad trends as well: the sometimes-fractious multiculturalism of Bradbury's prewar Los Angeles, the evolution of the pulp-magazine science fiction and fantasy genres of the 1930s and '40s, the mechanics of postwar book publishing...and of course the McCarthyism of the 1950s that made Fahrenheit 451 so timely.
With eminently readable prose, and using easily digestible 6- or 8-page chapters, Eller takes us from the aspiring high school author to the young man who, still in his early 30s, finally is growing beyond genre restrictions and into recognition by the wider literary world. Becoming Ray Bradbury then culminates with the publication of the man's most famous and enduring novel--and from there, the second of the two-volume biography,Ray Bradbury Unbound, ably takes over.
26 December 2014