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To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o'clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr. Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do.

Eller says the story was inspired in part by a very odd story by one David H. Keller, “The Revolt of the Pedestrians,” published in 1928, but was triggered by two incidents over a span of years in which, while walking late at night with a friend in Los Angeles (with one friend in Pershing Square in 1940; with another on Wilshire Boulevard in 1949), Bradbury was hassled by the LAPD. “Through these experiences,” Eller writes, in his charmingly orotund style, “he had come to see the pedestrian as a threshold or indicator species among urban dwellers—if the rights of the pedestrian were threatened, this would represent an early indicator that basic freedoms would soon be at risk.”
    -Ray Bradbury, the Pedestrian (John Wilson, 7 . 13 . 12, First Things)
I'm writing this in the midst of the Trump-Xi flu pandemic of 2020, just as things have started to get truly weird. Up to now, we've not been greatly disrupted personally. The Wife and I are both still working at least, though my staff has been cut in half and our delivery stops drop every day. The two younger kids did have school canceled, but supposedly the High School will start tele-learning on Monday. When the Daughter flew home from her internship in DC she was going to be the only passenger on her first flight, so they bumped her to one where she was with ten people. I got to Logan in an hour and forty five minutes and you could race through Boston, there was so little traffic. But all was at least semi-normal. Now the past few days there are governors ordering entire states quarantined and today comes word that Donald is considering a national lockdown and business closure. Amid it all, the one thing that never changes is that I take our two dogs--a twelve year old labradoodle and a one year old sheepadoodle (apparently the former wasn't degrading enough)--for a five to 9 mile walk every day.

Despite our regularity, this has gotten odd too. For one thing, when we do the longer walk we go across the Dartmouth campus, which is now nearly devoid of people. Students were told not to come back from Spring Break and professors and staff told to work from home. Typically, students who miss their own dogs like to say hi to the puppy, but even those you do see just hurry past. Then we go around Occam Pond, past the elementary school, and down a long residential road, all of which are popular running routes. For a few days the number of folks you'd see out swelled--the combination of nice weather (40s in NH in March) and boredom driving them outside. On Wednesday there were tons of little kids on the playground, riding bikes, etc. Then, yesterday, it seems like the numbers dropped and we shifted to lock down mode. There were fewer runners and walkers out than even on a typical Spring day.

Then a police car drove by....

Mind you, I'm not saying I expected him to stop and order us back inside, let alone arrest us, but it did remind me of this spooky Bradbury tale. Set in some kind of post-Apocalyptic 2053, it features Mr. Leanard Mead, the pedestrian of the title, who defies convention by going shank's mare through an abandoned landscape until the day the police arrest him:
"What are you doing out?"
"Walking," said Leonard Mead.
"Just walking," he said simply, but his face felt cold.
"Walking, just walking, walking?"
"Yes, sir."
"Walking where? For what?"
"Walking for air. Walking to see."
There are other elements involved but this idea--of walking for pleasure--is so transgressive in the prevailing social climate--"In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not one in all that time"--that Mead is sent to the "Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies." Bradbury's story is quite spare and does not really give us any context for why authorities would be so alarmed about someone being out of doors, beyond the fact that no one else is--everyone else seems to be just watching tv. So it is the individualism alone that appears the threat here, or, if you want, Leonard's rejection of the technology that everyone else is content consuming. Of course, there's an immense irony in that 1951 was the year (according to IMDB) that Bradbury began a prolific screenwriting career, including The Pedestrian on his own Ray Bradbury Theater(!), and tv is one of the saving graces of our current crisis...

I actually did experience a not wholly dissimilar encounter when we were really little kids (excuse any false memories that follow). The Other Brother and I were playing in the front yard in East Orange, NJ when a strange looking black and white went by. The driver banged a u-turn and pulled up, at which point we could see that the windshield was odd because bullet-proof glass was bolted over it. The officer told us to go inside and stay and if our parents turned on the radio they'd tell us why. As it turned out, neighboring Newark had exploded in riots.

Nowadays, in the wake of 9-11 and Black Lives Matter, and with a cop in the family, I make sure to wave every time a police car rolls by us--which happens frequently as the walk takes us past the station. And after a period of perplexity, it's gotten to the point where all the local police wave back. So even if our national situations deteriorates further over the next couple weeks, I'm sure they'd be polite and just tell us our walks were done for awhile, not pack me off to a psych ward. But the specter of Leonard does haunt...


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Ray Bradbury (4 books reviewed)
Short Stories
Ray Bradbury Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Ray Bradbury
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Ray Bradbury (
    -BIO: Ray Bradbury (
    -BIO: Ray Bradbury American writer (Erik Gregersen, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -SHORT STORY: The Veldt (Ray Bradbury)
-VIDEO: A Celebration of Ray Bradbury (Library of America, 6/20/23)
    -ESSAY: The Recovery of Wonder in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (Steve Soldi, 11/24/23, Voegelin View)
    -ESSAY: Don DeLillo and Ray Bradbury – the strange solace of dystopian speculation: Book reviews: Two great American authors with a prescient approach to writing (NJ McGarrigle, January 08 2023, Independent ie)
    -ESSAY: “A Pleasure to Burn”: We Are Closer to Bradbury’s Dystopia Than Orwell’s or Huxley’s (David S. Wills, 12 Feb 2022, Quillette)
    -APPRECIATION: Ray Bradbury: Prophetic visionary, “word-wizard,” and next-door neighbor (Amit Majmudar, 10/06/21, Library of America)
    -ESSAY:Read Ray Bradbury before he’s canceled Frankly, it’s a wonder we are allowed to read him at all (Rod Liddle, 7/23/21, The Spectator)
-ESSAY: Modern Plagues and the Prescience of Ray Bradbury (Christine Norvell, May 14th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)
    -ESSAY: Ray Bradbury, Literary Godfather (Alice Hoffman, Aug 20, 2020, Ploughshares)
    -ESSAY: Ray Bradbury, Sci-Fi Traditionalist: The “poet of the pulps” was also a conservative of the heart. (Robert Dean Lurie, March 21, 2024, Modern Age)
    -ESSAY: Ray Bradbury, Moby Dick and the Irish connection: Science fiction writer trekked from Hollywood to Dublin in 1953 to write the script for John Huston’s film (George O'Brien, 7/04/20, Irish Times)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Pedestrian
    -ETEXT: The Pedestrian (Ray Bradbury, 8/07/1951, The Reporter)
    -AUDIO TEXT: The Pedestrian
    -AUDIO: The Pedestrian (YouTube)
    -VIDEO: The Pedestrian from Ray Bradbury Theater (Amazon Prime)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "The Pedestrian,/a> (Grade Saver)
-STUDY GUIDE: Ray Bradbury's The Pedestrian: Summary, Analysis & Theme (
    -STUDY GUIDE: The Pedestrian (eNotes)
    -EPISODE GUIDE: the Pedestrian on Ray Bradbury Theater (IMDB)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, Who Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery, Dies at 91 (Gerald Jonas, June 6, 2012, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights: Ray Bradbury's more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In 'The Martian Chronicles' and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings. (Lynell George, 6/06/12, LA Times)
-OBIT: American science fiction author Ray Bradbury dies age 91 (NICK CLARK, 06 JUNE 2012, Independent)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies aged 91 (The Telegraph, 6/06/12)
    -OBIT: Author Ray Bradbury, who fused sci-fi with morality, dies at age 91 (Agence France-Presse, Jun 7, 2012)
    -TRIBUTE: Ray Bradbury Believed That Stories Could Change Lives,/a>: The author, who died this week at 91, wrote novels and short stories that highlighted the transformative power of a good narrative. (Joe Fassler, June 7, 2012, The Atlantic)
-REMEMBRANCE: LOVING RAY BRADBURY (Junot Díaz, 6/06/12, New Yorker)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, a passionate sci-fi writer with the gifts of a painter: Ray Bradbury wrote his more than 500 stories, novels, plays, and poems on a typewriter, creating imagery that helped bring sci-fi and fantasy into the mainstream of American popular culture. (Gloria Goodale, June 6, 2012, CS Monitor)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury vs. Political Correctness: The science-fiction author, who died Wednesday, was a fierce critic of thought-control. (SOHRAB AHMARI, 6/06/12, WSJ)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Pulp God: The fabulist of the Space Age was half doomsday prophet, half man-child. (Bryan Curtis, June 6, 2012, Slate)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Remembering Ray: A visionary science-fiction writer, and a dispenser of good advice. (Ted Elrick, 6/06/12, National Review)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Dead at 91, Taught Generations of Readers How to Dream: The fantasy writer Ray Bradbury scorned the label of “science-fiction writer” and taught generations of readers the benefits of letting their imaginations run wild, writes Malcolm Jones, 6/06/12, Daily Beast)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury: Finding Our Reflections Where We Didn't Expect Them (PETER SAGAL, 6/06/12, NPR)
    -INTERVIEW: Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (Interviewed by Sam Weller, Issue 192, Spring 2010, Paris Review)
    -INTERVIEW: Rocket Man: In conversational orbit with Ray Bradbury (Steven Mikulan, 6/26/04, LA Weekly)
    -ESSAY: The Truth of Ray Bradbury’s Prophetic Vision Michael Moorcock: Why Fahrenheit 451 Endures (Michael Moorcock, May 18, 2018, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Relevance of Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' stressed in HBO film (Mark Dawidziak, 5/12/18, The Plain Dealer )
    -ESSAY: How Runners Are Getting Creative During the Pandemic: With every race canceled, runners face logistical and ethical dilemmas. Some have turned to unusual solutions. (Martin Fritz Huber, Mar 20, 2020, Outside)
    -ESSAY: Outdoor Meccas Are Not a Social Distancing Hack: As wilderness hubs like Bishop and Moab shutter their gates to visitors, what's an outdoor lover to do during a pandemic? We're here to help. (Christopher Solomon, Mar 20, 2020, Outside)
    -ARCHIVES: bradbury (The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Walking to See: Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” (Robert M. Woods, August 17th, 2012, Imaginative Conservative)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night: Matthew Beaumont on Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" (Matthew Beaumont, November 11, 2020, LitHub)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury, the Pedestrian (John Wilson, 7 . 13 . 12, First Things)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury's Vision of the Dystopian City (Tyler Falk, June 6, 2012, City Lab)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury Hates Technology: Analyzing “The Pedestrian” (literature Essay Samples)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Has Mankind Really Made Progress? A Critical Analysis of the Characterization,Theme, and Imagery of "The Pedestrian" (lone Star College)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Revisiting Ray Bradbury: “The Pedestrian” (Pat Shand, February 25, 2016, Blastoff)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Stumbling in the dark: Ray Bradbury's Pedestrian and the politics of the night (Matthew Beaumont, 07 December 2015, Critical Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Emily Babb, Dystopic)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Superkick Writes)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Howard Allen, Owlcation)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Weekend Notes)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Swinfiction) Men with Lit Matches: a review of Fahrenheit 451, The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition by Ray Bradbury (A. W. R. HAWKINS, The University Bookman)
Montag’s seminal moment takes place as he and his fellow firemen are burning down a house that contains books, and the homeowner, rather than leave her books behind, stands among them determined to be burned with them as a witness to their value. Before she burns, she quotes from the English Reformers about whom she’d read: “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out!”

From that early point onward, Fahrenheit 451 shows Montag on a quest for truth. And he, the destroyer of books, becomes a hoarder of the same, until even his fellow firemen turn on him and burn his house to the ground in their sheer intolerance of learning.

Like so many of Bradbury’s works, Fahrenheit 451 is priceless. And it bolsters perfectly the point that Russell Kirk made when he wrote, “Bradbury’s stories are not an escape from reality; they are windows looking upon enduring reality.”

    -REVIEW: of Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury (Alexander Zaitchik, NY Press)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Murder and mayhem: Exploring the crime writing of Ray Bradbury (Tyler Sage, 10/07/20, TLS)
    -REVIEW: of Library of America: Ray Bradbury (Jack Butler, National Review)
    -REVIEW: of Becoming Ray Bradbury by Jonathan R. Eller (Bradley J. Birzer, Imaginative Conservative)
-REVIEW: of Ray Bradbury Unbound by Jonathan R. Eller (Bradley J. Birzer, Imaginative Conservative)
    -REVIEW: of REMEMBRANCE Selected correspondence of Ray Bradbury, Jonathan R. Eller, editor (Michael Caines, TLS)

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