Ed Patnode, my high school English teacher gave me Golden Apples of the Sun when I was 17. Mr. Patnode was, as far as I could tell, a dead ringer for Robert Heinlein, except that he was a teacher. He had a crew cut and was gung ho about the Vietnam war and at one time was an Olympic ski jumper. He was also a nice guy. As far as I know he is still alive and well up in Lake Placid, New York.
You often hear how teachers inspire you, but Mr Patnode wasn’t like that. He just surprised me, like when he gave me this book. I think he knew that I was trying to write stuff, and that I liked Science Fiction, but it took me totally by surprise when he gave me this 1953 edition of Bradbury’s Golden Apples of the Sun. It was falling apart and from his own personal collection. I was collecting Bradbury and I did not have a copy of this one. I was very happy to get it. I hope he knew how much I appreciated it. I am not very good socially and I may have just muttered "Thanks".
Once Mr. Patnode asked us to write a story based on a the last lines of Yeats’ poem Under Ben Bulben, and when he returned mine to me he had written on the top that it was good enough to be published. I have cherished that encouragement down the years, even though I have yet to make a professional sale.
If the book was in original condition it would be worth about $50. The binding had come apart and I had to cut a piece of cardboard and glue it back together. I did a little hokey art on the cover with some magic markers. This is Bradbury’s third collection. His first Collection, Dark Carnival was re-released as October Country and the second was The Illustrated Man.
As I read these stories, I am amazed at how much a part of me they are. Bradbury stories have entered my mind like a parasite that wraps itself around my ganglia and colors my memories.
Golden Apples of the Sun contains many of Bradbury’s greatest hits. Perhaps all of you reading this will remember The Fog Horn, A Sound of Thunder, The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl, The Pedestrian, or The Flying Machine. These have been anthologized and some made into movies. Maybe you have forgotten The April Witch about an old woman who convinces a boy that she can make him invisible in order to have someone to talk to. The Great Wide World Over There about a woman who, with the help of a nephew, sends to all the addresses in the back of pulp magazines to receive free samples and information, just so she can get mail from the outside world to relieve her loneliness.
These are 22 of Bradbury’s best. He was at the height of his writing ability when he wrote these. Hardly any of them are speculative fiction. Bradbury wrote Bradbury stories. He invented his own genre.
I remember now, writing stories when I was 16 and 17 years old. I was not trying to write Science Fiction then, because I had not yet figured out how. I was, however, trying to write Bradbury stories. As I read The Golden Apples of the Sun, I remember what I was trying to do. I wrote stories about a family finding bottles in the landfill, a man trying to buy firewood during a deadly winter, and a boy who could make it rain. I could not sell these stories because there was no magazine that would buy them, then or now.
Ed Patnode, when he gave me that old copy of Golden Apples of the Sun, probably changed my life, although I am sure that was not his intention. I remember going home and reading these stories until the book literally fell into pieces as I read it. I glued it back together and made the new cover, pasting the old one to the inside cover to protect it. I read it again and again until I found the 1967 edition and bought that. I wore out several of Bradbury’s books in the next few years. I used to cover them with clear plastic "contac" to make them last longer.
If I didn’t say it clearly at the time:
Thanks, Mr. Patnode, I really appreciated the book.