I ran into Bill Nolan at a Science Fiction convention and we began talking about Ray and the writers group. Bill said he had been to the group once… doubtless before my time. How many great writers have passed through that house and sat round the coffee table reading stories trading ideas, laughter and weaving memories? I wonder if on some new moon night I might return to hear ghostly voices, shades of laughter and unborn stories once again.
Richard Bach was in the group for bit. This story, as so many others, happened before my memory, so I only have tales and an article to go by…
I come from a family of tale spinners, my father and mother both. My mother always told her personal version of history with complete conviction… and even when I knew it was not true it was almost impossible not to believe.
But even memories are not untainted by person recollection. So here is The tale Of Richard Bach and his bird:
Richard was brought to the group by Ray. He was working on Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Ray kept saying “Cut it, cut it…it’s too long…if you want it to sell you need to cut.” Richard after repeated rejections grew despondent, even despairing, but he steadfastly refused to chop the feathers, clip the wings or even remove any verbiage from his high flying, transcendental gull. Finally the book sold! It became a flyaway sensation. My father, ever the skeptic found the idea mockable…and so he penned “Ludwig Von Wolfgang Vulture,” about a vulture who learns how to read and eventually enters nirvana. It too became a hit.
Ray, with his custom generosity endorsed both books. Ray Bradbury on Jonathan Livingston Seagull; “Richard Bach with this book does two things. He gives me flight. He makes me young. For both I am deeply grateful.”
On Ludwig Von Wolfgang Vulture,” Dolph Sharp with this book does three things. he turns a vulture into a mocking bird. He gives a gull a plucking. And he tickles us with the feathers. I’m grateful all over again.-“-Ray Bradbury
When Richard heard about my father’s book he immediately called Ray. “How could Dolph do this to me?” he cried.
Ray tried to be the dove of peace, proffering a literary olive between the gull and vulture.
“He isn’t ‘doing it to you.’ Dolph’s writing the book is the sincerest form of flattery. Without Jonathan, Ludwig could not, would not exist. It’s all in fun, with love!”
But Richard would not be mollified and never returned to the group. Daddy, as always was completely unrepentant. He wanted to take the show on the road and do a series of public debates, Vulture VS. seagull. It’s a pity it never happened. I don’t know about Richard Bach, I have no memory of him, but my father was a born raconteur, debater and performer. As Ray said, his delivery would make “world comedians slit their wrists,” in envy.