National Book Awards Acceptance Speeches

Introduction of Ray Bradbury, Winner of the
2000 DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO AMERICAN LETTERS AWARD

Delivered by Steve Martin

On Wednesday evening, November 15, 2000 at the National Book Awards Ceremony in New York City, the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation conferred its Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters upon Ray Bradbury.

Mr. Bradbury's life work has proclaimed the incalculable value of reading; the perils of censorship; and the vital importance of building a better, more beautiful future for ourselves and our children through self-knowledge, education, and creative, life-affirming attentiveness and risk-taking. These values are the bedrock of the National Book Foundation.

The Foundation is proud to publish on our website Mr. Bradbury's remarkable acceptance speech as well as the introduction by National Book Award Master of Ceremonies, Steve Martin.


Each year the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation confers a special award upon an individual who has enriched our literary culture through a life of service or a corpus of work. The National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will be presented tonight to Ray Bradbury.

Novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet, Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois 80 years ago. He grew up in Illinois and Arizona and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1934, where Mr. Bradbury has lived ever since. He married Marguerite McClure in 1947. They have four daughters: Tina, Ramona, Susan, and Alexandra.

Ray Bradbury's first published story was called "Hollerbochen's Dilemma," and it appeared in Imagination! Magazine. The author was 18 years old.

Since that time, how can we even begin to count all of the ways in which Ray Bradbury has etched his indelible impressions upon the American literary landscape? There are few modern authors who can claim such a wide and varied province for their work, spanning from the secret inner-worlds of childhood dreams, to the magic realism of everyday life, to the infinite expanses of outer space.

Half a century ago, The Martian Chronicles was published and soon thereafter Fahrenheit 451 (by the way in Europe that would be "Centigrade 283")--the quintessential book lovers' book written in nine days; and then Dandelion Wine, I Sing the Body Electric, The Illustrated Man, The October Country, Something Wicked This Way Comes. (By the way, the original title was "Look Out, Here Comes Something Wicked".) Ray Bradbury's prodigious and seemingly never-sleeping imagination continues to delight us, and next fall his new novel, From the Dust Returned, will be published by Avon Books.

What better way to conclude this introduction to Ray Bradbury than to show a clip from the classic film "Fahrenheit 451", directed by Francois Truffaut starring Oscar Werner and the incomparable Julie Christie. We extend thanks to Universal Pictures for providing this excerpt. Let's roll the film.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ray Bradbury.

Images: 2000 National Book Awards Host Steve Martin.
Ray Bradbury accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 2000 National Book Awards. Photo Credit: Robin Platzer/Twin Images.