Grieving at the Abyss…
Bradbury’s voice is lyrical honey, a voice whispering of soft summers in which even the drowning of a young girl is softened (gilded?) by her ghostly reappearance years later.
Matheson, at his best, is the voice of the harsh realist. His best fiction is clearly influenced by his combat experience as an infantry soldier in World War II. (Again, not to be crass, but Bradbury didn’t serve in the war. I suspect that this difference in experience explains much of the difference in their prose). From page one of I Am Legend, Robert Neville is neck-deep in the sort of trauma and grief that only come from existing in the sort of environment in which one must kill or be killed. The novel is an angry, sickened, mournful scream and that’s why I love it so much.
Matheson had a rich, complex career encompassing books, film, and television. He wasn’t the sort of author who only played one note, and so many of his projects weren’t as bleak as I Am Legend. But it’s that bleakness that I primarily treasure.
Rest in peace, Mr. Matheson. Congratulations on a race well-run.