Ray Bradbury is on of those writers who first earned a living writing lowly science fiction trash for the nascent paperback publishing industry in the fifties who, by dint of sheer professionalism and an unwillingness to vanish into the cellar with other pulp scribes, has achieved a middlebrow respectability. Good for him, since now there is one more teenage favorite whom I no longer have to contextualize as a being a fancy I had before I developed "taste" or 'sophistication". If your a good genre writer and you stick around long enough, you have a very good chance of having a host of recently minted book critics and biographers elevating you the higher ranks of Faulkner or Twain. It's happened a dozen or so times , particularly in the mystery/crime arena with the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Sometimes the shoe actually fits, given that Chandler and Hammett were both innovators of form who had their lyric flights and coolly compressed melodramas informed by a tangible and subtle played romanticism.
Others have been less believable, as in the case of Jim Thompson, who is genuinely creepy and entertaining, but lacks music and wit, or James Ellroy, who mistakes intensity and encroaching unreadability as requirements of writerly worth. Elmore Leonard resists the temptation to let critics and upper echelon authors seduce him with praise and a general invitation to take his work more seriously;
he is the kind of professional you most admire, someone who continues the work, writing one brilliantly middlebrow entertainment after another.
Would that a few of our "serious" authors adopted the work ethic and wasted fewer pages and less of our time with their reputations.Some writers literally beg to be taken seriously; they implore us to read their novels deeply and let the philosophical conflicts resonate long and loudly. Has there been a John Le Carre novel that hasn't been compared to the world weary speculations of Graham Green's ambivalent attaches and minor couriers wrestling with the issue of Good versus Evil under a shadow of a silent Catholic God? Has there been a discussion among fans of James Lee Burke that didn't slip into a tangent about the the American Southern tradition , with Faulkner's and Flannery O'Conner's names repeatedly dropped like greasy coins? It's not such a bad thing, though. Le Carre and Burke are fine writers and do manage to provide a complex settings where the moral battles take place in their work. Their presence in the high rankings needn't make anyone squeamish.
Stephen King, try as he might, will not remain on the top shelf no matter who places him there. He is the master of premise , one great and magnificent idea after another, but then he goes soft in the head and rushes through his novels with flights of illogic that even excusing them as part of a horror novel's delirious nature cannot excuse the slip shod execution.
Bradbury? He is very good, sometimes even brilliant in all his amazing convolutions, and I think it would do everyone a great favor to not burden him with the weight of "literary importance". There are issues and morals and philosophies galore slithering through the paragraphs of his stories and novels, but Bradbury above all else is fun to read. I think it's enough that he be admired as craftsman with a slight touch of the poet. Bradbury , however sage we might wish him to be, never shed the basic rule of all professional writers go by; you need to be read by an audience that wants to be entertained.