It was, literally, dirty work. I never went down there, but they were forever covered with dirt, and I’m sure there were insects and rodents scurrying around, and I was very grateful when, in the fullness of time, they put me on the OK list and I started to get significant quantities of very interesting material.
You may think that I digress unnecessarily, but not so. For on the morning after the Bradbury movie was broadcast, I went to the bar near the Archives, and a bunch of schleppers were there, and they were talking about Fahrenheit 451. And they weren’t bemoaning the evil of book-burning. Quite the opposite. They loved it. “Did you see those beautiful bonfires?” one of them said, and they all laughed happily, clearly sharing the happy thought of some avenging demon burning all those filthy documents they schlepped upstairs to the likes of me.
I’m sure Bradbury would have had a happy laugh at that. He had a wonderfully supple mind, one of the most playful and elegant minds in a country that excels at such minds, and he’d have delighted at the thought that his story about evil was nonetheless capable of bringing a happy thought to Italian workers who labored in a sea of dirty documents.
He lived 91 years, and he was one of the few heroes of my youth who actually exceeded my hopes for him. What a guy!