This is going to be the first of a series of blogs about works of art, music, fiction, and film that have inspired me or had some meaning to me over the years. Maybe it’ll give you a little insight into who I am; maybe it’ll give you something new to check out.
I love science fiction. I’ve always read and watched a lot of science fiction, and I even WRITE science fiction. One of my favorite science fiction authors is Ray Bradbury–but my favorite novel of Bradbury’s isn’t a science fiction novel. It’s “Dandelion Wine”, the part-novel/part-memoir from 1957, set in the summer of 1928, in Bradbury’s fictional Green Town, Illinois–also the setting of Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, and based on Bradbury’s hometown of Waukegan, Illinois.
“Dandelion Wine”, somewhat like Robert McCammon’s much more recent “A Boy’s Life”, is a masterpiece of the magic of childhood, when the moments from the last day of school to the first again were filled with rituals of the familiar and discoveries of the unprecedented. Reading “Dandelion Wine” is one of my own annual summer rituals–I read it in June, usually, when the summer is fresh, and the tone of the book matches most closely the tone of the year.
The book is filled not only with poignant images: a boy buying new shoes every summer because he feels he can’t run as fast in last year’s pair; the sense of waking up on the first day of summer as a magic incantation giving one boy the power over time, and the title image–the idea of time and memory preserved in jars of a fermented concoction of flowers–but evocative musical language as well, singing out from every page.
“Here was where the big summer-quiet winds lived and passed in the green depths, llke ghost whales, unseen (p. 5).”
“There were some days compounded completely of odor, nothing but the world blowing in one nostril and out the other (p.4).”
And a fabulous turn of phrase, committed to memory but eluding my fingers as I page through the book, where Bradbury describes the heat of a summer’s day as ‘the bee-fried air.”
My own childhood summers were full of rituals and marvels too, although they weren’t rural marvels, as are the ones Bradbury describes. Summer is still my favorite time of the year, thanks perhaps to my memories, my still-active inner child, and to evocations such as those in Bradbury’s book. I highly suggest reading it, if you haven’t. I think it’s as full of fascinating images as the skin of “The Illustrated Man”, and opens a world for the reader just as compelling as the alien landscape of “The Martian Chronicles.”
It’s one of my favorite things, and perhaps it’ll become one of yours, too.
By the way, if you don’t want to search it out in print, “Dandelion Wine” is available for reading online right here: http://www.vampirelibrary.net/Other/Dandelion_Wine/