Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Something Wicked This Way Comes keeps on being a classic

I decided to wrap up my October reading with Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. That’s about as Halloween as a book is going to be.

A year or so back, I reread Bradbury’s Halloween Tree and found it disappointing, lacking. However, Something Wicked lives up to its reputation as a classic.

As pretty much everyone knows, Something Wicked is the evil supernatural carnival comes to town. It isn’t the first example of creepy carnivals or circuses but it certainly is one of the most definitive visions of it.

A lot of that has to do with Bradbury’s use of language and imagery. The man clearly had a deep and abiding love with the English language. I don’t feel he crosses over into actual purple prose but he definitely embellishes.  Radbury had one foot in pulp fiction and the other foot in poetry.

Bradbury definitely paints a nostalgic picture of America, a Norman Rockwell image of mischief and innocence. (To be fair, Norman Rockwell is more complex than his reputation, with works like The Four Freedoms and The Problem We All Live With showing a depth I feel gets ignored) I find the nostalgia angle easier to take from Bradbury than other sources because there is a melancholy and whimsy to his work that makes me question the legitimacy of the nostalgia. As if he knows it was never that simple.

The book that I found myself thinking about during this read was The Golden Age by Kenneth Grahame, another book about childhood memories that is steeped in melancholy. However, a key difference for me is the character of Charles Halloway. He is an adult looking back at childhood, not just the book doing it.

Indeed, while I feel everyone references the two boys, Will and Jim, Charles is as much a protagonist as they are. His journey ends up being perhaps the most important one in the book. Charles Halloway is an Obi-Wan Kenobi who not only lives but saves the day.

Indeed, without giving away too much, the book definitely becomes more dreamlike and fantastic by the end. Because it is less about corruption and evil and more about how people relate to time.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is remembered for being dark and horrifying, of a Halloween that came early. But it is also about finding the dawn that comes after.

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