On the list of authors I’ve always been…reluctant…to try, Ray Bradbury has always been near the top of the list. My perception of Bradbury was that his work was fantastic, strange, difficult, and, well, a little scary. And I’m a well-known chicken. A friend of mine gave me a list of books she really wanted me to read though, and Something Wicked This Way Comes was on the list.
I took a deep breath. I picked up the book. And I started to read.
This was last year.
I couldn’t do it. At first, I was totally intoxicated with the language. Bradbury definitely had a way with words. But the slow, meandering pace. The, I don’t know, the vaguely irritated way I felt every time I picked the book up. I couldn’t do it. I set the book aside one day and just never picked it back up.
Flash forward to this year. Bradbury passes away. Authors (some of them I count among favorites) were singing his praises. Books of his were quoted and I loved what I was hearing. I determined to try again. This time in audio.
Let’s just say, I made it through. At 1 1/2 times the normal speed. To just. get. through. it.
Oh you guys. My head. It hangs in shame. I wanted to love this book so much. I mean, the recipe was right. Gorgeous writing. Lush description. Master hand with plot, symbolism (ie: it didn’t hit me over the head). The right time of the year, the desire to read it, the friends telling me how wonderful it is….
So what the heck went wrong then? Because, while I could recognize all that gorgeous writing, lush description, perfect plot for this time of year, the symbolism, the GENIUS, it just didn’t CLICK with me. My heart, it is breaking!
I think part of my problem was the pacing. The book just felt ponderously slow to me. To be such a relatively short book, it felt like it just took forever, even at a faster speed. The pace took the scare out of it for me. It felt like as soon as something “scary” happened, the plot meandered off on another tangent, leaving me wondering what happened back there and when he was going to get back to that. And then there are things like this:
“What’s the answer, he wondered, walking through the library, putting out the lights, putting out the lights, putting out the lights, is it all in the whorls on our thumbs and fingers? Why are some people all grasshopper fiddlings, scrapings, all antennae shivering, one big ganglion eternally knotting, slip-knotting, square-knotting themselves? They stoke a furnace all their lives, sweat their lips, shine their eyes and start it all in the crib. Caesar’s lean and hungry friends. They eat in the dark, who only stand and breathe.”
Wah? I mean, really, wah? does that even mean?
So far, Bradbury 0 of 1. So, now I come to you. I am determined to find a Bradbury I will like. Where should I go next? Should I read Fahrenheit 451? A collection of short stories? Something else he’s famous for? Or something obscure? Educate me people. Please. Don’t leave me out here in the unhappy, “I don’t have a Bradbury story I like” cold.