The Book Snob – Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

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.

14 thoughts on “The Book Snob – Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

  1. So…I just read this for Readathon, and I loved the first 3/4ths of it, but the last quarter just bogged me down with all that philosophical rambling (all this will go up in my review of it tomorrow). I ended up skimming much of the last quarter. It definitely didn’t resonate with me the way it seems to with most people, but I didn’t hate it, either. Maybe part of that was because I was reading it quickly for Readathon, especially as I was on a deadline to read it before my son’s birthday party started. I knew it would be close, and I didn’t want to have to put it down during the climax for a couple hours and then come back to it.

    Right after the Readathon, I liked it more than I think I do now. Most of it has faded, and I’m not sure I’ll remember it much at all in a few more months.

  2. I’ve read two of his books…Fahrenheit 451 was awesome. From the Dust Returned was this confusing, meandering, killer-slow pace. I’m definitely choosy when it comes to Bradbury. His short story, “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains” is an all-time fave of mine, so I’m curious to try the collection it came from, The Martian Chronicles.

  3. I’m a huge Bradbury fan girl and still think many of his longer fiction is hard to take at times. You’re spot on about the slow pacing. I definitely suggest getting into his short stories which are fabulous and have much less meandering.

  4. I’m listening to 451 right now. Bradbury narrates. While I am enjoying it a lot, it is also slow and sometimes difficult to stay focused on. And I’ve gotta figure that, since Bradbury is reading it, it is meant to be slow. When I was much younger, I read Dandelion Wine and really liked it a lot. I seem to remember reading The Martian Chronicles but can’t remember a thing about it. So I’m not sure if I never read it or it just made no impression at all.

  5. This is maybe one of my favorite books ever. Well, this and the related ‘Dandelion Wine’. If you did not love ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ then you would likely not like ‘Dandelion Wine’ as the tone and setting are the same. They both take you through their paces leisurely. I loved how both of them moved sort of like a dream. I think the big thing with those two novels is the sense of nostalgia they can bring. Both are about age and aging. I guess they really just hit me the right way.

    On the other hand ‘Fahrenheit 451′ was maybe the only thing by him I truly and actively disliked (I’ve read a great majority of his works that have a printing within the last few decades).

    I would recommend the short story ‘The Veldt’. It is not too long and is a personal favorite. Plus you can find it online, just do a google search. ‘A Sound of Thunder’ is another short that had a big impact on me in my youth. Really, reading that story when I was 11 or so opened me up to reading for fun. I just devoured Bradbury’s writing after that. Anything I could find. Looking back, I do not know that the story would hold up for me now as particularly great….but at the time it was wonderful. ‘The Veld’ can be found, I believe, in the collection ‘S is for Space’. ‘A Sound of Thunder’ can be found in the collection ‘R is for Rocket’. Both have other good stories and are all slightly sci-fi oriented….but not in the guns and ships space opera sort of way.

  6. I felt the very same way about Something Wicked! Wanted to love it, thought I would love it, admired the amazing word play, but it just did not capture my heart. I did enjoy Fahrenheit 451 when I read it for the class when I was a substitute teacher. Well, I only read the last couple of chapters but was misty eyed and amazed at the powerful message. And so sad that the students thought it sucked. :(

  7. For Something Wicked… Watch the movie :) Seriously.

    As for any other Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 is excellent. Just be sure to skim when it starts to drag for you.

    Do not feel obligated to read every word! (Thus, the secret to Bradbury is revealed.)

  8. I completely agree with you on (and did not finish) Something Wicked. But I did really enjoy the stories in The October Country, which I think do a better job with being creepy and leisurely paced without feeling like they’re going nowhere. They were more atmospheric, but successfully so.

  9. Pingback: End of Year Book Survey | Capricious Reader

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