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Dandelion Wine (Grand Master Editions) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1985
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World-renowned fantasist Ray Bradbury has on several occasions stepped outside the arenas of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. An unabashed romantic, his first novel in 1957 was basically a love letter to his childhood. (For those who want to undertake an even more evocative look at the dark side of youth, five years later the author would write the chilling classic Something Wicked This Way Comes.)
Dandelion Wine takes us into the summer of 1928, and to all the wondrous and magical events in the life of a 12-year-old Midwestern boy named Douglas Spaulding. This tender, openly affectionate story of a young man's voyage of discovery is certainly more mainstream than exotic. No walking dead or spaceships to Mars here. Yet those who wish to experience the unique magic of early Bradbury as a prose stylist should find Dandelion Wine most refreshing. --Stanley Wiater
"Bradbury is an authentic original."—Time
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I understood what Bradbury was saying at age 12, an incredible thing in itself, since the themes here are fairly grown-up. Essentially, this book is about a boy flooded with the sudden realization of his own "aliveness", and never has a child's experience of innocent living been so perfectly, passionately illustrated. Douglas Spaulding lying in the grass, or feeling the keen pleasure and pain of carrying heavy laden buckets of self-picked berries out of the woods while the handles crease the insides of his hands. Douglas Spaulding discovering the wonder of a Number Two pencil, and the joy of rising early in the morning to watch his town come to life with the sunrise. Douglas Spaulding discovering that nothing makes a boy fly weightless through his summer vacation better than slipping his feet into the cool, cloudwrapped heaven of a new pair of tennis shoes.
I found this book, at age 12 and several times since, to be an experience ranking with the most important books about human life that I have ever read. Bradbury sees so much, and conveys the experiences so clearly that one knows what Douglas and Ray know by the end. This is a book about passion and joy and being fully alive from moment to moment. It is a sonnet to and affirmation of childhood and innocence of such persuasive power that it has become a key volume of my core library. I don't expect everyone to have such a trascendent experience in the reading, and not everyone is fortunate enough to read this book at as perfect a moment as I did. But it is undeniable in its power and equal to the greatest work Ray Bradbury has produced, in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to meet him and thank him for it while at college. But this book has meant more to me than I could tell him.
Give this to a boy you care about, or read it to evoke, soothe and elevate the child in you. It is pure poetry, Bradbury at the height of his powers, written with genius, on the vital topic of the nature of life. I can only say Douglas Spaulding has never left me. You may find him equally provocative.
I didn't have to finish it to know I had nothing much to gain from it.
However, if you are young and inexperienced I feel certain this is a very good book for you to read.
August 22nd 1922 - June 5th, 2012
When Ray Bradbury died reactions came from everywhere including from President Obama. Surprising to me, few mentioned the one of his works that meant so much to me and affected my life so deeply. While he was most known to the general public for his science fiction, I found his mostly autobiographical novel Dandelion Wine to be the most impactful. At the same time it best illustrated Bradbury’s incredible command of the language, his ability to stir the imagination, and the way in which he could open windows on life.
I couldn’t count the number of times I would reread a single sentence and become overwhelmed with admiration and envy at how he used words to create images in the mind’s eye. All this was particularly on display in Dandelion Wine and its sequel, Farewell Summer. For Bradbury, it couldn’t be just water. “Nothing else would do but the pure waters which had been summoned from the lakes far away and the sweet fields of grassy dew on early morning, lifted to the open sky, carried in laundered clusters nine hundred miles, brushed with wind, electrified with high voltage, and condensed upon cool air. This water, falling, raining, gathered yet more of the heavens in its crystals. Taking something of the east wind and the west wind and the north wind and the south, the water made rain and the rain, within this hour of rituals, would be well on its way to wine.”
Essentially, Dandelion Wine is the story of a summer in the life of a twelve year old boy as he comes to understand what it means to be alive. But it is also a time capsule for the year 1928 of life in a small town when everyone’s world was much smaller and more compact. There is horror, love, comedy, wonder, nostalgia, and human relations. Bradbury could find unique ways to describe them all.
I first read Dandelion Wine in 1957 when I wasn’t much older than Douglas Spaulding, the central character. It helped me put life in perspective as I was leaving high school. I read it the second time in the early ‘80s when I introduced my daughter to it. Kelly and I sat on our front porch swing one warm summer evening and I read aloud to her the story of Bill Forrester and Helen Loomis. It was all I could do to finish it and when I did we both had tears streaming down our cheeks. Such was the power of imagination and Bradbury’s ability to stroke it to life using just words.
I read it the third time in preparation for reading the sequel, Farewell Summer, written 55 years after Dandelion Wine. Like a fine wine, it had only gotten better with age. Appropriately, Farewell Summer was given to me by Kelly and I read it on summer’s eve 2012. It was the perfect beginning for yet another summer.
In both books the ravine in Green Town, Illinois, based on Waukegan, Illinois where Bradbury grew up was a central feature. I couldn’t resist going to Googlearth to see if the ravine was real. It was. And, it is still there even after Waukegan had changed from a small town to a satellite of Chicago. I was pleased to simply find I could locate it. But when I zoomed in and highlighted the little tree symbol I found the ravine is now Ray Bradbury Park. Perfect!
June 29, 2012