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Something Wicked This Way Comes Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 8, 1999
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From Library Journal
Something Wicked is Avon's latest installment in its ongoing series of reprints of Bradbury's works in quality yet affordable hardcover editions. Appearing in 1962, this is the story of a diabolical carnival that wreaks havoc on the lives of the people of a small Illinois town, much like the one in which Bradbury grew up. This edition also sports a new afterword by the author.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2011 at the age of 91, inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. He was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.
Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, "Live forever!" Bradbury later said, "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped."
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My biggest issue with the story was the way the author told it. The writing style is so florid and poetic that I found myself having to constantly stop reading and reread passages to make sure I fully understood what was happening to the characters. While this might be perfect and quite beautiful writing for a different sort of genre, when it comes to a story that is meant to be terrifying, being removed from the tension, panic, and horror ruins that feeling of terror for me. I want to feel scared, not be confused about whether or not I am understanding what is happening in the story and whether or not those characters are feeling scared. That terror has to be visceral, not just cerebral.
I do have to say that there were a few instances where I was able to get into the flow of the story and enjoy the quite unsettling things happening to this town and its inhabitants. There is one scene in particular, where the two boys witness a man riding backwards on the carousel and the horrible results when that carousel finally stops turning, that had my heart pumping deliciously. The scenes taking place within the house of mirrors were pretty scary as well. I just wish there were more of these sorts of scenes and less waxing descriptions.
I also enjoyed the way the story highlighted the frenetic nature of boys and their imaginations and need for adventure that seems to seep away as they age, as well as how that aging can slowly begin to pull even the closest boys apart as their interests and motivations begin to separate. I thought the story an interesting way to show the dangers of not being satisfied in whatever chapter of life you happen to be in - either wishing to be young and back in the "good ol' days" or fighting to grow up before your time - and how that dissatisfaction can leave you open to all sorts of nefarious choices.
All in all I am happy that I read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the Twitter chat as it is a classic and did have parts that I ended up enjoying. It was not, however, the quick, terrifying read I anticipated and I will admit that this left me somewhat disappointed overall. I would recommend those that are interested in the story based on the synopsis or other reviews give it a try...you might end up loving it as so many other readers have.
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes. [Knocking]
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
What is't you do?
The above quote from Shakespeare's Macbeth is whence this book takes its title, but it's the character Macbeth's quote immediately following the titular quote that seems to me more à propos to an attempt at reviewing the book; for Bradbury, despite the book's ending, is a full adept at exploring the secret, black and midnight thoughts of us all. The book's fault - in my eyes - is that it presents, in the end, a Manichean, Star Wars view of the world which just doesn't wash with me. Thankfully, throughout most of the book, Bradbury is more concerned with the dark carnival that comes into town upon a midnight wind one October and the dreamlike horrors it works upon the townspeople. This is where the magic in the prose lies. It rather reminds me of Blake's remark about Milton, that he was a true poet and on the devil's side without knowing it.
Be all this as it may, it's very difficult to tell the prospective reader what this book is about, because of its wild poetic exploration of the dark corners of the human soul. But I think it's best seen as a sort of warning: Beware of your dreams and imaginings - regardless of your age or situation - for therein unfathomable darkness lies beneath the gilt surface. This is best set forth by the doomed schoolmarm, Miss Foley, bewitched by the memories of her lost youth:
"Best skate the thin ice, lightly. Paused, the weight of your attention might crack the shell. Plunged through the crust, you might drown in depths so cold, so remote, that all the Past lay carved in tombstone marbles there. Ice water would syringe your veins. Transfixed at the mirror sill, you would stand forever, unable to lift your gaze from the proofs of Time."
And the doomed lightning-rod salesman, bewitched by the ideal of the perfect woman:
"Once, as a boy, sneaking the cool grottos (sic) behind a motion picture theater screen, on his way to a free seat, he had glanced up and there towering and flooding the haunted dark seen a woman's face as he had never seen it since, of such size and beauty built of milk-bone and moon flesh as to freeze him there alone behind the stage, shadowed by the motion of her lips, the bird-wing flicker of her eyes, the snow-pale-death-shimmering illumination from her cheeks."
In an odd way, Bradbury seems to be telling us to beware his own writing. But the obverse side of this coin, embodied in the person another reviewer has dubbed - quite rightly, I think - the "hero" of the novel, Mr. Halloway, expounding upon the notion of the "soul's energy" that these outlandish carnies seem to crave, maintains:
"How do I know this? I observe. The carnival is like people, only more so. A man, a woman, rather than walk away from, or kill, each other, ride each other a lifetime, pulling hair, extracting fingernails, the pain of each to the other like a narcotic that makes existence worth the day."
In other words, there's scarce relief to be found in any domestic bliss. The way out, the "good" way, seems to be laughter at the absurdity of it all. But, for this reader anyway, this - quite literally, towards the end - forced laughter is the scariest, most inhuman phenomenon of the lot!
In the end, I'd rather have a wicked but all too human Macbeth than laughter at the meaninglessness of memory, imagination and human suffering.
Perhaps, so would Bradbury's ghost.
Most recent customer reviews
This dark and terrifying tale of evil and good is written with such eloquent prose and beautiful detail it is almost impossible to put down.Read more