To be opened soon, in preparation for October.
To be opened soon, in preparation for October.
Last edited by Hobbit; September 30th, 2010 at 04:30 PM.
I am so excited!!! Randy M. ...... get that list of yours out! lol I am so dying to see what is on your mind for reading during in this wonderful month of October!! I believe i always look forward to this time of year more and more!
The fall leaves, raking....cemetaries and ghouls!! hahahah!
After your list...I have a few things to mention, but shall wait and see!!
Please begin!! Can't you just feel it!!!
PS: Thanx Hobbit!! I was waiting for you to let the ghouls out!!!
LOL. Can I tell you're excited about this, Shayna?
Randy will be along in a bit.... he's just hauling the tomes from the catacombs!
Before I start I thought I should issue the standard disclaimers:
- I'm not an expert, I've just read a lot.
- I look forward to comments and discussion.
- Oddly enough, I also look forward to corrections. Sometimes I start typing and just get carried away. If I say something less than bright, let me know; the sound you hear will be me smacking my forehead.
- You will see a ton of short stories mentioned because I think the form suits the genre. But I won't ignore novels.
- You'll see titles repeated for two reasons:
- Stories are more than just one thing;
- I've read a lot, but not everything!
- I'm probably weakest with newer works, so you'll see a lot of older works mentioned. Still, there will be some newer books and stories mentioned.
And I think that's it. I need to make a couple of corrections to some of what I've written about ... Ray Bradbury, and I'll send it off the first list as soon as I can.
- The October Country (1955)
- “The Crowd”
- “The Small Assassin”
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962)
- The Halloween Tree (1972)
The plaudits earned by The Martian Chronicles (1950) – particularly the praising review by Christopher Isherwood – followed by the success of Fahrenheit 451 (1953) propelled Ray Bradbury’s career to a level beyond that of any other writer who came to maturity in the s.f./fantasy pulps: Best-seller status and critical acclaim. At the height of his renown, Bradbury was thought of as one of America’s premier s.f. writers.
Which seems a bit odd now considering a good deal of Bradbury’s early work was published in Weird Tales magazine and his first book, Dark Carnival, appeared from Arkham House, the small publishing house best known for preserving the works of H. P. Lovecraft. Bradbury himself has said that he was a fantasist and over the years this view has become more prevalent among readers. Certainly the science in his writings is thin, the technology mainly the furnishings around which he wove his true stories which were about aspects of love, about family, about growing up and what is lost and what is gained in the process.
While other writers have written about autumn and even about Halloween, for 3 generations of readers Ray Bradbury’s name has been indelibly linked to the season. Starting with the story “Homecoming” – my nomination for the great American short fantasy of the 20th century – Bradbury returned time and again to the season, to the sense of aging and mortality that the season inspires, and to the theme of loss. The October Country incorporates several of the stories from Dark Carnival and pulls in others, and hovering over all of them like the shadow of Uncle Einar is that melancholy, that apprehension of decay and of loss of the fecundity and energy of summer; there is in these stories a sense of turning inward.
The three stories mentioned above are among the most well-known of the stories in The October Country, itself a true cornerstone of 20th century American fantasy. “The Crowd” is a rather (Fritz) Leiber-esque story observing something we’ve all seen in cities and finding the sinister in it – where do the crowds at accidents come from? Who are they? What do they want? “The Small Assassin,” arguably Bradbury’s most effective horror story, concerns what should be the happiest time in a married couple’s lives, the birth of their first child. “Homecoming,” not really horror but a story that uses the furniture of the horror story as backdrop, recounts events leading to and during a family gathering, a family composed of werewolves and vampires, men with wings and great-great-etc grandma, who is a mummy, and Timothy, who is none of those things, and in the process evokes the nature of family and familial love, the sense of belonging or not, the feeling of late Fall, the magic of Halloween, and the curse and blessing of mortality like no other story I know.
I’ll add some thoughts on Something Wicked This Way Comes presently, but first a brief note about The Halloween Tree: I read it about ten years ago and no longer recall details. I do remember thinking it was a variation on Something …, but with less emphasis on the truly scary and greater emphasis on the weird and eerie and the adventure of it. As with most of Something… it is written from the viewpoint of young boys, or more precisely of the young boys of Bradbury’s mid-west youth. Like, say, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea books, it was a Young Adult title before there was a Young Adult category, and for me it seemed like a drawn-out short story that pulled its punches a bit for the perceived audience. Which is not to say I disliked it. I would recommend giving it a try.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is, arguably, Bradbury’s greatest achievement at novel-length, a story about coming of age, of facing mortality, of love between friends and between father and son. The catalyst for this is the arrival of Mr. Dark’s carnival in town. The carnival is supernatural, battening on the souls and hopes and dreams of unwary and gullible townspeople, using their desires and needs and vanities against them.
While the narrator is anonymous, the narrative voice is exuberant and aware of the vistas of possibility before the two young boys who are the center of the story. The narrative voice is also aware of the misgivings and fears of the father of one of them, and that discordance is what gives the book much of its power: The worries and frets of an aging man contrasted to the joy in life of his son, which in turn is contrasted to the worries and needs of his best friend, all held together by their mutual love and respect.
Something Wicked This Way Comes is part The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and part The Circus of Dr. Lao but it is mostly pure-quill Bradbury, flawed by lapses into sentimentality, descriptive passages that go over the top (often connected to pitch perfect passages), and moments where the consequences of decisions and actions or inactions are not quite as rigorously worked out as maybe they should be. Yet the essential optimism of the work, its celebration of friendship and of the energy and possibilities of youth, its careful detailing of an older man’s coming to terms with decay and mortality, its recognition of what is bad in the world and the power evil can exert over us raise it above its flaws. I know of nothing quite like it in American literature and though my critical faculties rebel at parts of it, that I’ve read it at least five times must mean it speaks to me at some level beyond the intellectual, even if I can’t quite figure out what level that is.
Lastly, even in old age Bradbury hasn’t abandoned autumn and Halloween. From the Dust Returned (2001) gathers together his stories about the Family, first depicted in “Homecoming.” I haven’t read it yet because I’ve heard he rewrote the stories and I’m not sure I like that. Those stories are old friends and I’m not sure I want even their author messing around with them. Still, I expect I’ll give in and read it eventually.
Next Monday, Evoking Bradbury
Last edited by Randy M.; September 2nd, 2011 at 10:07 AM.
Randy - I read a lot of Bradbury's short stories when I was younger. Only a couple have stayed with me and "The Small Assassin" is one, but unfortunately because I remember thinking it was was ridiculous to the point of hilarity. I'm not sure that Bradbury achieves the suspension of disbelief necessary to get the reader to accept a newborn might be trying to murder its parents. And the doctor's acceptance of this idea based on what, I recall, to be flimsy evidence also beggared belief. Now I'm the father of a 3 month old maybe I should read it again - or maybe not - It would be horrible to think I could empathise with the story more now!
Another Bradbury story that I remember vividly is "The Man Upstairs", and I think this one is much more effective. This is probably one of my favourite short stories. Bradbury's wonderful descriptive powers are at their height in this tale and used to create an atmosphere of growing suspense and terror. The opening description of the chicken being gutted is so beautiful and disturbing it really has stayed with me since I was a kid.
I haven't read that one. I'll have to see if it's in one of my collections. Thanks.Another Bradbury story that I remember vividly is "The Man Upstairs", and I think this one is much more effective. This is probably one of my favourite short stories. Bradbury's wonderful descriptive powers are at their height in this tale and used to create an atmosphere of growing suspense and terror. The opening description of the chicken being gutted is so beautiful and disturbing it really has stayed with me since I was a kid.
By the way, another story I meant to mention (not in TOC) and didn't was "Black Ferris" (believe that's the correct title; I'll double-check when I can) which was an early run at Something Wicked This Way Comes.
I'm pretty sure "The Man Upstairs" was in The Small Assassin short story collection if you have that.
EDIT: Oh, and to be fair, "The Small Assassin" is one of Bradbury's better known and loved short stories, so your opinion is probably more relevant to others than mine.
Last edited by Luke_B; October 1st, 2010 at 05:06 PM.
Before writing about Bradbury I pulled TOC out and reread a few stories, but not this one. I'll reread this one before much longer.
I wouldn't go that far, especially after the gaff I just made. But this is one of the aspects of horror that parallel humor: Some people find certain things funny or scary, and the person next to them wonders what the fuss is about. Wait until I start discussing Lovecraft -- some readers are mesmerized by his writing, others can't stop laughing long enough to get scared (Brian Aldiss, for one).EDIT: Oh, and to be fair, "The Small Assassin" is one of Bradbury's better known and loved short stories, so your opinion is probably more relevant to others than mine.
My favorite Ray Bradbury story is "Pillar Of Fire". It's perfect reading for this time of year. You can find it in his collection " S Is For Space".
a. The Night Country by Stewart O’Nan (2004)
b. Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge (2007)
c. A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (1994)
d. “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” by Glen Hirshberg
Not specifically Halloween
e. Blind Voices by Tom Reamy (1978)
f. Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2002)
g. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)
A mostly non-horror title of possible interest
h. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (1996)
Ray Bradbury’s influence has been widespread, and his October and Halloween stories have inspired works by many other writers in and out of genre.
Stewart O’Nan’s The Night Country recounts the events on Halloween one year to the day after a car accident killed several high school students; it is told from the perspective of the students’ ghosts as they revisit the town in which they lived and died. While O’Nan dedicates his novel to Bradbury, neither the concept of the novel nor O’Nan’s prose seem particularly Bradbury-like. Even so, as in Bradbury, O’Nan instills the quiet winding-down of autumn with a pervading melancholy, a growing sense of something dire soon to happen, and even a Bradbury-esque empathy from the narrator for the living characters being observed. O’Nan’s novel leisurely reveals the actions and motivations of his characters, and gradually unveils the mystery surrounding the accident and the reasons for the return of the ghosts.
By contrast with O’Nan’s novel, both Roger Zelazny in A Night in the Lonesome October and Norman Partridge in Dark Harvest approach Bradbury-like material with an adventure story sensibility, but diverge drastically from there. Zelazny takes an idea similar to Bradbury’s the Family: What if the monsters we know from books and movies, and even one from real life, were conspiring to either save or destroy the world? Like most of Zelazny’s work that I’ve read, the narrator is the protagonist and while not flawless, he is intelligent, knowledgable, loyal and courageous. Unlike those other Zelazny works, the narrator is also a canine, the companion of a man simply known as Jack. Zelazny, completely aware of the not-so-latent silliness of his premise, draws the reader in mainly through making his hero sympathetic and with writing that is sharp, concise, straight-faced and mischievously funny. And it is that sense of humor and having fun with genre materials that most distinguishes Zelazny’s novel from Partridge’s.
Partidge’s Dark Harvest posits a mid-west town with an unbroken streak of fine weather, good crops and great yield at harvest. And the secret for this success is revealed as the novel follows a young man transformed into … well, that would be telling; Partridge’s depiction of young people in their late teens trying to break away from the conventions and expectations of their particular town is convincing. While the setting and some of the description is Bradbury’s mid-west, Partridge’s view of small town life is closer to that of Thomas Tryon in Harvest Home, and his narrative voice is drawn from noir, less akin to Bradbury than to Dashiell Hammett or Fred Brown. This is the only one of the novels listed above that I would call an outright horror novel, and a well-constructed, entertaining one.
Arguably a bit closer in tone, theme and setting to Bradbury, the title of Glen Hirshberg’s novella, “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” (The Two Sams; 2003)) refers directly to Something Wicked This Way Comes. In this story a professor and his lover visit a recently arrived carnival and learn things about themselves they hadn’t known. The story is distinguished by loving, longing and loss.
I cannot recommend these three novels and novella strongly enough. While not Bradbury, they take us near Bradbury territory and do so to some effect.
Not set on Halloween, Blind Voices is a first novel by by Tom Reamy, who died before seeing it in print. Reamy evokes a similar mid-west setting to Bradbury’s; his characters would not seem out of place in a Bradbury story, and early on Reamy’s well-phrased descriptive prose brings a similar flavor to the novel. As in Something Wicked This Way Comes a travelling carnival comes to town, exciting the townsfolk with its acts: a Snake Goddess, a gorgon, a minotaur, and others. These aren’t quite Mr. Dark’s soul-sucking entertainments, though, and Reamy’s attempt to explain them in a science fictional manner undermines the book’s overall effect; further, since his plot does not spring as fully from character as Bradbury’s does, a good deal of narrative energy is lost in just getting the plot to work. All-in-all, this is a good first novel, but it’s still only a shadow of the book that inspired it.
More successful, I think, and great fun are Neil Gaiman’s two Bradbury-esque Young Adult novels, Coraline and The Graveyard Book. The former tells of a young girl who feels neglected and ignored by her mother and father as they move to a new house and try to balance working from home with raising a precocious and inquisitive daughter. The latter tells of a young boy lost in a graveyard and brought up by ghosts and a vampire. Again these are adventure novels of a sort, Coraline Gaiman’s attempt, I believe, to provide his own daughter with something to read like Bradbury, in whose books young girls seem noticably scarce, and The Graveyard Book another attempt to write something along the lines of Bradbury’s Family stories.
Lastly, Alice Hoffman’s prose in Practical Magic is the most like Bradbury’s in tone of any of these works, flowing ebulliently and springing on the reader appropriate and sometimes startling, sometimes delightful imagery in this story about two sisters, witches, and how they nearly destroy themselves and how they fight for each other. I think, like Gaiman, Hoffman was looking to give female readers the heroines Bradbury did not in a story like those Bradbury wrote for boys and men. Certainly, when writing about love, particularly familial love, approaching it like Bradbury seems to work. (One note: avoid the movie based on Practical Magic; good cast, but the filmmakers went for a lowest common denominator plot.)
Next: Not sure you like horror stories? A sampler for beginners to choose from...
Last edited by Randy M.; September 2nd, 2011 at 10:18 AM.
Not sure it fits some of the criteria Randy is thinking of, but when it comes to Bradbury, 'the Emmissary' is one that always sticks out in my mind - chilling ending.
This collection comes highly recommended by me http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ray-Bradbury...6211564&sr=8-3
Last edited by jamieem; October 4th, 2010 at 12:00 PM.