Back in June, 2013, the Gollancz team remembered the late great Ray Bradbury, on the first anniversary of his death. From a body of work of almost absurd variety and importance, two of us chose the same novel: Something Wicked This Way Comes . . .
Darren: As far as novels are concerned, I simply love the hypnotic rhythm of Something Wicked This Way Comes. This is the passport to the October Country. Without ever eliciting a shock or a jump in the reader, it builds tension and atmosphere to the point where it’s genuinely surprising to look up from the page and discover that I’m still in my own house and not bodily transported to the American Mid-west. I can almost smell the carnival food and hear the crowd, I can almost feel the slight chill of autumn descending, and – and this is where Bradbury has no peer – I can feel myself becoming nostalgic for a small-town American childhood that I never had.
Genius is a word that’s used too lightly in modern literature – it should be kept for only the truly great writers. Writers like Ray Bradbury.
Simon: I love Ray Bradbury’s writing. He’s one of those very rare authors whose writing you can go back to thirty years after first acquaintance and discover that your appreciation of it was not built on a hazy foundation of youthful enthusiasm and sentiment for past pleasures. Which is odd because those are exactly the things that his writing often deals with.
My favourite Bradbury book is Something Wicked This Way Comes, that brooding and menacing dissection of the dangers of yearning for an eternal childhood. But as we remember Ray on the anniversary of his death I’d like to point you at Dandelion Wine – Bradbury’s heartfelt look at the endless summers of our childhood. It’s a novel loaded with the specifics of a certain sort of American small town childhood: Norman Rockwell redux. There are darker undercurrents than Rockwell was generally allowed to admit to, but there’s something else there too. A wider and deeper understanding of the special magic of the moments that coalesce into the memories (good and bad) of those summers. Wherever we grew up, if we’re lucky we had a Dandelion Wine summer. Mine was the long hot summer of 1976. The summer of the drought, the summer before I went to ‘big school’. No picket fences, or keds, or homemade lemonade in my Dandelion Wine Summer. I spent most of it scuzzing about in a local wood, and playing in and around an old pillbox at a dusty turn in a narrow lane that took you down to the ferry if you were prepared to cycle the whole way in the heat. I didn’t read Dandelion Wine until perhaps ten years after that summer but I knew which summer of mine Bradbury was writing about. And that was his gift. He put you in his stories, he knew your story would resonate with his. Why? Because he was a generous-hearted, hugely inclusive writer. We’re lucky still to have his books.
You can imagine, then, how delighted we are to be publishing this beautiful new edition in the Fantasy Masterworks series, with a new introduction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Washington Post literary critic and reviewer – and tireless champion of the genre – Michael Dirda, and sporting a gorgeous illustration from the wonderfully talented Autun Purser.
Ray Bradbury’s extraordinary tale of childhood dreams and supernatural agency in small-town America.
It’s the week before Hallowe’en, and Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois. The siren song of the calliope entices all with promises of youth regained and dreams fulfilled . . .
And as two boys trembling on the brink of manhood set out to explore the mysteries of the dark carnival’s smoke, mazes and mirrors, they will also discover the true price of innermost wishes . . .