Monday, July 28, 2003
Until this weekend, I had almost forgotten.
As a child, and during high school I had read scores of Ray Bradbury's short story collections. From fright to fantasy, wide-eyed terror to wonder each tale had held me spellbound for a stretch. Some had confused and confounded, and some had left indelible heartfelt impressions and images ("Skeleton", "The Small Assassin", "...And Soft Rains Will Come") I still recall today.
After nearly two decades of absence from his works, I picked up a copy of Bradbury's 1950's masterpiece Dandelion Wine. It's a fast merry-go-round ride of a book, whirling and sparking a dusty mental light switch that reillumined a dormant room of my subconscious.
Now, during this hazy, greenly buzzing Illinois July far in time [but not far in space] from Bradbury's legendary Green Town of 1928, I saw it.
I understood exactly why this poetic, golden-green tale of a Waukegan childhood is not meant to be fully comprehended by a reader of the protagonist's tender age. Only in the oblique light of adulthood does this tale of memory, love and loss, youth and age, and friendship and time ripen to its full bouquet.
Like the potent 'bottled summer' that 12-year old Douglas Spaulding's grandfather employs to keep each day of the season perfectly capped in time, awaiting a winter's day for its release, I finally uncorked this deliciously fragrant tale at just the right place and time. Select a quiet weekend day to open the cover. You'll be mesmerized in moments, and likely finish the book in an afternoon...if not, just close it, but it on your shelf and try again next summer.
There will come a time when this book will be exactly the ticket to transport you, whether it is in one year or twenty. It will wait; literature of this caliber only improves with time. Each chapter, whether short or long, will appear to you first as a simple bloom: but like the dandelions in its title, these small golden blossoms contain far more than first meets the eye. Upon closer examination, each one's roots pierce deep down into the fertile unlit soil of the subconscious.
Dandelion Wine elicits emotions spanning the gamut of pure blazing noonday childhood joy that burns its image through smile-closed eyelids - to the clammy neck-stiffening fear felt walking alone through a black ravine at midnight, with half-heard footsteps echoing a few paces behind you.
It was a very good summer, indeed.