I’ve been in awe of Ray Bradbury ever since I read Fahrenheit 451, but I was a little afraid to read another of his books. After all, could lightening possibly strike twice? I took a chance and discovered that although Dandelion Wine wasn’t as powerful as Fahrenheit, it was a tremendous pleasure to read. For one thing, the writing is gorgeous. It was often so thick with adjectives and invented verbs that I could feel the heaviness of that long ago summer which was weighted down by heat as well as by life’s challenges.
The book is a loose collection of stories from the summer of 1928. The protagonist is twelve year old Douglas Spaulding whose fictionalized adventures are based on memories from Bradbury’s own youth. Bradbury masterfully juxtaposes the joy of living with the pain of aging and of time passing. (He reminded me of Wendell Berry in that respect.)
In one of the stories, a young boy is coming to grips with his mortality: Douglas watched [the fireflies] go. They departed like the pale fragments of a final twilight in the history of a dying world. They went like the few remaining shreds of warm hope from his hand. They left his face and his body and the space inside his body to darkness. They left him empty as the Mason jar… (p. 187)
I was taken aback by how dark a couple of the stories were. If you look at some older covers of the book you can see that they played up the few macabre aspects of the book (probably due to Bradbury’s fame as a science fiction writer.) Anyway, the stories are good, but they are not this book’s main attraction. I would gladly re-read it to wallow once again in its beautiful language.