Something Wicked This Way Comes
|OFFWORLD - OTHER|
The messenger is gone, but the messages remain...
He thought and felt as no other genre writer. He was Philip K. Dick and Walt Whitman spliced into an extraordinary lucidity of prose, and a soaring imagination that would often sweep up into the secrets of the night and listen to the sounds of the darkness, and disclose some, and keep some. Ray Bradbury is dead, so those secrets he kept will stay kept. It's fitting.
Bradbury eschewed computers, loved the tactile sensuality of paper, and of books - look, for proof of this, in what I believe to be his greatest novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, an allegorical tale of the twin paths that stretch before young boys torn between the promise of the adult world and the moral framework of their own families.
A strange carnival comes to a rural American town - the kind of town where the barber is the one-man internet for the community, and where strange anachronistic carved Indians adorn the cigar-seller's place of business, guarding the flame that never goes out.
Soon, like the thunder of death, preceded by a salesman selling lightning rods, comes Cooger and Dark's assembly of temptation and terror, luring the isolated townsfolk into the sins of their own desires, and the horrific rewards of their own inability to resist them.
At the centre of the book is the town librarian, Charles Halloway, a late father and a semi-broken man held together by love of his son, seated and secure in the fulcrum of both dreams and science, dispensing the very magical tales of foreign lands that will make Cooger and Dark's impending carnival an unbearable temptation for young Will Halloway and his friend Jim Nightshade.
Did you see the 1983 Disney film of Something Wicked This Way Comes? Notwithstanding that Pam Grier was a credible 'Dust Witch', Jason Robards excellent as Charles Halloway and Jonathan Pryce uncommonly psychotic as Mr Dark - desperate to bring Jim Nightshade into the fold of his evil assembly - the film was impossible to make. Perhaps Orson Welles could have got near to it in his prime, but then...no. And this despite the fact that Something Wicked was originally conceived and treated as a film script, as a début directing vehicle for Bradbury's friend Gene Kelly .
There's a wonderful legacy of work by Bradbury for generations to enjoy - but Something Wicked This Way Comes was the very essence of the man: steeped in atmosphere, poetry, sadness and joy, myth and the hard facts of life that are destined to crush myth. If you were ever a boy exploring the night when you should have been in bed, or a girl longing for the world beyond the comfortable world, this book will make you remember what you forgot, and what the day-by-day erosion chipped away from the mystery of life.
Ray Bradbury is far from dead.
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