This year, as autumn has arrived, I feel the need to read/re-read books that reflect the season. As of late, several of these are Ray Bradbury titles that run the gamut of the season: Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, and now Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962).
In mid-October, with autumnal air-shifting, this book sails into the time of the season and then departs very soon after just like the flow of this tale. During the weekend before Halloween, a suspect train rides into Green Town, Illinois, bringing a nefarious group of soul-sucking characters, freaks, and the infamous Illustrated Man. And the same weekend is just before the birthdays of Will and his twin-like friend Jim. In tandem with Will’s midage father, a library janitor, the three are bound together for a wicked ride that eventually will redeem many lost souls – all the while bringing the two boys closer to manhood.
Once again, Bradbury immerses his readers in a world full of zen-run-wild adjectives and occurrences, culminating in one last frenzied ritual that chases evil away from Green Town, at least for now.
Gone is the idyllic summery nature of Dandelion Wine, sent away are the last remnants early fall in Farewell Summer; here we deeply settle into a cool and chilly season, fraught with the potential of both death as well as redemption in Something Wicked This Way Comes.
First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren’t rare. But there be good and bad, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August, a good month: school hasn’t begun yet. July, well, July’s really fine: there’s no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June’s best of all, for all the school doors spring wide and September’s a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along…And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
But one strange wild dark long year, Halloween cam early.
One year Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.
“But hell! You saw the mirrors! And the mirrors shoved me half in, half out the grave. Showed me all wrinkles and rot! Blackmailed Miss Foley so she joined the grand march Nowhere, joined the fools who wanted everything! Poor damned fools. So wound up with nothing like the dumb dog who dropped his bone to go after the reflection of the bone in the pond. Will, you saw: every mirror fell. Like ice in a thaw. With no rock or rifle, no knife, just my teeth, tongue and lungs, I gunshot those mirrors with pure contempt! Knocked down ten million scared fools and let the real man get to his feet! Now, on your feet, Will!” (Chapter 54)
Now, I am going to re-watch the movie version from 1983, which was so well done and which led me to this book. I do hope it holds up as well…