Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes is the story of two boys, James Nightshade and William Halloway, and how they save their town from the evil that arrives with the “dark carnival” one autumn midnight.

This book is considered one of Ray Bradbury’s more minor works but, in my opinion is one of his best, especially after rereading it as an adult. The combination of subject matter, theme, and metaphor-dripping language is what makes this book so great. For example:

“All the meannesses we harbor, they borrow in redoubled spades. They’re a billion times itchier for pain, sorrow, and sickness than the average man. We salt our lives with other people’s sins. Our flesh to us tastes sweet. But the carnival doesn’t care if it stinks by moonlight instead of sun, so long as it gorges on fear and pain. That’s the fuel, the vapor that spins the carousel, the raw stuffs of terror, the excruciating agony of guilt, the scream from real and imagined wounds.”

 The writing is poetic and if you are unsure of what is going on you can in return feel the language, tone and mood, the autumn season, the spookiness of the dark carnival, what it feels like to want to be older and younger at the same time, and so much more. If you happen to be a fan of stories that are propelled by language, modern classics, gothic literature, horror/thriller, or vaudeville/circuses of the dark variety, than you might enjoy this book.

Personal note on why I love this book: 
As a young adult librarian I cannot help but run everything through a YA filter. For that reason, I think this book is absolute perfection for A's and YA's alike. As a recent professional librarian (1 year in March), and one about to hit their 30 year mark, I completely understand the crux of wanting the experience of professional and personal accomplishment, while tandemly wanting the carefree days of my youth. The idea of reliving one's youth with the knowledge and experience of age is somewhat trite and something you will hear often quoted by older individuals. You also hear a lot of, "What I wouldn't do to be 30 again", etc. It's a basic conundrum of the human condition admitted - but still applicable and true. That emotional draw is universal.

As far as writing is concerned, you cannot find a better example than in this novel. The language is excruciatingly rich and puts most "creative writers" to shame, myself included. My god, if I were to ever have my writing ventures compared to Bradbury's it would be the most mediocre and affected example one could formulate.  Anyhow, if one is trying to teach the difference between mood and tone, analogy and metaphor, and just how to be an effective writer sans wordiness, this would be the ideal example.

I don't care about well-writteness, I care about feeling the words and making a connection, and not feeling so damn alone in one's existential contingency. Those are a few of the reasons why this work is so near and dear to my heart and, why I hold Something Wicked This Way Comes as a pseudo litmus test when comparing other great works. Please, read, devour this text. It could possibly be the most beautiful thing you have ever read.  

Need more to read? You might also want to try The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, or Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby.