I love fall. I love crispy fall leaves beneath my booted feet as I take walks in the brisk fall air. I love the scents surrounding me and the taste of cinnamon donuts and cider. I love fall colors and clothes ... and the azure shade of a sky littered with heather-painted clouds.
The other day, as I sauntered happily down the sidewalk Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte in hand, I took a deep breath. There is something mystical and enticing about this season. Perhaps it is the mysterious way the leaves transform and wave so soundlessly, caressing the sky in the breeze as though someone directed them to do so. Perhaps it comes with the cool mornings, warm afternoons and crisp nights. In the fall, I find myself waiting for something ... catching my breath as I anticipate some unknown change or arrival.
Perhaps that is the way Ray Bradbury felt when he wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes. Yes, Sara, you were right! You CAN "smell" October when you open this book. The first line captures you and promises you a unique adventure ...
"The seller of lightning rods arrived just before the storm ..." Wow.
I approached Ron's most recent Classic Challenge to read a Sci-Fi/Fantasy classic with a referral from a friend (Thanks Sara) and I'm so glad I did. What a treat.
Something Wicked This Way Comes not only brings fall alive but features an evocative traveling carnival as well ... one with all the runway "freak-shows" of the classic carnival of old. Talk about capturing my attention. I have always been fascinated by carnivals and their side-shows. What child doesn't recall fondly a trip to a colorful, tent laden midway ... mystical, magical, exciting moments of memory.
Something Wicked drew me in with a tone reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier-style gothic fiction blended with well-crafted characters and a carnival troupe ... a macabre and scary troupe that is more than slightly unpredictable. It is a troupe with supernatural power ... a troupe with a magic Carousel.
This is Ray Bradbury at his best. Sadly, I don't recall reading anything by him previously so this was an exciting adventure. This book is stylized with a mystical quality, at times the evocative descriptions are a bit rambling but they serve a purpose. They are deliberate. Thus, the sometimes meandering descriptions are riddled with metaphor and allusion ... beckoning you deeper into the carnival experience .... inviting you to explore the dark corners of your own life and imagination and even darker possibilities.
The story integrates themes popular even today ... coming of age and the regrets of life unfulfilled are balanced precariously with the perils of getting what you wish for. Deeply sinister carnival owners seek to entice two nearly 14 year old boys on the cusp of adulthood and a woman feeling old and left behind. The invitation beckons to us all ... Ride the merry go round and shave a year or two off your life any time you want. Or add a year or two ... It's an attractive invitation difficult to resist. It's evil to the very core though. And as the true hero of this novel states: "Evil has only the power that we give it."
I understand Bradbury was influenced to write this tale based on his own "hysterical spin" on a merry-go-round when he was four years old. He shrieked and screamed until the operator stopped the ride to "let him free." Not long after that he saw Lon Chaney in the film Laugh, Clown, Laugh, encountering the darker tones that lurk behind a clown's painted face.
Then at age 12, Bradbury met Mr. Electrico on the carnival grounds, Mr. Electrico introduced him to all the carnival freaks that Labor Day weekend in 1932, even recalling a past life moment the two had shared at the battle of the Ardennes Forest outside Paris where Bradbury had actually died in his arms.
Bradbury himself said that was a turning point in his life, stating that "something amazing had struck him with electric fire and changed him forever." Within eight weeks, he began to write ... He wrote every day after that, for the next 65 years.
I have never been a big fan of horror films or books. I have nightmares about clowns ... perhaps due to Poltergeist and It, which I saw as a teenager. But, I have to admit a fascination with the darkness and macabre nature of these old carnivals. Something Wicked This Way Comes evoked the feelings I experienced reading Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus a few years ago. That book was an otherwordly reading experience too ... I couldn't put it down.
Something about Sideshows intrigues me ... beckons me ... entices me. And something about fall and carnivals excites me. You hear the screams on the rides, you smell the caramel apples and popcorn, yet you only glimpse a tiny bit of what is truly before you. It's magical. It teases ... and it draws you back again and again with the promise of something you cannot yet explain.
I think I will read this book every fall with a cup of hot cider in my hands ... and wait to see what happens. Because Something is coming ... I sense it ...