Ray Bradbury’s passing, at the age of 91, evokes sadness and nostalgia for the lost world of my youth. I discovered him early on, before he became quite as famous as he is today, in the science-fiction magazines that were my earliest “serious” reading material. His stories featured real people, not the walking, talking clichés who inhabited the sci-fi landscape: The focus was on the plot and the inner lives of the characters, rather than on technology. His was a humanistic science fiction, one that may more accurately be described as speculative fiction.
Rereading the books one enjoyed as a youth can be a disappointing experience. Not so with Bradbury. Upon learning of his death, I dipped into Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes, my two favorites, and the magic took hold immediately.
Dandelion Wine is a series of short stories strung together to form a “novel.” They tell the story of a single summer in the life of Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy living in Green Town, Illinois, sometime in the 1920’s. For a couple of hours I beheld the world as seen through youthful eyes—that is, eyes not yet blind to its magical ambiguity and dark mystery.
In the blinding light of a summer in Green Town, there are dark shadows. The presidency of the Honeysuckle...