Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Short Story reading with Ray Bradbury
The Illustrated Man /Ray Bradbury
New York: Avon, 1997, c1951.
October Country / Ray BradburyNew York: Avon, 1999, c1955.
What better choice than Ray Bradbury's short stories for the RIP Challenge? I had these two books on my shelves just waiting for the right moment...and since I finished the second during last weekend's Readathon, I will share my impressions of both. They are both collections of stories first published in the late 40's and the 50's. The age of the stories does show a bit, especially in the way that the male main characters have a tendency toward casual dismissal of women as equal actors in life. It is of the time, but Bradbury does transcend the shortcomings of the era, generally.
First, The Illustrated Man. This collection contains some of the classic Bradbury stories, like "The Veldt". I enjoyed nearly every story in this book, some of which were new to me. Early on in the book comes a story called "Kaleidoscope", which is hauntingly Bradbury-ish. It is a brief tale of a group of men in space, whose rocket is damaged; they all end up floating out into the void. As this was a rather sudden accident, they are in their space suits but haven't had time to avail themselves of any means of propulsion. Thus they are all stuck on their various trajectories, floating further away from each other even while they can still communicate via headset. The matter-of-fact acceptance of certain death in conjunction with the mundane banter they share -- no deep final words shared here -- is quite a combination. Some memorable images and writing in this one.
October Country wasn't as enjoyable. The stories felt more dated, more of the "b-list" of his writing. But perhaps that was just because they were mainly horror stories, while I really enjoy his space/science fiction-y stories more. There were certainly still moments of Bradbury greatness, but I found the hillbilly lingo in one story, and the representation of women in a couple of others, quite offputting. The opening story was strong, in which a dwarf spends much time looking at his regular sized self in a funhouse mirror, only to be thwarted at the end - very dark and sad somehow. And perhaps since I read it all in one day I didn't give myself enough time to linger with some of the atmosphere created by each story. Even so, this book does include two stories I really love, "Uncle Einar" and "Homecoming". Homecoming is now in picture book format, illustrated by Dave McKean, as well.
The Illustrated Man was my preferred collection, but in all cases, Bradbury is always a favourite, and there is always something to enjoy in his work. Very suitable to this time of year, and so many other stories still to read, even younger-audience books like The Halloween Tree.
I'm interested to find out whether others also read him, and if so, do you have a favourite Bradbury story? I think my favourite stories are "All Summer in a Day" (unforgettable) and "There will come soft rains" -- although it is hard to narrow it down.