Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dandelion Wine (1957)

Author: Ray Bradbury | Page Count: 281

'He stood at the open window in the dark, took a deep breath and exhaled.
The street lights, like candles on a black cake, went out.
He exhaled again and again and the stars began to vanish.'

Like much of Bradbury’s output, this one is about childhood, the magical time, but it’s also about the fading of that time, making it a bitter-sweet experience.  It captures the essence of what we all know and fear, that nostalgia for childhood can help you appreciate it more fully but can only be birthed posthumously.

It takes place over one summer in 1928, in the fictional Green Town, Illinois, a place Bradbury returns to in later books.  In that year, in that summer, Douglas Spaulding and his younger brother Tom live life to the fullest.  For Doug, the summer is his time.  Every day will bring something new.  Every day he'll fill to the brim with experiences; he’ll collect them and they’ll become a part of him.

He begins by helping pick the dandelions that are the primary ingredient of the titular wine.  The dandelion, with its ability to be considered weed or flower, to exist as a thing of contrasts, is at the heart of the novel; beyond that it's a metaphor that I won’t spoil.  The book is bursting with such metaphors, some of them overly-sentimental but they never overshadow the narrative.

It’s a novel but it’s made up of short stories that were written over a number of years.  They’re arranged in such a way that they become Doug’s story, the story of the people he knows, and of the people they know.
They're also records of the people Bradbury knows, or knew.  It's one of his most autobiographical works.  Douglas is his actual middle name.  The character in the novel is an amalgamation of his own boyhood memories, and his fanciful and fertile imagination.  Spaulding is his father's middle name.  Green Town is a pseudonym for his childhood home of Waukegan.
Knowing how personal it is enriches the work; it becomes two stories in one, with a little bit of magic in both.

5 bottles filled with sunshine out of 5

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