This summer I’ve been going back to classic paperbacks I read when I was a teenager. It’s been fascinating to re-read Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, and most recently Ray Bradbury.
For fun I posted snaps of the books from the beach cottage where we vacation. The Dandelion Wine cover brought a groan of recognition from one of my fellow high school classmates on Facebook.
“Gawd I hated that book…”
I have to say, for all the shortcomings of the two British authors, MacLean and Wheatley, which I’ll address in separate posts, Ted A. was right. Bradbury could write beautiful prose, but it only served to underline the almost cloying self-absorption of the main character– twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding. And I don’t care if most twelve-year-olds are in fact self absorbed. I know I was. But Bradbury could have done a much better job of presenting his characters.
In fact, as I was reading the short chapter where Douglas accompanies his father and brother into the countryside to gather berries, I was reminded of a more recent novel–The Shipping News–which I put down after 60 pages.
Bradbury can be excused to a certain extent I think because he was self taught–in an age long before MFA writing programs. Annie Proulx I just couldn’t stand. When the prose draws so much attention to itself to the detriment of the characters and the story, I don’t feel the slightest guilt about throwing the book into the Goodwill bin.
Between 6th and 8th grades I read just about everything Bradbury had in print: Martian Chronicles, Golden Apples of the Sun, Machineries of Joy, S is for Space, etc. But even before high school, I came to realize how narrow his range was as an observer of human beings and human nature. (He must’ve ended at least half a dozen stories with the same stupid homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado.)
I thought perhaps revisiting him after all these years I might see something new, something I missed as an adolescent.
And while I do appreciate how well he could write, and how evocative, in a poetic sense, his prose could be, I don’t regret getting rid of that paperback collection once I got to high school.