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Book Report: Something Wicked This Way Comes

I was thirteen when the movie of Something Wicked this way Comes was released. I loved it. I think I had read some Ray Bradbury before that, probably The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. Perhaps not—I feel sure that I knew the name before I saw the movie, but perhaps I hadn’t actually read any of his stuff. I don’t really know why I was excited about the movie, but I am sure I was. Maybe there were great TV ads?

Anyway, I went and saw it that summer before I turned fourteen, and I loved it. I must have read the book that year. I can’t imagine, given my habits, that I would not have read it, particularly since it would have been in all the libraries. I don’t remember my reaction to the book, but I am sure, now, that it never took over my imagination from the movie. It’s all about Jonathan Pryce. And Jason Robards, Jr. But mostly Jonathan Pryce.

I grabbed the book sometime in the last year from a used book sale of some kind—library, synagogue, tag sale, maybe even an actual used book store, although I haven’t been going in to those very often. Well, I saw the title and had that positive reaction (Jonathan Pryce!) and picked it up and slung it on the shelf-of-stuff-I-have-bought-at-that-kind-of-thing-and-mean-to-read-sometime-real-soon. I think it was next to The Prince and the Pauper. Anyway, the amazing thing is that I did take it off that shelf and I read it.

The less amazing thing is that I didn’t like it very much. Ah, well. It got off to a bad start with a bunch of stuff about how October, for boys, is like such-and-such, and how all boys everywhere like to run, run like they would never stop, the chill air of the etcetera etcetera, and how boys are like this and boys are like that. And while some aspects of Ray Bradbury’s boyness were familiar to me, other aspects weren’t, because in point of fact people are different, one to another, even boys. And his folksy prose poetry rubbed me the wrong way, seeming to privilege the small-town middle America midcentury boyness over any other kind of boyness, particularly my own desert suburban asthmatic bookish and indolent boyness, my little-brother and backyard boyness, my Jewish theater-geek summer-camp VIC-20 boyness, none of which were anything like what Mr. Bradbury seemed to be indicating was a proper way to spend my thirteenth year. Rubbed me the wrong way, it did.

The more amazing thing is that none of that bothered me at the time, when I really was thirteen or fourteen. Did I somehow feel that I was, at heart, like the boys Mr. Bradbury described? Did I buy in to the idea that my own childhood was inferior to the true boyness in the book? Or did I just skim past all the prose poetry looking for action and dialogue, and so never noticed?

Or was my own forty-year-old self’s reaction a product of feeling crappy and downhearted and easily prickled, that day when I started to read the thing? Or am I being unduly influenced by some crazy-old-people stuff that Mr. Bradbury has said in the last dozen years or so? Will I read the book myself when I am fifty and the Youngest Member is thirteen, and find it a different book again?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

Mm, this happened to me with the Dark is Rising series. I *adored* it in elementary school, and then picked up the first one* again in college and said, where are all the girls? Why are there no girls in this book? And only one woman, either, among scads of other characters. How did I not notice this before? (...when I was in elementary school, yeah...)

In general, I used to read all sorts of stuff that didn't represent the world very well, one way and another. My tolerance lessened as I grew up. I am taking it that the same kinds of taste distinctions that now allow me to notice and object to unaddressed biases also allow me to appreciate some stuff I didn't like before. (Mm, sex scenes. Mm, fictional politics.)


*Technically the second, yeah, but the first one everybody read. Hey, there's a girl in the real first one! Only one, and she's not what you'd call powerful, but at least there is one.


Re. The Dark is Rising: that's why, a quarter-century after I first encountered those books, it's Greenwitch that sticks with me most. I even go back and re-read it! The other four are waiting to get dusted off when an impressionable pre-teen becomes available.


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