This time of year is always a perfect time to read Ray Bradbury. Just do it already. Nuzzle into the comforting confines of your chair with hot beverage of choice and kick those feet up as outside temperatures dip into cool-but-not-too-cool territory. If I had to pick one writer that perfectly encapsulates “fall” or “Halloween,” it’s Ray Bradbury. Shame he’s no longer with us.
Not only was the man one heck of a writer but he loved libraries. He told the New York Times in a 2009 interview, “Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.” Bradbury even wrote his acclaimed 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter from the library.
Of course I could go on about Bradbury’s popular works: The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, etc. I choose, though, to talk about one which may be well known to you in name only. And that’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Jim Nightshade. Will Halloway. Two precocious 13-year-old boys in early 20th century middle America, Illinois to be exact, and in October. The carnival comes to town led by Mr. Dark, a sinister and malevolent being able to grant each of the townspeople their heart’s desire which, in exchange, bounds themselves to Dark and the traveling troupe. The boys, aided by Will’s father who’s also the town librarian Charles Halloway, must battle against both the manipulations of Dark and their own wishes. Jim, for example, wants to be older. Mr. Halloway, at age 54, feels he’s too old to have fun and play with his son. The novel is allegorically about good vs. evil. And couple such a theme with Bradbury’s trademark hypnotic prose and you have the makings of story that soars.
And while the technical and special effects of Disney’s 1983 adaptation of the novel are quite dated, it’s still worth a viewing this Halloween. Stars the always excellent Jason Robards as Charles Halloway and Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark. (Pryce in particular is frightening!).