Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Something Wicked This Way Comes


Although I've read many of his short stories, I've only just now read one of Ray Bradbury's novels. Something Wicked This Way Comes is a creepy tale of a sinister carnival arriving in small town America. Although at times I find his writing difficult to follow, it has a distinctive beautiful prose, I can imagine him battering out the words on a typewriter, so it comes across as a free stream of consciousness full of poetry, pathos and metaphor. He makes you feel.

The characters he assembles as the villains of the piece are the ranks of the carnival workers, the sideshow “freaks”, led by the tattooed ringmaster “Mr. Dark”, the illustrated man.

What I love about Bradbury’s writing is his male “heroes” aren’t muscle bound quip making jocks in the traditional sense. They are dreamers, they visit libraries, they cry, they regret, they appreciate wonder, they have an inner dialogue full of doubt. They feel real.

And below is chapter 10, in its entirety, is a very beautiful example of everything I love about Bradbury.

“Just after midnight.

Shuffling footsteps.

Along the empty street came the lightning-rod salesman, his leather valise swung almost empty in his baseball-mitt hand, his face at ease. He turned a corner and stopped.

Paper-soft white moths tapped at an empty store window, looking in.

And in the window, like a great coffin boat of star-coloured glass, beached on two sawhorses lay a chunk of Alaska Snow Company ice chopped to a size great enough to flash in a giant’s ring.

And sealed in this ice was the most beautiful woman in the world.

The lightning-rod salesman’s smile faded.

In the dreaming coldness of ice like someone fallen and slept in snow avalanches a thousand years, forever young, was this woman.

She was as fair as this morning and fresh as tomorrow’s flowers and lovely as any maid when a man shuts up his eyes and traps her, in cameo perfection, on the shell of his eyelids. The lightning-rod salesman remembered to breathe.

Once, long ago, travelling among the marbles of Rome and Florence, he had seen women like this, kept in stone instead of Ice. Once, wandering in the Louvre, he had found women like this, washed in summer colour and kept in paint. Once, as a boy, sneaking the cool grottoes behind a motion picture theatre screen, on his way to a free seat, he had glanced up and there towering and flooding the haunted dark seen a women’s face as he had never seen it since, of such size and beauty built of milk-bone and moon-flesh, at to freeze him there alone behind the stage, shadowed by the, motion of her lips, the bird-wing flicker of her eyes, the snow-pale-death-shimmering illumination from her cheeks.

So from other years there jumped forth images which flowed and found new substance here within the ice.

What colour was her hair? It was blonde to whiteness and might take any colour, once set free of cold.

How tall was she?

The prism of the ice might well multiply her size or diminish her as you moved this way or that before the empty store, the window, the night-soft rap-tapping ever-fingering, gently probing moths.

Not important.

For above all—the lightning-rod salesman shivered—he knew the most extraordinary thing.

If by some miracle her eyelids should open within that sapphire and she should look at him, he knew what colour her eyes would be.

He knew what colour her eyes would be.

If one were to enter this lonely night shop -

If one were to put forth one’s hand, the warmth of that hand would. . .what?

Melt the ice.

The lightning-rod salesman stood there for a long moment, his eyes quickened shut.

He let his breath out.

It was warm as summer on his teeth.

His hand touched the shop door. It swung open. Cold arctic air blew out round him. He stepped in.

The door shut.

The white snowflake moths tapped at the window.”