Seven days of books that influenced me: Day two
Although Ray Bradbury is best known for Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, and The Martian Chronicles, his true magnum opus, in my eyes, will always be Something Wicked This Way Comes. This is a text that transcends the novel and becomes, firmly and totally, literature. It's rife with metaphor, soaked in rich irony, and utterly pervaded by a snaking sense of supernatural fear. There's a palpable dread lurking behind every turn of the page, even in the most serene moments of the story. That fear never lets up, and although he isn't known as a horror writer, I think, perhaps, that Bradbury has done it better than anyone else. Bradbury is undoubtedly one of the most prolific and talented authors to ever live. He writes purposefully, and although we don't necessarily need a moral strong enough to punch you in the gut at the end of every tale, he normally has one that's capable of doubling you over even if you only read with your eyes half open. You never seem to get off easy when you read something of his. One of the central themes in Something Wicked, especially poignant right now, is acceptance. The metaphor of the carousel spinning round for eternity with the circus calliope screaming behind it changed my life in a tangible way. I've walked through the world differently since I read it, and realized what that desire and temptation represented. I'm going to share a passage from the near end of the book, one that I've nearly memorized because of how poetic and beautiful it is. Although it's not the very end of the novel, if I were the editor, I'd have begged Bradbury to let it be. "Dad, will they ever come back?" "No. And yes." Dad tucked away his harmonica. "No, not them. But yes, other people like them. Not in a carnival. God knows what shape they'll come in next. But sunrise, noon, or at the latest, sunset tomorrow they'll show. They're on the road." "Oh, no," said Will. "Oh, yes," said Dad. "We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fight's just begun." They moved around the carousel slowly. "What will they look like? How will we know them?"
Why," said Dad, quietly, "maybe they're already here." Both boys looked around swiftly. But there was only the meadow, the machine, and themselves. Will looked at Jim, at his father, and then down at his own body and hands. He glanced up at Dad. Dad nodded, once, gravely, and then nodded at the carousel, and stepped up on it, and touched a brass pole. Will stepped up behind him. Jim stepped up beside Will. Jim stroked a horse's mane. Will patted a horse's shoulders. The great machine softly tilted in the tides of night. Just three times around, ahead, thought Will. Hey. Just four times around, ahead, thought Jim. Boy. Just ten times around, back, thought Charles Halloway. Lord. Each read the thoughts in the other's eyes. How easy, thought Will. Just this once, thought Jim. But then, thought Charles Halloway, once you start, you'd always come back. One more ride and one more ride. And, after a while, you'd offer rides to friends, and more friends until finally...
The thought hit them all in the same quiet moment. ...finally you wind up owner of the carousel, keeper of the freaks... proprietor for some small part of eternity of the traveling dark carnival shows... Maybe, said their eyes, they're already here.