- Virginia Johnson
My paperback copies of Ray Bradbury's wonderful fantasy collections--The Illustrated Man, October Country, Dandelion Wine, The Machineries of Joy, and The Martian Chronicles--are in sad shape. The pages are brittle, yellowed, and, yes, a bit musty. But I keep them because his lyrical words matchlessly probe humanity at its worst and best. When friends of mine gifted us with 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales one Christmas, I was happy to have many of those beautiful stories collected together in a hardback edition to last for years--and so was the local library for we own several copies of it.
I certainly won't go through every one of the one hundred, but I'll mention several pieces that stuck with me time and again. One of the first stories in the collection is "The Rocket," in which a poor junk man gets hold of a prototype rocketship and dreams of somehow going into space with his family. "The Sailor Home from the Sea" is a tale of loss and love and the imagination to reconcile them. "The Sound of Summer Running" is the opening piece for Dandelion Wine, and it brings back the time of year and the time of life for one young man who feels as if his whole town might capsize, go under, leaving not a trace in the clover and weeds of burgeoning summer.
As his writing became better known, Bradbury was sometimes tapped to write screenplays, but it wasn't always a pleasant experience. He spent a miserable time on the coast of Ireland working with director John Huston on the film Moby Dick. Yet he was able to turn the negativity into creativity in several later stories. "Banshee" and "A Wild Night in Galway" capture some of the movie-making mayhem and douse it liberally with Irish spirits, liquid and otherwise.
100 of His Most Celebrated Tales is a collection not to be missed, but because it doesn't have every single story I cherish, I'll be holding on to my old paperbacks, too.
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