Isabel Cleverfakename's Reviews > Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales

Bradbury Stories by Ray Bradbury
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Jan 08, 11

Read from December 12, 2010 to January 08, 2011

Isabel Marchevsky
Mrs. Romaniuk
Book review #7
6 January, 2011
Bradbury Stories:
The Imagination of a Lifetime
How would you react if you were suddenly torn forcefully from your comfortable life into one full of instability, uncertainty, and peril? One where you are perched precariously on the edge of sanity and things too abhorrent to describe? In this collection of five star short stories by Ray Bradbury, that’s exactly what you will encounter. Bradbury Stories consists of over 100 of Ray Bradbury’s favorite and best short stories, selected by the author himself. The stories are a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, albeit for a few of questionable genre that blatantly requires an excess of suspension of disbelief. In conjunction, the setting in which his tales take place is often unclear, but he shows a particular partiality to small towns during an indistinct year. Despite those shortcomings, Bradbury Stories is an incomparable book. When reading, one grows devoted to the characters, even if they have a life span of a mere few pages. The book ranges from fantastic, compelling stories to a few lacking in the same luster that makes the other one shine. From the author of Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The October Country, Fahrenheit 451, and many more classics, the aspirating writer who’s early work was so controversial that only Playboy Magazine would publish it, comes a compilation of Ray Bradbury’s best, most celebrated, and most beloved fabrications that no other imagination could match. Bradbury Stories is a phenomenal book because there is an agglomeration of variety, it is an enrapturing read, and the stories are splendidly written.
First of all, Bradbury Stories is a marvelous book to read because it is extravagantly laden with variety. Because this book is comprised of many short stories that Bradbury has written throughout his entire career as an author, while reading, you can identify different time periods in his life that he wrote the passage, and observe his writing style change over time. For instance, in his early works, Bradbury appears much more preoccupied with crafting outlandish, yet rather monotonously written stories, such as The Wind, Bang! You’re Dead, The Dead Man, The Smiling People, and Zero Hour. Later on, towards the middle of his illustrious career, his compositions become more fluidly written and less grotesque, and turn to being much more realistic and subtle, dropping meager hints throughout the story, and finishing the tale with something seemingly inconsequential. The reader almost subconsciously pieces those clues together, and the end result is that a cold feeling of dread and horror is invoked after reading for seemingly no particular reason at all. The phase didn’t last very long, and soon he had moved on. The writing style became much more subdued, focusing on illustrating gorgeous scenes and crafting a gentle story with his words. Several of these short stories he later used to create Dandelion Wine. Finally, Bradbury moved onto envisioning pieces that were purely science fiction. Another reason why variety makes Bradbury Stories such a fantastic book is because not every reader will share the same literary interests. Analogously, not every story is written to exactly the same way. There will certainly be tales that not every reader will be particularly delighted with. When that is the case, the variety means that the reader can just flip onto the next story and continue to enjoy their literary experience, unlike in novels when skipping chapters will result in utter confusion and disorientation. Lastly, variety in the book is praiseworthy because you can flip around and skip and then come back to various stories depending on your mood. Readers can come back and review their favorite story without having to worry about remembering other details from the book. One of the reasons that Bradbury Stories is an exquisite book is because there is an assemblage of variety.
Secondly, Bradbury Stories is a preternaturally excellent book is because it is an enrapturing read. The writing is stupendous. Every story is abundant with intense imagery, buried metaphors, and completely permeated with flabbergasting details. Many times the writing makes it seem as if you are right there in the story, observing all of the happenings and surroundings with your own eyes. Other times Bradbury describes the scene, usually the particularly gruesome ones, in such a way that it is mostly left up to your imagination, an old trick borrowed from Charles Dickens, because the readers imagination will always make it more grotesque than could possibly be described with words. Several of the stories are incredibly horrifying and distressing because the abominable details are left for your imagination to pull out of its most creative depths. At the same time, though, the story is completely embellished with many abundances of details and descriptions of everything that is going on. For example, this one is called The Smiling People: “ It was the sounds of silence that was the most notable aspect of the house. […] They were waiting for him in the dining room. He listened. They made no sound. Good. Excellent, in fact. They had learned, then, to be silent. You had to teach people, but it was worthwhile- there was not a rattle of knife or fork from the dining table. Mr. Grepping proceeded with familiar certainty and economy of motion into the dining room, where the four individuals seated at the waiting table did not move or speak a word. The only sound was the merest allowable pad of his shoes on the deep carpet. His eyes, as usual, instinctively, fastend upon the lady heading the table. Passing, he waved a finger near her cheek. She did not blink. Aunt Rose sat firmly sat the head of the table and if a mote of dust floated lightly out of the ceiling spaces, did her eyes trace its orbit? Did the eye revolve in its shellacked socket, with glassy cold precision? And if the dust mote happened upon the shell of her wet eye did the eye batten? Did the muscles clinch, the lashes close? No. […] The eyes of the four seated people did not blink, the hands did not move. Greppin became introspective. The day he had made them smile. […] the drum of the rain was like the knuckles of an impatient man on a surface. He lapsed again into remembering. He remembered the rest of it. The rest of the hour on that day two weeks ago when he had made them smile… he had taken up the carving knife and prepared to cut the bird upon the table. As usual the family had been gathered, all wearing their solemn, puritanical masks. If the children smiled the smiles were stepped on like nasty bugs by Aunt Rose. Aunt Rose criticized the angle of Greppin’s elbows as he cut the bird. The knife, she made him understand also, was not sharp enough. Oh, yes, the sharpness of the knife. At this point in his memory he stopped, rolled-tilted his eyes, and laughed. Dutifully, then, he had crisped the knife on the sharpening rod and again set upon the fowl. He had severed away most of in a some minutes before he slowly looked up at their solemn, critical faces, like puddings with agate eyes, and after staring at them a moment, […] he lifted the knife and cried hoarsely ‘Why in God’s name can’t you, any of you, ever smile? I’ll make you smile!’ He raised his knife a number of times like a magician’s wand. And, in a short interval- behold! They were all of them smiling! […] He was on his way downstair was someone knocked on the front door. He leaned against it. ‘Who is it?’ ‘Mr Greppin?’ Greppin drew in his breath. ‘Yes?’ ‘Will you let us in, please?’ ‘Well, who is it?’ ‘The police,’ said the man outside. ‘What do you want, I’m just sitting down for supper!’ ‘Just want a talk with you. The neighbors phoned. Said they hadn’t seen your Aunt or Uncle in two weeks. Heard a noise a while ago-’ ‘ I assure you everything is all right.’ He forced a laugh. ‘Well, then’ continued the voice outside, ‘ we can talk it over in a friendly style if only you’ll open the door.’ ‘ I’m sorry,’ insisted Greppin. ‘I’m tired and hungry, come back tomorrow. I’ll talk to you then, if you want me to.’ ‘I’ll have to insist, Mr. Greppin.’ They began to beat against the door. Greppin turned automatically, stiffly, walked down the hall past the old clock, into the dining room, without a word. He seated himself without looking at anyone in particular and then he began to talk, slowly at first, then more rapidly. ‘ Some pests at the door. You’ll talk to them, won’t you, Aunt Rose? You’ll tell them to go away, won’t you, we’re eating dinner? Everyone else go on eating and look pleasant and they’ll go away, if they do come in. Aunt Rose you will talk to them, won’t you?’ […] The front door splintered and fell. A heavy softened rushing filled the hall. Men broke into the dining room. A hesitation. The police inspector hastily removed his hat. ‘Oh, I beg your pardon,’ he apologized. ‘I didn’t mean to intrude upon your supper, I-’ The sudden halting of the police was such their movement shook the room. The movement catapulted the bodies of Aunt Rose and Uncle Dimity straight away to the carpet, where they lay, their thoughts severed from half moon from ear to ear- which caused them, like the children seated at the table, to have what was the horrid illusion of a smile under their chins, ragged smiles that welcomed in the late arrivals and told them everything with a simple grimace…”(490). This shows how the imagination can make your mental image so much more aberrant than the text ever could have described, while at the same time making sure that the reader never misses out in important details. Other stories in this book are engrossing just for the fact that they have a wonderful plotline, and that it transports the reader to a different place. No matter the reason in each particular tale, Bradbury Stories is the most desirable book to read because it’s stories are astonishingly captivating.
Finally, Bradbury Stories is an amazing book because it is splendidly written. The writing in the book is wonderful, partially because several of the stories give the illusion of a different, much better, simpler, and happier time. Readers want to be transported away from themselves, and that’s exactly what happens in almost every one of Bradbury’s many tales. In addition, the imagery is idealistic and phantasmagorical. There is no way to adequately describe the writing without putting it to shame. One example is from a story called At Midnight, In The Month of June: “He heard but did not hear the voices, and she was coming nearer, and now she was only a mile away and now only a matter of a thousand yards, and now she was sinking, like a beautiful white lantern on in invisible wire, down into the cricket- and frog-sounding ravine stairs as if, a boy, he was rushing down them, feeling the rough grain and the dust and the leftover heat of the day… […] How clearly he remembered the old nights in the old times, in the times when he was a boy and them all running and running and hiding and hiding, and playing hand-and-seek. In the first spring nights and in the warm summer nights and in the late summer evenings and in those first sharp autumn nights when door were shutting early and porches were empty except for blowing leaves. The game of hide-and-seek went on as long as there was sun to see by, or the rising snow-crusted moon. Their feet upon the green lawns were like the scattered throwing of soft peaches and crab apples and the counting of the seeker with his arms cradling his buried head, chanting into the night: five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, forty, forty-five, fifty… and the sound of thrown apples fading, the children all safely closeted in tree or bush shade, under the latticed porches with clever dogs minding not to wag their tales and give their secret away. […] And the Seeker running through the town wilderness to find the hiders, and the hiders keeping their secret laughter in their mouths, like precious June strawberries, with the help of clasped hands. And the Seeker seeking after the smallest heartbeat in the high elm tree or the glint of a dog’s eye in a bush, or a small water sound of laughter that could not help burst out as the Seeker ran right on by and did not see the shadow within a shadow… […] How secret and tall they had felt, hidden away. God, how the shadows mothered and kept them, sheathed in their own triumph. Glowing with perspiration how they crouched like idols and thought they might hide forever! While the silly Seeker went pelting by on his way to failure and inevitable frustration. […] He said not a word, he stayed to long in the apple tree that he was a white-fleshed apple; he lingered so long in the chestnut tree that he had the hardness and the brown brightness of the autumn nut. And, how powerful to be undiscovered, how immense it made you, until your arms were branching, growing out in all directions, pulled by the stars and the tidal moon until your secretness enclosed the town and mothered it with your compassion and tolerance” (343). This passage is very descriptive, full of imagery and it creates a very vivid mental image and a sense of childhood. In the story it also says that the narrator is a grown man, remembering his youthful days. There is a great feeling of sadness when you read this, too, because it provides some insight of how badly the narrator wants those days back, and how he never really grew and can’t let go of the past. The reader apperceives the narrator’s anguish that everything changed and those day didn’t last forever. If you read the whole story, that feeling is pasted on to the reader. Another reason that the writing is so meritorious is because of the detail. All of his stories pass on images, feelings, and memories to the reader. An example of powerful detailing is in a passage called A Wild Night In Galway: “ We were far out at the tip of Ireland, in Galway, where the weather strikes from its bleak quarters in the Atlantic with sheets of rain and gusts of cold and still more sheets of rain. You go to bed sad and wake up in the middle of the night thinking you heard someone cry, thinking you yourself were weeping, and feel your face and find it dry. Then you look at the window and turn over, sadder still, and fumble about for your dripping sleep and try to get it back on. […] the pages of the script were full of fiery bulls and hot tropical flowers and burning eyes, and I typed it with chopped-off frozen fingers in my gray hotel room where the food was criminal’s gruel and the weather a beast at the window.”( 193). When reading the sections of this story, you get a very strong mental image of the rain and you feel the sadness and hopelessness that the author feels. When reading, you can practically hear the rain and be transported into that gray hotel room. There are many more examples from the book, several from each story, but those two sufficiently show why the writing in Bradbury Stories is magnificently resplendent.
In conclusion, Bradbury Stories is a phenomenal book because there is an agglomeration of variety, it is an enrapturing read, and the stories are splendidly written. There are many connections branching between the book and myself and the world. One huge correlation is that the stories are always written to keep up with the times. When there was a lot of apprehension about robots taking jobs from human worker, along came a tale about robots taking over everything- and extinguishing all life on the planet (A Blade of Grass). When a story came along in the news about a murderer still trying to polish up the house when the police came, another brilliant emblem was born (The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl), and when it finally looked possible that humans might actually land on the moon, the Martian Chronicles mini-collection of short stories came to life. As you can see, when Ray Bradbury writes, he is heavily influenced by the other events happening around the world. Another connection with the book is a personal one. Just like many of his story, and, as it seems, Bradbury himself, I am always stuck in the past, and sometimes unable to return from the future. Quite a few of the stories are about being trapped by previous events and having to learn to escape what has happened and cannot be changed, and to let go. Just like the boy in Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby’s is a Friend of Mine, sometimes time feels like it will last forever, or that there is no such thing as time at all. When it does not feel like that, I am seized by those moments and live only them. One thing that I learned from reading this book is to always try your hardest. When Bradbury first attempted to publish his writing, Nobody would put it into distributed print. Finally, only when the editor of Playboy magazine agreed to take a chance on him did his words finally reach the world. After that, for a very long time, still nobody else but the most controversial periodicals would publish Bradbury, but he never stopped writing, and he never stopped being the best writer that he could be. Eventually, he succeeded, and now several of his books are required readings in school, he has ebooks and audio book, T-shirts and fanfiction. Everyday new people read his books and learn from them and love them. None of that would have ever happened if he stopped trying as hard as he could to be his best. I learned that you can’t give up and to always do your best, even if things aren’t looking up, or nothing will ever come from your labours. Bradbury Stories was a five star book for many reasons, and everyone should get to experience the intense joy of reading a book of this caliber for the first time.
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