Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One More for the Road, by Ray Bradbury


As a kid, I loved Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, The Martian Chronicles, R Is for Rocket, and more were often checked out from the library. When I got One More for the Road, a book of short stories, for Christmas I was pleased, looking forward to revisiting a favorite author. Unfortunately, with my hopes so high I found this collection uneven at best.

None of the stories here are truly bad, but a few (First Day and Heart Transplant) feel like they missed the mark—not quite melancholy and not quite maudlin, but told with a tone hints at those goals. As the collection progresses the stories get better; the final entry of The Cricket on the Hearth is an excellent look at how to shake a marriage out of the doldrums, and Well, What Do You Have to Say for Yourself? looks at a lovers argument as a microcosm of all relationships everywhere, with the best (and longest!) line in the entire book: “Men will go on being men, stupid, arrogant, strong-willed, stubborn, reckless, destructive, murderous, but sometimes librarians and poets, kite fliers and boys who see things in the clouds, nephew to Robert Frost and Shakespeare, but still not always dependable, soft-hearted under the skin maybe, capable of tears if the children should die and life be over, always looking at the next field where the grass is greener and the milk is free, fixed on a Moon crater or stationed on one of Saturn’s moons, but the same beast that yelled out of the cave half a million years ago, not much different, and the other half of the human race there staring at him and asking him to listen to the wedding rites with half a heart and half an ear, and sometimes, sometimes he listens.” Imagery like this makes this collection worth reading and hints at the greatness of which Bradbury is capable.

If you haven’t read any of his writing before I’d recommend Fahrenheit 451 or The Illustrated Man first, but if you already have a place in your heart for Bradbury then this might help you spend a pleasant afternoon.

First Sentence(from the Afterword):
Every year in Paris, coming from the airport I have my driver pause at the Trocadero, a vast esplanade that overlooks the entire city with a splendid view of the Eiffel Tower.

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