Two “Essential October Reads.” One essential writer. I give you Ray Bradbury.
October is here, and with it comes Ten Essential October Reads. With the countdown to Halloween ticking away, there’s no better time to look at some books that really capture the spirit of the holiday, whether it’s the childhood traditions of trick-or-treating and playing pranks, the essence of a cool autumn day, or the dark things that scurry through the shadows. Throughout the month, I’ll be spotlighting ten books or stories that I think capture the magic of the season.
5. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
4. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
How to choose between two acknowledged classics of the season by one master? You don’t.
Ray Bradbury is the guy who got it….whatever “it” is that makes this particular time of year so special. When you’re reading a Bradbury story, you can practically feel the dead leaves crunching beneath your feet; you can almost smell the tang of cider in the air. And you can without a doubt feel the dark cloud of menace slowly enveloping his characters…and you.
In a lot of ways, The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes are companion pieces, examinations of the same basic theme – growing up before you’re ready. And really, who among us is every ready?
In The Halloween Tree, a group of youngsters is forced to go on a journey to save a friend, learning the dark secrets behind their favorite holiday along the way. It’s that removal of innocence that we all face, whether it’s our first Halloween night when we’re too old to go trick-or-treating, or that cold December evening when we can no longer deny the truth about who left all the goodies under the tree. The exposure of such truths is also a part of Something Wicked. In it, our young heroes get a peek behind the carnival curtain, where wish-granters and magic men are exposed for what they really are.
Not exactly fun stuff, huh? And yet, even as they help us come to terms with the fact that, as we grow older, magic’s grip on us keeps getting looser, Bradbury’s stories also help us keep hold of as much of that magic as we can. Who can read this Wicked passage and not feel like a kid again:
But you take October, now. School’s been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you’ll dump on old man Prickett’s porch, or the hairy-ape costume you’ll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it’s around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash gray at twilight, it seems Halloween will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners.
I understand that feeling now – that feeling that Halloween, as I knew and loved it as a boy, may never come again. But when I read stories like these, and when the wind howls just right and blows the scent of burning leaves up close, I find it easy to believe again.
Previously in the Series:
Ten Essential October Reads: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and “October in the Chair”
Ten Essential October Reads: The “Orangefield Cycle”
Ten Essential October Reads: Halloween and Trick or Treat