By Ray Bradbury
A William Morrow imprint
Hard Cover $24.95
By BILL DUNCAN
The paperback edition of Ray Bradbury’s touted sequel to "Dandelion Wine," is now available and even though it has taken
more than 50 years for the sequel to be published, it was well worth the wait.
In the interim, Ray Bradbury has written hundreds of short stories, novels, plays, screen plays, television scripts and even poetry — all in that wonderful storytelling style that has captured the imagination of readers. Of all those, in my opinion, "Dandelion Wine," stands out as his greatest work.
The sequel expands the same characters Bradbury gave readers in "Dandelion Wine," — Doug Spalding and the unforgettable Calvin C. Quartermain and the age-old conflict of the young versus the old.
In "Farewell Summer," Doug is fighting a war against the old men of the town whom he feels are controlling the young lives. His particular enemy is Calvin C. Quartermain, leader of the school board.
The plot was of particular interest to me, being one of the elders Doug might have opposed, recalling that a twenty-something News-Review reporter once referred to me as a "has-been," to which I promptly replied that "at least I have been." But I wondered why it took so long for Bradbury to decide on a sequel. He answers that question in the book’s "Afterword," saying that when he submitted the "Danelion Wine" manuscript to a publisher 55 years ago, he was told it was too long. They would publish only the first 90,000 words and suggested that he keep the second part for some future book.
His original title for "Danelion Wine" was "Summer Morning, Summer Night," so, he said, he had a title ready for "Farewell Summer." But he never felt quite ready to pick up the story where he had left off 55 years ago and fortunately for the reader he collected more metaphors which added richness to the text.
Bradbury credits the influence of his grandparents and his aunt, Neva, for his writing career and says that influence is reflected throughout his writings. "My grandfather was a very wise and patient man, who knew the importance of showing, not simply telling," he writes. His grandmother, he says, had an "innate understanding of what made boys tick," but his aunt, Neva "was the guardian and gardener of the metaphors that became me."
You will find that influence in chapter 19 when Bradbury writes about Doug’s grandfather and grandmother: "Grandpa’s Library was a fine dark place bricked with books…all you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and open it and suddenly the darkness was not so dark anymore."
Bradbury’s best known books other than "Danelion Wine," are "The Martian Chronicles," "The Illustrated Man," "Fahrenheit 451," and "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
One of the revealing parts of Bradbury’s successful career is written in Sam Weller’s authorized biography, "The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury," in which he gives an intimate detail about Bradbury’s wife of 56 years, the late Maggie Bradbury, whom he said enabled Bradbury to write. Weller wrote: "In the late 1940s, while she took the 7:30 morning train all the way across Los Angeles every single workday, acting as the household breadwinner in an era when women didn’t dare do such things, her spouse was allowed to stay home and work on his writing. He honed his craft, shaped his style…he would not have had this luxury if she didn’t bring home a paycheck."
Weller said without his wife’s support Bradbury’s writing career would not have flourished and "…the proverbial butterfly would have been squashed and the future of high-imaginative literature would have been altered for all time."
Therefore, this is one reader who is eternally grateful to Maggie Bradbury for her love and devotion that gave us this genius of American literature — a genius who still has the magic of metaphors at age 87.
(Bill Duncan is editor of The Senior Times. He also writes a weekly column every Thursday on the News-Review opinion page.)