For Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday this week, I participated in a round table discussion with several other bloggers about:
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962), 304 pages
Brief book summary and overview
I’ve heard this book called dark fantasy, even horror. Oh, and Gothic. It tells the story of Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, opening the day an evil carnival comes to town in the middle of an October night.
I still haven’t fully settled how I feel about it; I expect my thoughts on this book will continue to evolve over time. I didn’t love it, though.
Aside from the round table, the other reason I read Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes is that it’s on the Image Journal list I’m still slowly making my way through, my own perpetual challenge.
“The shadow seemed deliberate in its slowness so as to shingle his flesh and cheesegrate his steadily willed calm.”
And now, a small part of the discussion, which is spread out over the blogs of all the participants, divided chronologically.
The conversation starts here
Amy: I’ve heard a lot about Something Wicked This Way Comes and was excited to read it. Unfortunately, I really struggled with the language in this book, to the point where I sometimes didn’t know what was going on. There were times I thought it was breathtaking and lovely, though. Admittedly I had to push my way through the book a little bit, though overall I enjoyed what it had to say about facing mortality and death.
How did you feel about the book? Did you find it to be the perfect spooky Halloween read?
Jacob: Something Wicked meant a lot to me as a kid, so I was excited to re-read it. Amy, I know what you mean about the language; the first “challenging” (at the time) book I prided myself in reading was Fahrenheit 451, I think in 5th grade, and I had to read a lot of scenes twice to figure out what was going on. I do think very few (especially American) authors write like Bradbury and almost no one else could get away with his elaborate metaphors and asides. I still find him highly readable.
Similarly, I think Something Wicked’s treatment of faith is very American; good vs. evil, the devil wandering the countryside challenging boys to fiddle contests. It’s a limitation but also a strength: where else do you find this view? Belief in the devil figures centrally in my personal faith, and it’s refreshing, you know, to watch somebody really sock it to him. Nevertheless, I think of the devil very much in terms of “powers and principalities,” residing at the seat of civic, economic, military power. There’s a passage in Lewis’ “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” where the titular devil prophecies that soon, Hell will no longer need to target individual souls, but rake them in collectively like fish in nets; and I think we’ve reached that stage. Still there is something exhilarating in the personal struggle.
My favorite passage in the book is where he describes “5 a.m.” as the eternal dark night of the soul: as someone who’s struggled with insomnia, I know just what that means. My favorite scene was and remains the confrontation with the Dust Witch, the only part I recall really scaring me as a kid. In the film (which I only saw fragments of on TV once) she’s played by Pam “Foxy Brown” Grier, which is something to see.
Hannah: I found the language quite peculiar, and not terribly inviting. The book was also a bit too spooky for me, but maybe that’s just because I was reading it at bedtime.
Jacob, It’s interesting to me that you found Bradbury’s treatment of good and evil as American; I took it as wholly Modern (as opposed to postmodern), a product of its time.
The whole laughter cure is probably the most intriguing aspect of the book for me. It prompted a conversation about happiness vs. joy in our house.
Nicole: The structure and phrasing on this book was really frustrating and a bit off putting for me. If I had not been reading this with the group I would not have gotten through it. In some ways I could see what Bradbury was going for and at times when I could find the rhythm, it did add to the feeling and the dance that has sprung up between these two boys and their friendship, and the light and dark that has shadowed them heir who lives. At times it did add to the sense of urgency in their situation, but most of the time it was just hard to follow, and distracted me from a story that I was really interested in exploring.
I was really interested as well on laughter as the antidote to evil, and the implications that all things, even evil have to be taken less seriously to reduce the power and the hold that it can attain. I was expecting love to conquer all, so that was a nice twist as well as interesting concept to ponder.
I wish they had gone more into the nature of the evil of the carnival and how it evolved. I got some tempting glimpses, but wanted a little more.
Round Table Participants
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