Saturday, February 14, 2009

Nostalgia and Fantasy

Dandelion Wine
by Ray Bradbury

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I'm one of them.”  ― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

In effect this book is a perfect blend of nostalgia and fantasy in which Bradbury creates a dream world. My personal preference is for his later science fiction like The Martian Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451; however, Dandelion Wine, along with many of his fine short stories collected in The Stories of Ray Bradbury, is almost as enjoyable a read. This novel is semi-autobiographical, taking place in the summer of 1928 in the fictional town of Green Town, Illinois, presumably a pseudonym for Bradbury's childhood home of Waukegan, Illinois.
The title refers to a wine made with dandelion petals and other ingredients, commonly citrus fruit. In the story, dandelion wine, as made by the protagonist's grandfather, serves as a metaphor for packing all of the joys of summer into a single bottle. The main character of the story is Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy loosely patterned after the author. Most of the book is focused upon the routines of small-town America, and the simple joys of yesteryear.
As Bradbury writes in "Just This Side of Byzantium," a 1974 essay used as an introduction to the book, Dandelion Wine is a recreation of a boy's childhood, based upon an intertwining of Bradbury's actual experiences and his unique imagination. Dandelion wine is presented as a metaphor of summer, bottled for the winter season of illnesses and wheezing.
In Douglas' words: "Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered."
Dandelion Wine has been described as the first of Bradbury's nostalgic "autobiographical fantasies," in which he recreates the childhood memories of his hometown, Waukegan, in the form of a lyrical work, with realistic plots and settings touched with fantasy to represent the magic and wonders of childhood. Even with the focus on the bright days of summer, Bradbury, in his typical style, briefly explores the horrific side of these events.
Farewell Summer, the official sequel to Dandelion Wine, was published in October 2006. While Farewell Summer is a direct continuation of the plot of Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, a novel with a completely different plot and characters, is often paired with the latter because of their stylistic and thematic similarities.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Simon & Schuster, New York. 2000 (1957)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Ballantine Books, New York. 1987
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. The Heritage Press. 1974
The Stories of Ray Bradbury. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1981

1 comment:

candyschultz said...

This is one of my all time favorite books. Every time I read it I am transported back to my own childhood summers. It is the one Bradbury I read over and over again and, along with Farenheit 451, the ones I have the clearest memory of (?) grammer - I suck at it.