Monday, November 19, 2007

Farewell Summer

Ray Bradbury

My favorite author since my Junior High years has always been Ray Bradbury. He, along side of Andre Norton, introduced me to the world of Science Fiction and horror with classics such as The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

But by far, my favorite of favorites had to be Dandelion Wine, the story of Douglas Spalding and the summer of his 12th year. The setting is Green Town, a small hamlet in Illinois. The year is 1928. The book is actually a string of short stories tied loosely together by the life and experiences of Badbury's alter ego, Douglas.

In 2006 Ray Bradbury revisited Green Town, Illinois, with the publishing of Farewell Summer. Rather than a loose weave of short stories, Bradbury provides a more structured and tightly knit narrative.

This time it is the Fall of Doug's 13th year and all out war has been declared.

It seems the young, represented by Douglas, his little brother Tom and their cohorts, are involved in the generational conflict of the ages. Douglas and his friends stage fantastic raids against the elderly who are represented by School Board despot, Calvin C. Quartermain--an old Bachelor who never understood the joy of passing on life to another generation. The final assault is a daring evening raid on the town clock where Doug and company attempt to stop time itself so childhood's summer will never end.

Of course, time, Quartermain's cunning and a first kiss all conspire against Doug and his friends. The outcome is inevitable. But in the middle of it all both old and young find themselves changing and growing toward each other. Life is passed on and Doug learns that not all farewells are tragic.

Bradbury presents a poignant and lovely coming of age novel that I heartily recommend to all Dandelion Wine fans. The book ends with a fearful little brother stealing into Doug's room to go to sleep:

"Can I sleep here tonight? Please!"

"Why, Tom?"

"I dunno. I just had this awful feeling tomorrow morning we'd find you gone or dead or both."

"I'm not going to die, Tom."

"Someday you will."


"Can I stay?"


...A wind came up outside and shook all the trees and every leaf, every last
one fell off and blew across the lawn.
"Summer's over, Tom."
Tom listened.
"Summer's done. Here comes autumn."
"Boy, think of that!"
"I'm thinking."
They thought, they slept.
The town clock struck four.
And Grandma sat up in the dark and named the season just now over and done
and past.

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