"It was a time after first discoveries but not last ones. It was wanting to know everything and wanting to know nothing. It was the new sweetness of men starting to talk as they must talk. It was the possible bitterness of revelation."--Something Wicked This Way ComesFor October I decided to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, my interest in revisiting Ray Bradbury piqued by my book club's reading Dandelion Wine in September.
When I was a teenager I read most of Bradbury, and passed my paperback books to my younger brother when he was in a reading slump.
But Bradbury is wasted on the young! The young may get the mystery and the fantasy, but some things require a view that only age can bring. An October view, as it were, from the perspective of a fifty-four-year-old father.
One October night a carnival comes to town and Will and Jim have snuck out of their houses to see the carnival being set up. They observe it's secrets and understand the evil going on, endangering their lives. The circus master Mr Dark, the Illustrated Man, searches for the boys. The boys have only Will's father, the library janitor, and their own ingenuity to protect them.
Wil and his father are unable to sleep, and their 3 am talk it is a most beautiful scene. Will asks his father about goodness and happiness. Although he only understands a small portion of his father's meaning, he has never heard his father talk so much and is transfixed. His father shares all he has learned about life.
"Too late, I found you can't wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else."
"We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do both..."
"Really knowing is good. Not knowing, or refusing to know, is bad, or amoral, at least. you can't act if you don't know...we got to know all there is to know about those freaks and that man heading them up. We can't be good unless we know what bad is..."The carnival, like life, has its enticements, the pink cotton candy stickiness; and it has frightening deformities and sinister side shows, the house of mirrors that confuses those who enter and reflects back what we do not want to see.
"...here comes the carnival, Death like a rattle in one hand, Life like candy in the other; shake on to scare you, offer one to make your mouth water."
In his search for the boys, Mr. Dark finds Will's dad in the library. He offers the gift of reversing time, and then he threatens Will's dad with death. Looking death in the face, Will's father laughs and robs evil of its power.
"Evil has only the power that we give it. I give you nothing. I take back. Starve. Starve. Starve."Death isn't important, it is what happened before death that counts, Will's father knows.
After vanquishing Mr. Dark and his cohorts, Will's dad knows it is just the beginning. "God knows what shape they'll come in next...We got to watch out the rest of our lives. The fights just begun."
The circus sideshow freaks, the witches and the living dead, are vanquished but other 'autumn people' will arise and we must always be on our guard, ready to stand up to them. Our weapon is laughter and joy.
*****I wrote a poem long ago, but many years after reading Somethng Wicked This Way Comes, and yet I wonder what part of Bradbury's novel remained in my subconscious when I wrote it.
by Nancy A Bekofske
The thing about life is
it’s like a three ring circus.
I can almost smell the greasy odor of popcorn,
feel the sticky web of cotton candy
attaching itself to the skin,
see the wild beasts on stools and
the dangerous, captivating dares of the trainer--
hyperbolic symbol of the little daily risks we take
just going to work or school or to mail a letter.
The bareback riders in pink tights and tutus
recall the various temptations
flashing their thighs at us.
The sad clowns fall down over and over,
suffer the trials of water and fire, spurring laughter.
That's what life is all about:
trial, temptation, danger,
and the deep haw-haw of laughter.