Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I dream

"The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied."

Guess who my favorite author is.

C'mon. Guess! Guess! Giveup? It's Ray Bradbury.

A college professor asked us who our favorite authors were. Then he asked us why. And then he observed that writers usually prefer people who write with a similar style to their own.

No, I said. I don't write like Ray Bradbury. I couldn't write like Ray Bradbury.

Except now, years later, maybe I could—sort of.

I don't reread books very often, but I recently read Something Wicked This Way Comes for the third time.

Ray does tend to go over the top and drown you in metaphor. I don't aspire to write exactly like him. (I prefer an area somewhere in between him and Isaac Asimov.) But I get such a kick out of Bradbury's use of words. And lately, after having my writing pruned to a nub in 2010 by a zealous critique group, I'm letting it grow back into something less wild and dense, but still thick and leafy the way I like it.

And maybe, if I do say so myself, it's a little more like Ray Bradbury than I ever dreamed.

Is that good or is it bad? I don't know go ask your dad. (I'm influenced by Dr. Suess as well.)

It's certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But who am I trying to please, here? Only myself. By imitating Ray Bradbury? No. Just letting all that reading I did in middle school come through.

The quote at the top is the first paragraph of the first chapter of Something Wicked This Way Comes, published in 1962. (And if you've seen the movie version of Something Wicked but never read the book—well, don't think they're the same thing. I don't think it's possible to translate writing like this into a movie without losing most of the substance.) Here's a little bit more:

So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong. 
No, not the grass. The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began. 
“Howdy boys!” called the man all dressed in storm-colored clothes. “Folks home?” 
The boys shook their heads. 
“Got any money yourselves?” 
The boys shook their heads. 
“Well—” The salesman walked about three feet, stopped and hunched his shoulders. Suddenly he seemed aware of house windows or the cold sky staring at his neck. He turned slowly, sniffing the air. Wind rattled the empty trees. Sunlight, breaking through a small rift in the clouds, minted a last few oak leaves gold. But the sun vanished, the coins were spent, the air blew gray; the salesman shook himself from the spell.

8 comments:

  1. I watched the movie, but never read the book. I think I will check it out. That is beautiful writing.

    I loved Maya Angelou and Faulkner in high school, but I've since realized that I don't aspire to poetry or such a heavy literary style. Maybe it's still CS Lewis for me? The clever observations he makes and how fun he made some pretty serious subjects, how many lives he touched...I'd be happy with a touch of that in my writing.

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  2. C.S. Lewis happens to be the other author whose books I don't mind rereading every few years, Kelly. My wife and are reading the Narnia series to our kids right now.

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  3. I have to read a CS Lewis book every year or so. To keep my mind sane. My favorite book OF ALL TIME is Till We Have Faces. My favorite thing to do when people quote CS Lewis is to ask them if they've ever read any of his books. They rarely have. Then I tell them I've read all of his books, even Dymer. Even Letters to Freaking Children.

    (That's not true, I don't ask them that, that would be rude, I just think it smugly, also I haven't read all his books, there are about two I am missing)

    My favorite living writer is Lev Grossman. He might be my favorite writer period. I don't know. But his is the style I aspire to. Not exactly but I try to get close. I would say I'm a blend of Lev Grossman and JD Salinger. Ish.

    Re: Ray Bradbury, I read The Martian Chronicles when I was 17 and loved it. I read Fahrenheit 451 when I was 20 and thought it was okay. I read Dandelion Wine when I was 21 and couldn't finish it. His style is beautiful though, I will give him that.

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    1. I think Bradbury gets more wordy as he gets older. I read a couple novellas he wrote just a few years go and had a hard time finishing the second. (I finished it as a matter of principle, only because of who wrote it. Weird, eh? Fan loyalty I guess.)

      I'll have to add some Lev Grossman to my list, and Till We Have Faces.

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    2. Yes, I really think you will dig The Magicians. A lot of people don't like it because it's kind of pessimistic for a fantasy novel, but you don't have that problem.

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  4. Something Wicked This Way Comes has got to be the only book I could not read at night. Scared the ever-lovin' crap right outta me. Love Ray, he's the man. I think I'd still take Poe over him, but when it comes to a lovely grasp of the macabre, they're pretty evenly matched in their own special ways. I've got a Ray Bradbury book downstairs I haven't read, in fact. Hmm...

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  5. You totally write like Bradbury!! Totally!

    I wanna write like Green

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