Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
William Morrow, New York, 2001
Originally published in 1962. Ray Bradbury has received the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters. I own this one.
This is true dark fantasy. Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway have grown up together. Each is on the verge of their fourteenth birthday, filled with energy and questions, like all young people they are pushing limits. Will’s father, Charles is fifty-four and filled with regret, for being “old”, for not being more of a pal for his son. It is the end of October in Green Town, Illinois, and Halloween is just around the corner.
A strange man, a lightening rod salesman, harbinger of storms and bad news, marches into town, finds the boys. Then, in the middle of the night, at the odd hour of 3 AM, an unusual train arrives. Jim and Will see it, Charles Halloway hears it. The train carries Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, come to entertain, to touch the lives of Green Town. A traveling nightmare, come to steal souls, by answering dreams and wishes.
And there stood Jim, and there stood this tall man, each examining the other as if he were a reflection in a shop window late at night. The tall man’s brambled suit, shadowed out now to color Jim’s cheeks and storm over his wide and drinking eyes with a look of rain instead of the sharp cat-green they always were. Jim stood like a runner who had come a long way with fever in his mouth, hands open to recieve any gift. And right now it was a gift of pictures twitching in pantomime, as Mr. Dark made his illustrations jerk cold-skinned over his warm-pulsed wrist as stars came out above and Jim stared and Will could not see and a long way off the last of the towns people went away towards town in there warm cars, and Jim said faintly, “Gosh…” and Mr. Dark rolled down his sleeve. From page 76.
Through writing full of poetry, dream and desire, Bradbury creates a classic story of good and evil, were self-centered wants lead to devastating results and hope and laughter are the antidote for fear and longing. It is dark, creepy and delicious. This is my third reading and I am still amazed at the density of Bradbury’s lyrical style, his words convey emotion in ways that are not stilted or sugary-sweet. Deep, heartfelt, real. Reading this novel as a young adult was one of my introductions to the power of words.
And, of course, it’s all about names. Knowing the true names of things, of people. In magic, knowing a name is knowing the inner being. Knowing the inner being means having control over that being. The weapon against such dark magic is love.