Part of me has always lived in Green Town, Illinois

I recently began listening to the audiobook version of Something Wicked This Way Comes. I usually to my audio reading.1 There is a very good chance that I will end up getting pulled over because of the goofy grin on my face. To put it simply, Ray Bradbury is a master wordsmith and creator of lush worlds through lyric word use.

Allow me to present Exhibit A, the opening of one of my all time favorite books,
Dandelion Wine:

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

Every single time I read that, I am immediately cast back to the young boy who first picked up his mother’s copy of
Dandelion Wine and fell absolutely in love.2

To continue with Green Town, the introduction which had me smiling the other day:

First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. Not that all months aren't rare. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say. Take September, a bad month: school begins. Consider August , a good month: school hasn't begun yet . July, well, July's really fine: there's no chance in the world for school. June, no doubting it, June's best of all, for the school doors spring wide and September's a billion years away.
But you take October, now. School's been on a month and you’re riding easier in the reins, jogging along. You got time to think of the garbage you'll dump on old man Prickett 's porch, or the hairy-ape costume you'll wear to the YMCA the last night of the month. And if it's around October twentieth and everything smoky-smelling and the sky orange and ash grey at twilight, it seems Hallowe'en will never come in a fall of broomsticks and a soft flap of bedsheets around corners. But one strange wild dark long year, Hallowe'en came early. One year Hallowe'en came on October 24, three hours after midnight . At that time,James Nightshade of 97 Oak Street was thirteen years, eleven months, twenty-three days old.Next door, William Halloway was thirteen years, eleven months and twenty-four days old. Both touched toward fourteen; it almost trembled in their hands. And that was the October week when they grew up overnight, and were never so young any more...

What a brilliant description. Not only does it perfectly describe the feeling of being a young boy, but it makes me feel like that young boy. It reminds me of the pleasures of a summer stretching out before me, of the fascinating thrills of being days away from Halloween, a feeling I never truly grew out of.

I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction. Examine the opening of
The Martian Chronicles where Bradbury combines the description of small town summer with the promise of the space faring future.

One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.
And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. The windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer’s ancient green lawns.
Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the art work. The skis and sleds suddenly useless. The snow, falling from the cold sky upon the town, turned to a hot rain before it touched the ground.
Rocket summer. People leaned from their dripping porches and watched the reddening sky.
The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land…

I don’t remember if I read the book or saw the mini-series based on the book first. I know that they both creeped me right the fuck out, but in the best possible way. Why else would I have revisited them both so often?

Of course, nothing quite bothered the young bookworm quite as much as
Fahrenheit 451...

IT was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.

I revisit each of these books every few years. I don’t usually do them all at once, nor even all in the same year. I tend to head back to Green Town when things in the real world are difficult. I was dreading all of the political lead up to the State of the Union Address and it seemed like the perfect time to head back into one of Bradbury’s worlds.

There is another benefit of these books as well. Bradbury’s writing reinvigorate me creatively. I find myself more productive after a re-read. His writing inspires me. For a long time, I wanted to write like him, but my voice is not his.
5 Nor should it be. I’ll be sitting down to write my own words, in my own style.

This also makes me smile.

1 Yes, listening to audiobooks counts as reading. Don’t even begin to argue with me on this one.

2 Horrible confession: when I moved out, I took my mother’s copies of
Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, and Fahrenheit 451 with me. They are still on the special shelf of my night stand with the books that I absolutely treasure and want to have near me when I sleep.3/4

3 Other titles include
Born Free and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

4 I made it up to my mom years later when I replaced her copies with limited editions signed by Bradbury.

5 I would like to think that I have come across my own voice by now.