Wednesday, October 7, 2015

#HalloweenRead: The Halloween Tree... Maybe? (Ray Bradbury)

A group of boys in an unnamed small town, intoxicated by the pleasures of Halloween night but ignorant of the holiday's history, encounter the mysterious and monstrous Mr. Moundshroud, who takes them on a millennia-spanning journey to help explain why we celebrate Halloween. That's the basic spine of The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury's adaptation of his screenplay for a planned but unconsummated collaboration with legendary animator Chuck Jones (and oh! how I wish that movie existed!). It's a boys' adventure story and a history of the holiday, spun with Bradbury's oft-imitated, never duplicated prose.

I read it for the first time last night, sitting outside on a park bench surrounded by fallen leaves, pages lit by a lone lamppost, the smell of autumn in the air - which is sort of a platonic ideal, location wise, for this particular author. The Halloween Tree is vintage Bradbury that's also an interesting tour of history to explain the reasons for the spooky season. Both @geekdame and @millerunc recommended it to me and I'm glad that they did. If you've got kids reading the book out loud to them should make for a crackerjack holiday experience. It's a book that's actually about Halloween, so it makes perfect sense to recommend it.

...But. Reading the book as an adult, knowing that it was an adaptation of Bradbury's own screenplay, there's a curiously jumbled quality to the story - a real sense that one is reading a hybrid screenplay/novel, lovingly assembled but still having the feel of something assembled. And so, if I'm completely honest...
If I had to pick just one Bradbury novel to read this month it'd be Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray Bradbury lived an October life in his books. Autumn isn't just a constant season in his books it's a state of existence, and I never feel that as keenly as I do reading Bradbury's achingly bittersweet tale of aging, mortality, boyhood, manhood, and a fast friendship tested by the darkest of forces. The book breathes fall and hums with wonder and menace. I can't imagine that there are many people out there who haven't read this particular tale, but if you're out there this would be the perfect month to finally check it out of your library or pick up a copy to keep.

So. Got kids old enough to appreciate Bradbury's potently purple prose? Read The Halloween Tree to them. They'll love it and you'll love reading it to them. But if you're looking for a book for yourself and you haven't gotten around to Bradbury's most haunted and haunting novel? In that case, read Something Wicked This Way Comes. Either way, Bradbury's a perfect, eerie, wistful companion each and every October.

You can pick up either book (both, even!) at your local library or local book shop, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc.

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