I was so sorry to read that Ray Bradbury died June 5th at the age of 91. I first read Ray Bradbury as a young teenager and I fell in love with the story, Dandelion Wine. About 5 years ago, I realised there was a sequel to the story of 12 year old Douglas Spaulding and the townsfolk of Green Town, Illinois: Farewell Summer. Deservedly famed for his science fiction, it’s these two quieter, semi-autobiographical stories based on his own childhood that I still love the most. They’re all about the relentless passage of time and the joy of life, paens to the joys of small town sunny summers and of course Douglas’ Grandfather’s incomparable dandelion wine:
Many years since DANDELION WINE began, which was the beginning of the genesis of FAREWELL SUMMER, I had begun to collect essays and short stories about front porches and summer nights and Fourth of Julys and all the celebrations that led me into writing. Looking back I realize that I never had a day when I was depressed or suffered melancholia; the reason being that I discovered that I was alive and loved the gift and wanted to celebrate it in my story.
At one point Gourmet Magazine offered me a chance to write an article about helping my grandfather make dandelion wine when I was three in our cellar in Waukegan, Illinois. When I went back to visit my home town I wandered into the shop of the town barber, discovering that he had been there since I was a child and he remembered being my grandmother’s boarder and recalled my coming up from the cellar to gather dandelions to make wine with my grandfather.
So FAREWELL SUMMER was embedded in all these memories and recollections. Writing it was a response to my ganglion and my antenna. I do not use my intellect to write my stories and books; I have a gut reaction to the things that my subconscious gives me. These are gifts that arrive early mornings and I get out of bed and hurry to the typewriter to get them down before they vanish.
FAREWELL SUMMER is a result of my having a grand time over many years and splitting that grand time in two pieces. The first half, DANDELION WINE, was published in 1957 and my publisher said that the book was a little to long so we’d have to save the second half and publish it in the future. So FAREWELL SUMMER was the second half…. (from here)
He was a wonderful writer, and I was further delighted to read in his obituaries this morning that his wife who predeceased him was called Marguerite and his 4 daughters Susan, Ramona, Bettina and Alexandra. Charming names, and it seems to me especially appropriate for the children of a novelist whose prose was so often full of beauty and poetry.
Image of Ray Bradbury and family (Alexandra missing) from here