Artwork for 50th anniversary edition of Dandelion Wine. Tomislav Tikulin artist
“Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.” Grandfather Spaulding to Bill Forrester from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
My good friend Vickie has mentioned to me a few times over the past several years that I might like Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. Vickie knows my taste in books. She has known me for a long time and she was so right. I loved it and the pure pleasure of reading this book will stay with me for a long time. It is a little book that goes down as a long, slow read and was perfect for these dog days of summer. It is really a series of short stories that manage to connect together in the same way come summer’s end a spider weaves a web. You step outside, you cross the threshold, and there you are, feeling the threads of an intricate and beautiful creation. One that takes awhile to extricate yourself from.
I have always been hesitant when it comes to reading Bradbury. I’m not fond of science fiction, which is what he is best known for. When I checked my library system’s online catalogue, Dandelion Wine was filed under science fiction. I wandered the library, nosing around in the fiction section before going to the help desk. Yes, they did have Dandelion Wine and the librarian said it was in the fiction section. When I mentioned science fiction, he looked at me, quizzically. We soon ended up in the sci-fi section and there it was, waiting for me. The librarian pulled it off of the shelf and opened it up, slowly, as if looking for a Martian, hiding perhaps, chronicling the book’s adventures. It was as if someone, or something, had spirited Dandelion Wine to the science fiction section – and might be lurking between the book’s covers still.
I don’t know why it is catalogued as it is. Perhaps because there are a few stories about Leo Auffmann’s attempt to construct a happiness machine inside Dandelion Wine. I think more would read it if it was filed in the fiction section instead and that it just may be missing a bigger audience hiding among The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man.
I checked Dandelion Wine out and brought it home where it sat on my bedside table for a spell before I opened it up. I’m glad I did. It is filled with delightful stories set in Green Town , which is patterned after Bradbury’s own childhood growing up in the 1920′s in Waukegan, Illinois. The chapters, some only three pages long, take us through the summer of 1928 and the richly painted scenes of summer as they unfold for Douglas and Tom Spaulding, their parents and grandparents and neighbors.
There is, of course, the chapter about dandelions and how they are picked and pressed and poured into ketchup bottles to be used for medicinal purposes in the long, dark days of winter with Grandma going down into the cellar to pluck a bottle of summertime (maybe for herself?) for whatever ailment is at hand. This chapter was originally published as a short story for “Gourmet Magazine”. You really must read it. It is a delightful tale of the dandelion, reviled by most gardeners, but gathered with purpose and anticipation by the Spaulding clan.
I’m so very glad that Vickie pointed me in the direction of Dandelion Wine and with its delightful characters sketched so memorably at the hand of Ray Bradbury. I hope that you, too, will pick Dandelion Wine up someday soon, read its sweet pages, and think of summertime as alive as it can possibly be.
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