ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD
Ray Bradbury, . . Morrow, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621106-0
"You do not build a Time Machine unless you know where you are going.... But I built my Time Machine, all unknowingly, with no destination in mind," explains a bemused time traveler in Bradbury's latest collection. Bradbury, who has taken readers on so many marvelous trips, has a similar approach to navigation. In this new volume of stories (17 of the 24 have never been published before), he maintains his unflinching dedication to the magic of everyday life. Relaxing into his favorite themes—memory, loneliness, childhood, love and time—he is not afraid to wax sentimental, but the sharp edge of his prose keeps the tales from cloying. Haunted settings are common: the ghost town in "Where All Is Emptiness There Is Room to Move"; the Parisian cemetery Père Lachaise in "Diane de Forêt"; and the L.A. streets of 1939 in "Tangerine," in which Bradbury tells the story of a tragically cool man who'd rather be dead than 30. The writer is at his best when he chronicles the child self he has never lost touch with. In "Autumn Afternoon," Miss Elizabeth Simmons cleans out her attic and discovers calendars she kept as a girl, checking off dates that were once important but are now mysterious. Bradbury, on the other hand, seems to remember everything—because at 81, he is still 18 at heart. In "With Smiles as Wide as Summer," a virtual prose poem about being a boy on perpetual vacation, he notes, "Circling, they knocked the echoes with their voices, plunged, rolled over, spun, jigged, shook themselves, raced off, hurtled back, leapt high, mad with summerlight and heat, unable to stop just being alive." The pure joy of earthly existence is something Bradbury has never forgotten.
Reviewed on: 03/11/2002