The master of American fiction returns to the territory of his beloved classic, Dandelion Wine—a sequel 50 years in the making
Some summers refuse to end . . .
October 1st, the end of summer. The air is still warm, but fall is in the air. Thirteen-year-old Douglas Spaulding, his younger brother Tom, and their friends do their best to take advantage of these last warm days, rampaging through the ravine, tormenting the girls . . . and declaring war on the old men who run Green Town, IL. For the boys know that Colonel Quartermain and his cohorts want nothing more than to force them to put away their wild ways, to settle down, to grow up. If only, the boys believe, they could stop the clock atop the courthouse building. Then, surely, they could hold onto the last days of summer . . . and their youth.
But the old men were young once, too. And Quartermain, crusty old guardian of the school board and town curfew, is bent on teaching the boys a lesson. What he doesn’t know is that before the last leaf turns, the boys will give him a gift: they will teach him the importance of not being afraid of letting go.
This poignant, wise but slight "extension" of the indefatigable Bradbury's semiautobiographical Dandelion Wine picks up the story of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding in October of 1928, when the warmth of summer still clings to Green Town, Ill. As in his episodic 1957 novel, Bradbury evokes the rhythms of a long-gone smalltown America with short, swift chapters that build to a lyrical meditation on aging and death. Playing at war, the imaginative Douglas and his friends target the town's elderly men, and the outraged 81-year-old bachelor Calvin C. Quartermain attempts to organize a counterattack against the boys' mischief. Rebelling against their elders and the specter of age and death Douglas and his gang steal the old men's chess pieces before deciding that Time, as embodied by the courthouse clock, is their true nemesis. The story turns on a gift of birthday cake that triggers Douglas and Quartermain's mutual recognition: "He had seen himself peer forth from the boy's eyes." Soon thereafter, Douglas's first kiss and new, acute awareness of girls serves as the harbinger of his inevitable adulthood. Bradbury's mature but fresh return to his beloved early writing conveys a depth of feeling. Look for a Q&A with Bradbury in the Aug. 21 issue. (Oct.)