One of the reasons that I love to read, in addition to experiencing other worlds, walking in the path of other characters, learning about the world around us, and escaping from reality for a short time, is to enjoy the beauty of words. Some writers are able to elevate their writing to a level of poetry and beauty that is exhilarating and joyful to read.
One writer, whose use of words, reaches poetic levels is Ray Bradbury. He is a writer not easily confined to one genre and whose work is defined by love of story. I have taught his work in several college classes in both The Department of Graduate and Continuing Education at Muhlenberg College and with traditional students at Lehigh University, and his writing has been an influence on me as a novelist.
I will offer two passages from his brilliant novel Dandelion Wine, a BildungsRoman or coming-of-age story, set in late 1920s in Green Town, Illinois. These passages are from the perspective of a boy who is beginning to see possibilities in life, both the external world and in himself.
The first passage is the opening of the novel:
“It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed.
Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing
of the world was long and warm and slow. You only had to rise, lean from your
window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living,
this was the first morning of summer.
Douglas Spaulding, twelve, freshly wakened, let summer idle him on its
early-morning stream. Lying in his third-story cupola bedroom, he felt the tall
power it gave him, riding high in the June wind, the grandest tower in town. At
night, when the trees washed together, he flashed his gaze like a beacon from
this lighthouse in all directions over swarming seas of elm and oak and maple.
Now . . .” (1).
That is an extraordinary opening to a novel. It pulls the reader into the story with a seemingly simplistic prose, but within that simplicity is beauty and the poetry of the world being seen through young eyes.
Another passage shows Douglas at night time:
“Douglas sprawled back on the dry porch planks, completely contented
and reassured by these voices, which would speak on through eternity, flow
in a stream of murmurings over his body, over his closed eyelids, into his
drowsy ears, for all time. The rocking chairs sounded like crickets, the crickets
sounded like rocking chairs, and the moss-covered rain barrel by the
dining-room window produced another generation of mosquitoes to provide
a topic of conversation through endless summers ahead” (33).
Both excerpts, in my view, are beautiful, compelling, and poetic. All writers should read and study Ray Bradbury.
Bradbury, Ray. Dandelion Wine. New York. Avon Books. 1999.