Guy Montag burns books for a living, those heretical, contradictory, awful things that encourage people to think…
The thing with the Ray Bradbury’s I’ve come across: They aren’t really novels, or stories. Bradbury writes dense, metaphorical blank prose, and the story and everything else is dragged along behind it.
There really isn’t any characterisation to speak of and world building is slender. No one is physically described beyond a metaphorical level. The city and country where Montag works isn’t named. When you’ve read a few, you just accept this and move on.
Some of it is quite beautiful:
The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward.
And Guy’s phallic relationship with his fire hose and fire department (“With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world”). He also slides and grips the firemans pole a few times.
And, then, some of it doesn’t work at all. Be warned: Bradbury never uses a metaphor when he can use six.
He saw himself in her eyes, suspended in two shining drops of bright water, himself dark and tiny, in fine detail, the lines about his mouth, everything there, as if her eyes were two miraculous bits of violet amber that might capture and hold him intact.
Starts off fine, but then he pushes it too far. Are her eyes bright water or violet amber? His writing is like this throughout the story: metaphors and similes pushed until they break, then another and another. His dialogue is more of the same.
Bradbury isn’t someone I’m ever going to enjoy reading, I don’t think. He’s a dessert that’s far too sickly to stomach a large serving.
Luckily, this only took me a few hours to read. Without the dense paragraphs of metaphor, this would be a short story fleshed out to novella length. Curiously enough, in the afterword that’s exactly what Bradbury says happened.
Have you read any Ray Bradbury? Did you enjoy it? Let me know!