Friday, April 4, 2014

The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (13 of 159)

One Sentence Summary: A collection of Ray Bradbury's short stories spanning topics as curious and varied as time travel, life on Mars, and the summer lives of growing boys.

'Mr. Douglas,' says the night watchman, 'did you ever read that story about the man who traveled to the future and found everyone there insane? Everyone. But since they were all insane they didn't know they were insane. They  all acted alike and so they thought themselves normal. And since our hero was the only sane one among them, he was abnormal; therefore, he was the insane one. To them, at least. Yes, Mr. Douglas, insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.'
-from The Meadow
I know that Ray Bradbury is considered classic, but even so I think that's not enough praise. In my opinion, he attains that level of storyteller that taps into one of the most important fields of potential for the craft- prophecy. Bradbury's ability to observe human behavior and see where it could possibly lead is almost unnerving. The Murderer is all well and good as a warning against over-socialization and the dangers of social media and constant interaction and bears startling similarities to the modern age, but when you consider that it was written in 1953, it gains a new dimension. Huxley, Orwell, and Bradbury- damn, but they knew what was up before we (my generation) were even born.

I started reading Bradbury with Something Wicked This Way Comes. For years, I would try and fail to read that book because its tone really did something to my head. It was frightening and unsettling in a way that no other book I had ever read was and every October I would take it out from the library and try again. I could not put a finger on why it struck a chord with me where other spooky tales failed, but now I understand it was Bradbury's mastery of atmosphere. When I was finally mature enough to absorb and process it, it became (and remains) one of my favorite books.

Bradbury's descriptions fill in the blank spaces in the world- his imagery taps into a minute internal seed where instinct and truth meet. The way he describes a summer's day or sculpts an entire short story around the complex and deeply stored emotion of loneliness is incredible. It may sound strange, but something within the reader responds to something in the writing. I cannot help but think that the monster in The Foghorn is perhaps the most accurate metaphor for how it feels- an old sort of thinking pulls itself up from your very core and cries, cries, back at the resounding promises in this work. Bradbury reconnects me with my sense of wonder, my desire to set out into the universe and uncover its secrets, and that is why I simply can't stop reading him. His stories are almost infallibly exciting and I always feel exhilarated when I come away from them.  His words on writing and reading remain a constant guide and are perhaps the most accurate words for describing how I feel about my life in words:

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Again, I almost always encourage reading anthologies as a full unit, but the pieces that most got to me from The Golden Apples of the Sun were:

The Fog Horn
The Murderer
The Meadow
R is for Rocket
The Great Fire
A Sound of Thunder
The Long Rain
The Dragon

Hmmm, I meant for that to be a shorter list. I guess I couldn't help myself.

Shelf Status: Keeping Forever
I Recommend For: Sci-Fi Buffs, folks feeling out of touch with joy and wonder, writers
I Do Not Recommend For: People who don't do lengthy description


  1. Aaahhhh what a great review! I have a lot of Bradbury love, but I've never read these short stories before. I've got to get this.

    1. You should bulk get it with his anthology "I Sing the Body Electric". It's absolutely brilliant- so impossible to choose between the two collections!