All Hallow’s Read: Something Wicked This Way Comes

All Hallow’s Read is a relatively new tradition begun some years ago by your favorite author and mine, Neil Gaiman. While at first glance, those two words, “new” and “tradition” may seem to sit as uneasily together in a sentence as do “silent” and “scream”, it is nonetheless true that all traditions do begin somewhere. Halloween is a tradition, and someone, long ago, who felt the need to feel their pulse quicken as the year drew to a close, who burned to look mortality in its grinning skull face, and thereby rend the veil between the visible and the unknown, started it.

While I’ve been aware of All Hallow’s Read for some time, I have not participated in it until this year, a situation that needs to be rectified forthwith. And so, to correct my lapse, I will begin a tradition of my own. Starting this year, not only will I give someone a book for All Hallow’s Read, I will also share my thoughts about the book I select with you fine folks.

This year I chose Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, the title of which comes from the Scottish play, Macbeth. In the play, the phrase “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” is uttered by one of the three witches, proclaiming the arrival of Hecate, goddess of witches.

Something Wicked is only about 293 pages, but is a challenging read. The odd turns of phrase Bradbury chooses give the words the quality of a prose poem.

Better to leave him propped in electric-warm chair, a continual exhibit, an ever-going-on performance for gaping audiences, and try again, but especially try now, when, lights out, and crowds herded off in the dark, all threatened by one smile on a bullet, there was need of Cooger as he once was, tall, flame-headed, and riven with earthquake violence.

I love that phrase at the end of this long, rambling sentence, “riven with earthquake violence”. It means Cooger was torn apart by his own violent nature, split or cracked as by an earthquake. At least, that is how I read it. You might read it differently.

Indeed, the nonstandard, unorthodox use of earthquake as an adjective to describe Cooger’s violence displays Bradbury’s courageous willingness to go out on a limb in search of a simile. He might’ve said Cooger’s violence was like an earthquake, but instead states it directly. Cooger’s violence is an earthquake. The phrasing throughout the book has this same simple, yet surreal tone.

If you’ve not read Something Wicked, I will not say that you must, but I will say that I draw an indirect line from the spooky, carnival imagery of this 1962 classic to 1986’s It. If you are a King fan, you may enjoy some of the influences that inspired him. And, of course, the charismatic Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man, has all the dark fascination of one of literature’s most memorable villains.

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