This collection of short stories from Bradbury was simultaneously bizarre, interesting, thought-provoking and weird. Some caught me up so completely in them that I desperately wanted them to expand and fill an entire novel – a mere ten pages not enough to satisfy my curiousity about the lives of these interesting people. Others left me utterly bewildered about what had just happened, wondering if it made sense to anyone else, and whether I had missed some vital part of the story that would have brought sense into my confusion.
In his introduction, Bradbury sets the stage for what is to come: “I haven’t thought about any of these stories; they are explosions or impulses. Sometimes they are big explosions of ideas that cannot be resisted, sometimes small impulses coaxed to grow… Some may surprise you. And that is good. Many of them surprised me when they came to me and asked to be born. I hope you enjoy them. Don’t think about them too much. Just try to love them as I love them.”
Massinello Pietro was by far my favourite of the collection, an excellent start with his eccentricity and joyful spirit. Despite not having committed any great crime, the police have become involved in his life through the complaints of his neighbours about his excessive number of odd pets, and his obsession with playing his phonograph very loudly at every hour of the night. He is not well, and for all we are told this could be the case of his apparent madness, but the other possibility is that Pietro has learned how to live.
“My talent! thought Pietro. The more you give away, the better it is, the more you have. Those with talent must mind the world. He glanced around. The world was full of statues much like he had been once. So many could move no longer, knew no way to even begin to move again in any direction, back, forth, up, down, for life had stung and bit and stunned and beat them to marble silence. So then, if they could not move, someone must move for them.”
The rest of the collection was interesting, well written, but up and down. Some were entrancing and beautiful. Some were odd.
Some were so simple, like Pietå Summer, just six brief pages, in which a teenage boy goes to the circus and at the end of the day is so exhausted that his father carries him all the way home (despite the son weighing over 40kg!) The deep gratitude the son feels the next day is something that he remembers seventy years later. It is a beautiful tale of the love of a father.
Bradbury’s collection was well put together, a funny, disjointed journey of happiness, sadness, emptiness and joy. All in all, each short story was with me for the few moments it took to read, and then disappeared, making this the kind of book you could read over and over again, getting different insights or emotions each time you read it. Three stars.