Posts Tagged ‘1955 Short Stories’

The October Country by Ray Bradbury ~ 1955. This edition: Ballantine, 1971. Paperback. 276 pages.

OCTOBER COUNTRY

. . . that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain . . .

This is a collection of nineteen mainly macabre short stories originally published between 1943 and 1955. Be prepared for queasy feelings as Bradbury graphically depicts mummified corpses and otherworldly autopsies, and paints some dark and brooding scenarios. There are a few light moments, but in general these tales are tinted inky-black.

  • THE DWARF has a strange compulsion to visit and revisit a carnival’s Hall of Mirrors.
  • A married couple visiting a small Mexican town explore a picturesque cemetery in which the burial spots are only temporary. Mummified corpses are stored in a grim mausoleum, leading the nervous wife to speculate who might be THE NEXT IN LINE.
  • THE WATCHFUL POKER CHIP OF H. MATISSE enhances the monocle of one George Garvey, formerly the most boring man alive and cultivated by the avant garde for that sole reason.
  • A hypochondriac becomes aware that inside his body a SKELETON resides, and his consultation with a certain “specialist” solves that particular issue all too well.
  • A farmer visiting a sideshow finds a fascinating item on display and buys it and brings it home. His wife is disgusted with him and his new obsession. So now what’s floating in THE JAR?
  • Long ago two children played on the shores of THE LAKE, until one tragic day. How long do friendships last?
  • A pet dog acts as THE EMISSARY linking a bed-bound boy and an elderly woman.
  • Two men attempt an altruistic act towards a bitter woman which has much different consequences than they had anticipated in TOUCHED WITH FIRE.
  • A new mother has oddly fearful feelings about her baby, which turn out to be justified in THE SMALL ASSASSIN.
  • Onlookers flock to accidents, but who really are the people in THE CROWD?
  • JACK-IN-THE-BOX: A young boy is raised in isolation by his emotionally disturbed mother.
  • A homeless farm family finds a refuge in a rather unusual wheatfield. One day the father realizes that his reaping work with THE SCYTHE has powerful consequences.
  • UNCLE EINAR is a member of a powerful and unusually gifted family. When his gossamer green wings are damaged in a storm, he finds a human wife, and redemption of a sort in his children.
  • A far travelling man has ventured where he shouldn’t have and has fallen afoul of THE WINDS.
  • A young boy living in his grandmother’s boarding house senses something foreboding about THE MAN UPSTAIRS and uses his knowledge gained in watching in the kitchen to counter a deadly threat.
  • THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN who wasn’t quite ready to die, so she pulled a fast one on Death.
  • Two sisters, one man, long years, and many waters swirling in THE CISTERN under the city…
  • THE HOMECOMING: A human child raised in a family of immortal supernaturals comes to terms with his differences and the knowledge that he must one day die.
  • A promising writer announces his stunning retirement and the literary world goes mad. But there is a secret story behind THE WONDERFUL DEATH OF DUDLEY STONE.

For full effect, read these at night. After you turn on some extra lights, and lock the door.

While I must say that while the writing is elegantly daft and as well embroidered as can be, and while some of these tales are up to Bradbury’s best, many of them weren’t to my particular taste, so my overall personal rating for the collection reflects this. Your mileage may differ.

My rating: 6.5/10.

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