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arbieroo

Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

Currently reading

Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works
Thomas Middleton, Gary Taylor
Progress: 92/1183 pages
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry
Robert Chandler
The Uncertain Land and Other Poems
Patrick O'Brian
Progress: 8/160 pages
The Poems and Plays of John Masefield
John Masefield
Progress: 78/534 pages
Poems Selected
Emily Dickinson, Ted Hughes
Progress: 4/50 pages
Selected Poems
U A Fanthorpe
Progress: 18/160 pages
The Penguin Book of Scottish Verse
Mick Imlah, Robert Crawford
Hainish Novels & Stories, Vol. 2
Ursula K. Le Guin
Progress: 133/789 pages
The Essential Shakespeare
Ted Hughes
Progress: 82/259 pages
Introduction to Topology
Bert Mendelson
Progress: 10/224 pages
From the Dust Returned - Ray Bradbury Maybe you've had the experience of not liking something because it turned out not to be what the marketing said it was? Seems to happen with films a lot e.g. films that are a lot more cerebral than the dumb action movies they are made out to be - or the opposite. The trouble with this is it isn't the fault of the artists involved. Maybe if you'd come to it "blind" you'd have liked it. Or if given an honest impression of its nature, you said, I'll skip this one until I'm in the mood for it and did so, you'd have liked it. I try to counter this as best I can and judge the work on its merits, not those of the advertisers trying to manipulate me (with success).

As an aside, I'm reminded of a question I like to ask people: which films have trailers that are better than the actual fims? I put forward Stallone's Cliffhanger and Michael Bay's Pearl Harbour.

Well, the same can happen with books, as From the Dust Returned proves, because this is NOT, nor ever has been, Bradbury's latest novel, as it says on the cover of this edition. It's a compilation of short stories written over a period of several decades,concerning an overlapping set of characters, locales and most of all, moods and themes. The principle pieces are all old, by which I mean, published in previous collections and I had read most of them before. There are also a fairly large number of short pieces that are new, added mainly to turn the collection into a kind of complete fictional history - but not a novel! So I was faced with the fact that I wanted to read a novel and was faced with a short story collection. I resolved this problem by picking up a real novel by somebody else.

The history here is primarily that of the Elliot Family and the House they live in. The Elliots are Special; one has wings, one can slip her mind into anyone or anything, whilst not moving from her bed. Others may be vampires. If you've read much Bradbury you may well have come across an Elliot Family story or others with a similar mood of Gothicism and nostalgia for superstition and story, such as Usher II. The same fear of too much enforced "sanitisation" is dominant in Fahrenheight 451, too. But there is a problem here. There is a uniformity of atmosphere, technique and imagery that gets stale when presented with so much of it at one time. In other words, you have to either spread it out over a long period of reading or risk purple prose overload. Similar problems are sometimes remarked upon when reading Saki short stories and H.P. Lovecraft shorts, too.

That said, some of the new material is excellent - I particularly liked the beginning pieces about the early history of the House and it's first occupants and, standing alone, some of the older stories are Bradbury greats. See my review of The April Witch, which is included here as The Wandering Witch, for instance. The trouble is that this family of stories about the Family jostle and crowd each other, when squashed into this small space contained between the covers of a single volume, with no leavening.