Dandelion Wine is one of my favorite novels ever, period. It's an incredibly lush, juicy story about boys and summer and grandparents and mystery, a book that sits on the line between poetry and prose, a book that seems like the most incredible dream you ever had, that feels like lying in a hammock with your eyes have closed, listening to the wind soughing through the trees. I read it when I was 17, and it made me nostalgic for my youth -- even though I was in the middle of it.
Farewell Summer comes from the typewriter of a much more mature, more experienced writer. It follows the stories of the people in Dandelion Wine as their long summer stretches into October and gets good to the boys who pack around town, skinny dipping, eating candies, and discovering magic. These boys decide to make their summer last forever, to reject aging, and to do so by targeting the evil, childless old men who run the Board of Education.
They plot a magic war against the Board, a series of mystical attacks against its members and its trappings, and draw the ire of the town's adults. The story is magic, makes you feel the everyday magic of young invention and delight and rage.
Bradbury manages to make Farewell Summer every bit as delightful and magical as Dandelion Wine was, but he does at a much shorter length, using language that, by Bradbury standards, is as unadorned as Hemingway's. It's as though a lifetime of word-drunkenness has given him a connoisseur's palate and the ability to substitute one perfectly chosen word for a whole paragraph of beautiful alternatives.
It felt like I was drunk after I'd finished the 211 large-print pages of this book. The world didn't look the same, and there was a strange, pleasant taste in my mouth. What a wonderful book. It was worth the half-century wait.
Inside, honey lay sheathed in warm African chocolate. Plunged and captured in amber treasure lay fresh Brazil nuts, almonds, and glazed clusters of snowy coconut. June butter and August wheat were clothed in dark sugars. All were crinkled in folded tinfoil, then wrapped in red and blue papers that told the weight, ingredients and manufacturer. In bright bouquets the candies lay, caramels to glue the teeth, licorice to blacken the heart, chewy wax bottles filled with sickening mint and strawberry sap, Tootsie Rolls to hold like cigars, red-tipped chalk-mint cigarettes for chill mornings when your breath smoked on the air.
The boys, in the middle of the shop, saw diamonds to crunch, fabulous liquors to swig. Persimmon-colored pop bottles swam, clinking softly, in the Nile waters of the refrigerated box, its water cold enough to cut your skin. Above, on glass shelves, lay cordwood piles of gingersnaps, macaroons, chocolate bits, vanilla wafers shaped like moons, and marshmallow dips, white surprises under black masquerades. All of this to coat the tongue, plaster the palate.
Farewell Summer [Ray Bradbury]