Friday, September 22, 2017

Literary Sewing Circle: Discussion Day

Are you halfway through Something Wicked This Way Comes yet? Do you have opinions? Today is the day to start talking about our responses to the book.

Here are a few questions to ponder today and for the next week or so -- and please feel free to leave your thoughts whenever you can.

I'll add some of my own thoughts and you can riff off of them or add your own impressions. If you want to hear other takes on a part of the book that you found either wonderful or annoying leave your own questions in your comment, too. I hope you are all enjoying it!

1.What did you think of the writing style?  Did it take any effort to get used to it? Do you like it?
I love Ray Bradbury's writing style; his excessive use of adjectives, wildly creative and sometimes opaque metaphor, the snap and spirit in his stories as they rush along. I know it can seem melodramatic or over-the-top to people who prefer more clean, sedate writing, but I think it suits his themes so well. This novel is less baroque than some of his stories, though -- a little tighter. I generally read through the doorways of character and style though, so perhaps that is why I like it so much! (if you don't know the four doorways of reading, as outlined by Nancy Pearl, check it out here: I think this is the easiest way to determine what it is you like in your reading experiences, & I use them every day in my library work!)

2.How do Will and Jim’s surnames and birth dates provide insights into their character? Do you think this was evocative, clever, too obvious...?

I like the way the two boys are so similar and yet slightly differentiated by their day of birth -- Halloween for one -- and by their names. Jim is a darker character and his name, physical description and fascination for the more adult things in life are all tied together. It could be considered a bit obvious, but it seems the whole book is a bit heightened when it comes to character description and development, so I think it works. You may disagree, though!

3.What do you think of Mr. Halloway's relationship with Will? What role do you think his occupation plays in the story? Or, a related question, what is the significance of the library in this story? Of Mr. Halloway being a janitor there?

Big surprise, I love the way the library acts as a beacon and a safe haven for the boys in the midst of their adventure. I love Bradbury's respect for libraries overall, and his imaginative, idealized depiction of this library and its dusty stacks full of travel, adventure, dinosaurs, pirates and more. It's also great that Mr. Holloway's response to this existential threat is... research ;) I think his role as janitor shows his dedication to the ideals of the library even while like everything else in his life, he feels like he is not 'enough' in some way. Not a good enough father; not a librarian, just a janitor in the library -- showing his weakness.

4.What did you think of the opening of the story? Did Tom Fury and his lighting rods set a mood or get you ready for what was going to happen?

I find the opening paragraphs (literally) atmospheric, even if the storm never quite arrives in the way Tom Fury predicts it. I can almost hear Fury, with his clanking lightning rods, appear amidst the wind and the dusk. It starts us off with a shiver.

5.From the outset, the sudden appearance of Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show is a cause for concern. Did you sense from the beginning that the carnival is sinister?

Bradbury does give us many clues that this is a sinister group; the music playing without anyone playing it, the steaming old-fashioned train pulling in in the middle of the night, the tents made of clouds and shadow... I think it's evident early on that Cooger & Dark are Up To No Good.

6.Ray Bradbury utilizes smells and sounds in Something Wicked This Way Comes in order to provoke profound sensory memories and emotions from his characters. What smells and sounds have a profound emotional effect on you?

I find that throughout the story, the senses are evoked in many ways. The tactile feel of his descriptions of the boys climbing the roof to nail up a lighting rod, the experience of being a child at night in your room and hearing your parents talking in the distance, the smell and feel of a night wind, the music of the carnival, the scent of cotton candy on the wind and the power of nostalgia -- all of it makes this a sensory whirlwind, at least for me. 

7.What weakness would Mr. Dark seek to exploit in you? What would your tattoo be?

Hmm, this one is tough. I'm not sure how my tattoo would appear on the Illustrated Man if I had succumbed to the Pandemonium Shadow Show's temptations. I'll have to ponder it! 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on your reading!


  1. According to Nancy Pearl's article I'm a story and character person when it comes to reading. 1.I'm enjoying the lavish use of adjectives. It seems appropriate for this particular tale and helps me see a fuller picture of what's happening. 2. It seems like the names and birth dates of Jim and Will were probably clever at the time this was written. It seems a little obvious now. I still like it as a detail and how it adds to the story. I like the light/dark aspect of the friendship. I've definitely had friendships like that with me relating more closely to Jim. 4. Tom Fury, and his storm colored clothes, were going to be my original inspiration for what I wanted to make. Lack of proper supplies made those plans fall through for now. The passage that has stuck out to me, so far, is Chapter 14 when Mr Holloway is overheard by Will repeating "Three, three, three.." referencing the arrival time of the train. Then ties it in to a living death, sleeplessness and the immortality of women through their children. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

  2. The first thing I have to say is that the Four Doorways article was fascinating. I think at different times it's character and style, or character and story for me. I'm reading two books at the moment and I'm enjoying Something Wicked This Way Comes for his almost lyrical writing style, and the character development of Will, Jim, and Mr. Halloway. While the other book I am reading is all character and story.

    Being a big ol' library nerd, I think my favorite part of the book has been the boys' love of the library, and Mr. Halloway's obvious near reverence for, and love of, the library. While obviously much of the book is very fantastical, as it is meant to be, the first trip to the library in the book was something I really connected with.

    I thought Tom Fury's character was a great opening to the story. He introduces the idea of dark storminess, but you're inclined to take it with a grain of salt, given that he's a traveling salesman and maybe not the best person to get your factual information from. He sort of sets the tone, without giving too much away, letting everything unfold in it's own good time.

    Overall, I'm really loving the book. It's one of those books that's been on the "I'll read it someday" list for many years, and this was the push I needed to get going. I'm glad I did! Can't wait to read everyone else's comments too. :-)

    1. I'm glad you've finally read one of your "I'll get it someday" classics -- I have a few of those too ;)

      I do love the opening as well, it sets a mysterious and wild tone. So glad you could identify your story doorways -- I like that system as it makes it much easier to figure out what kind of book you usually read, or what kind you might be in the mood for, for a change.

      Loving finding out who else is a library nerd who loves the library scenes in this book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it.

  3. Hi Melanie! Thanks again for hosting this literary sewing circle. I think I tend to prefer the 'doorways' of language and character, and was quite satisfied with this book in those respects. But I also found I read this one very quickly so the story here was quite strong; it was a page-turner. Bradbury's character names were obvious but I love that -- Dickens got away with this, too, and we love him for it. One word that comes to mind repeatedly about Bradbury's style in this book is 'evocative' -- the language and imagery he uses really evoked clear pictures in my imagination as I read. One aspect I did not love was the 'existential break' in the middle of the book when Will's father is expounding his philosophy of good, evil, etc. to the two boys. I completely understand why it's in the book -- I guess it gives the characters motivation -- but I found I really had to suspend my disbelief that a) the two boys would be interested in or even understand the father's pontification, b) that they all had the patience and energy under the circumstances to do this kind of mental exercise, and c) that his esoteric ramblings leads him--surprise!--to the exact key to defeating the evil Mr. Dark. Ok, I'll cut you some slack, Ray. ;)
    I think the book was a great choice for a sewalong because it is so rife with imagery...I had no trouble getting inspired to sew while reading it.
    -- Lori from

    1. I must say, I think "evocative" is a fabulous word to describe the writing and imagery of this book. I found it made me see, feel, and smell things in my mind, as though I were there. Great point! :-)

    2. I agree, Bradbury's writing is evocative. He has such a way of describing things from all the senses; his writing is very memorable because of it.

      Lori, I do think that "existential break" is the perfect way to describe that long middle section with Mr. Holloway giving his philosophy of life, with some elements that are pretty eyebrow raising these days (ie: his view of women & gossip). But as Jim says to him, once he finally runs out of things to say, "You talk a lot." Bradbury always has ideas as part of his stories, even the tiny ones. I feel like he was always, always pondering life.

      And I am glad you have had no problem being inspired while reading in terms of your project...can't wait to find out more.

  4. According to Nancy Pearl's criteria, I'm a story and character person. I also agree with Lori's use of the word evocative. Tom Fury and his storm colored clothes were going to be my inspiration for this challenge but those plans fell through. Still, I can see him clearly in my head. The passage that has stuck with me so far is in Ch 14 when the train arrives at "Three, three, three..." Will's Dad and his thoughts about that time of day ("..a living death...), the immortality of women through their children and what is perceived as a carefree existence because they don't have to worry about having any other accomplishments in life. It's a very provocative concept. I'm looking forward to the rest. Thanks for the read!!!

    1. It seems so many of us who have read and enjoyed this book are story & character readers! I'm glad that people are interested in the idea of the doorways & figuring out your own preferences too.

      It's interesting that your first instinct to make something storm-coloured has changed -- I wonder if the appeal of the train's arrival will stick or if you'll change your mind again by the end! I'm still not 100% decided on my own project!

      Will's Dad's thoughts about women throughout the book are quite provocative; I think we'll have to discuss those in our final book club post once everyone has finished reading, as there is a lot to talk about there, keeping in mind that this was published in 1962.

      Glad you are enjoying the read!

  5. First of all, I heard about this site after listening to a podcast recently where Melanie was guest and I was intrigued. I love reading, but so often go to a library and don't know where to begin looking. I tend to borrow 'the same' type of books all the time. And here was a librarian, passionate about books and sewing. Wow! What more could I ask for? And I am not disappointed.

    I had never heard of Ray Bradbury before, and would never have picked this book off the shelf – particularly as it is listed as 'Horror'. But it was so exciting, I couldn't put the book down. If I look at the rule of four, which is a really interesting concept, I would describe this book as a page turner (for me), a book with story. But likewise the characters were so real, in fact the author gave such life to the inanimate and animate. I loved the writing style. I loved the pace, the descriptions, the language.

    I cannot decide on the signficance of the boys' names and birth dates. And yet there is. And just been Halloween is a significance to the story I am sure. I love the way they are virtually the same age, and such good friends, can read each others needs and thoughts almost, and yet are also so different.

    To me, Mr Halloway is a gentle soul, and is no fool. He may be a janitor, but in the big picture of life, do we put too much emphasis on assessing somebody's character by their occupation. There is so much more to the depth of character than just an occupation. Having an occupation which gives you time to think ideas, to have access to so many books, so many ideas, history, future, fact, fiction, and which never impacts negatively on other people's lives – isn't that almost the ideal occupation? I love the choice of occupation for the role Mr Halloway acts out. And obviously he has influenced these teenage boys to also respect and love books. He has so many pearls of wisdom. A fine man indeed!

    The opening of the story was great – it set the scene without one boring paragraph. You could feel the atmosphere, you were running with the boys, and you were standing next to Mr Halloway, just thinking.

    What weakness would Mr Dark seek in me? Well, that is something we should all stop and think about. We all have secrets, doubts, lack confidence in something. I too will have to reflect on that. Maybe I don't want to admit even to myself what Mr Dark would see?

    But I have a question. Did anybody expect that the actions of Mr Dark would ever be reversed? For example, Miss Foley. Did anybody expect she would ultimately be rescued in some way?

    ... Sara

    1. I'm so glad you decided to check out the book and the Literary Sewing Circle! And that you found that despite the "horror" tag this was a good read. It's always wonderful to find something new that you might not have read otherwise.

      It seems that we all agree that the opening is perfect -- throws you right into the action & gets the story underway without a pause.

      I love your thoughts about Mr. Halloway's profession. Yes, is there too much judgement of character simply by occupation -- and was this judgement so much stronger, especially for a middle aged man, in the 60s when this was written? He is a complex and deep character, and in a way he is sort of the backbone of the book. But then there are his self-recriminations throughout... so interesting.

      And I have a feeling that the question of what Mr. Dark might see in a person will stick with me for a long while.

      We'll have to discuss the ending in a little more depth in a couple of weeks, on our final discussion on Friday October 13... and think about Miss Foley & the others affected by the Shadow Show...

    2. That's a great question, Sara, about whether the unfortunate victims would ultimately find a way out of their predicament. **SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN'T FINISHED THE BOOK YET*** I'm pretty sure that while I was reading, I assumed that would be the case. Maybe it was because I felt that Mr. Halloway's figuring out the key to defeating Mr. Dark seemed to come to him too easily, that perhaps the book would have an 'easy' ending -- i.e. everyone getting back to normal once Mr. Dark was vanquished. I'm glad it didn't turn out that way.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!