Cicadas and Summer Rain: How to Make Dandelion Wine

So, I’m a die-hard Ray Bradbury fan, and I’m beginning to see that this blog may morph into a queer sort of homage to both sci-fi legend Bradbury and Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Fine by me. I’ve noticed that so many people seem to utilize their personal blog as a venue to whine and complain about their lives (even fellow academics); why not come to your blog to discuss beautiful things that make us feel happy and fuzzy? We can still be critical and refrain from drafting a suicide note, no?

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Bradbury wants us to ride dinosaurs, have picnics on mars, and trick-or-treat with monsters.

I recently finished reading Dandelion Wine (1957), which is perhaps better suited as a summer read. In short, what I liked about this novel is that it focuses in large part on boyhood, the magic of a long, hot summer, and a changing relationship between brothers. Yes, girlhood studies are where it’s at for me, but it’s important to investigate the experience of growing up as a boy as well. There’s so much pressure, so many things to fear, and so much to learn. This story takes place in a fictional town in Illinois, based on where Bradbury spent much of his childhood. Each chapter works as a sort of vignette, potentially independent from the larger narrative (which many of them do as they appear in Bradbury’s short story collections). In this way, we notice that none of the chapters really lean on one another, instead offering strength to one another and standing tall on their own. This is what Bradbury seems to do best: creating these tiny entities made of phantom language and unearthly descriptions that grow and grow until it feels we have become transfused by their radiance, comforted by their presence, and indeed bettered for reading them.

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A fairly simple yet beautiful cover.

A downside to reading this on my Nook Color (or any text for that matter) is that it’s not so easy to bookmark pages and write notes in the margins–things I never fail to do when reading mindfully. I do enjoy my Nook and treasure the idea that I can tote around hundreds of books on one little tablet, but I surely wouldn’t challenge anyone who claims that tangible books, especially the ones from libraries that smell of decades past, are the better method. In fact, Bradbury was very adamant that e-readers are a bad idea and that his work shall never be accessible on one–he even told representatives at Kindle to go to hell. However, several of his books have been released in electronic format, which I have mixed feelings about.

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Enough said.

Douglas falls ill toward the end of summer–from the intense and unrelenting heat. What we come to understand is that summer is past its expiration date, it’s no longer fun, and it’s actually caused this young boy to become bed-ridden. What’s fun and strange is that his family moves him outside in order to recover. These are the most delicious passages I’ve ever read:

“Now the small print,” he said. He squinted. “‘Also containing molecules of vapor from menthol, lime, papaya, and watermelon and all other water-smelling, cool-savored fruits and trees like camphor and herbs like wintergreen and the breath of a rising wind from the Des Plaines River itself. Guaranteed most refreshing and cool. To be taken on summer nights when the heat passes ninety.’”

A few paragraphs later:

Douglas’s mouth was slightly open and from his lips and from the thin vents of his nostrils, gently there rose a scent of cool night and cool water and cool white snow and cool green moss, and cool moonlight on silver pebbles lying at the bottom of a quiet river and cool clear water at the bottom of a small white stone well.

It was like holding their heads down for a brief moment to the pulse of an apple-scented fountain flowing cool up into the air and washing their faces.

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I’m always interested in the various covers/editions of a novel–check out this vintage-looking, kinda spooky cover.

Bradbury’s talent in describing people, places, things and feelings sensually is unmistakable because it makes our toes curl, our minds wander, and our hearts yearn for more of these celestial morsels.  Bradbury taps into the kind of euphoria that I’m sure we experience in the womb, which is perhaps why it may feel so familiar to many of his readers.

Here’s a recipe for actual dandelion wine from “Offbeat Home & Life”: lots of dandelions, tons of sugar, four oranges, and some yeast. I’m not much of a drinker, but I may try this over the summer, perhaps in smaller measurements.

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This looks perfect for a picnic or an outdoor meal in the summertime.

Cheers!

-J

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