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Literary Events

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Memorable Discussion of the Classic Dandelion Wine

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury, was first published as a book in 1957. Portions had been published as early as 1946. During our discussion, Jay suggested that the book might have been written as separate stories all about the same group of characters, and he was right. Looking at the title page shows the various years of publication of various parts of the book in various magazines. We read and discussed Dandelion Wine as a single book.

Perhaps the episodic nature of the chapters was what a few of our members didn’t like about the book. Most liked it. Some complained that there was no plot, and someone said the reading was slow and unexciting.

Leading the discussion, Ken asked us which were our favorite parts of the book. Morna said that her favorite parts were the tennis shoes that symbolized the beginning of the summer and the way the author could express the feelings of a happy childhood. She also liked the chapter about Grandmother being a fabulous cook in a messy kitchen but unable to cook after the kitchen was cleaned. Pam noticed that the characters filled and stored 90 bottles of dandelion wine, 1 for each day of summer. Dennis noted that Bradbury showed the way kids tend to feel that they are immortal. Frank said he was moved to tears by the episode in which middle-aged Mr. Forrester and elderly Miss Loomis met and became close as kindred souls in spite of their vast age difference. The chapter had a bittersweet ending, as did several of the stories in the book. I was touched by the difficulty that Doug and John Huff had when John was moving away, because it reminded me of when my next-door neighbors, whom I had played with almost daily for years, moved across the country when we were around 9 years old. Carla’s favorite part of the book was when the green machine created the expectation that the future would get better. Shirley liked being reminded of deviled ham sandwiches, and when the young girls refused to believe that Helen Bentley had ever been young.

The book brought out memories for most of us. Joyce said that when she was young, she wrote on the same kind of typewriter that Bradbury used for his first novel.  Ken remembered the rumbleseat, which was at the back of cars. He said that the children sitting on the rumbleseat, outside; and the parents sitting inside the car was a good arrangement. Jay mentioned a memoir by Sally Mann, which says that memories change as we age; and when we go back to a memory, we change it. Pam remembered that when her father would spend long days farming, the rest of the family would await his return anxiously, because nothing is guaranteed; and that once he had arrived, she would be a little angry at her father for being so late. Ken remembered feeling alive when a neighbor let him use her orchard when he mowed her lawn.

We talked of memories and the magic of childhood as it was in the 1950s. Bradbury’s characters, stories, and rich descriptive writing style all inspired memories.

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