In 2009, when I was eighteen, I discovered Ray Bradbury.
I can’t remember where I first came across his work, but I do recall being enamored with it enough to check a collection of his out of my local library, a big ‘ol hardback totaling something like 900 pages. I don’t remember the title (I know, I’m terrible), but after a little bit of detective work, I’m pretty sure it was The Stories of Ray Bradbury (1980). I didn’t read all of the stories, but I read most of them, and by the time I was done, I thought Bradbury was cool. Maybe not the best, but cool nonetheless.
Flash forward six years. 2015. I was rummaging through a local bookstore here in the Daytona Beach area when I came across a Bradbury paperback. One More for the Road, a modest short story collection gathering a few of his older works with some “newer” titles (the most recent, I think, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2001). Of course, I snapped it up. It’s Bradbury. He’s cool.
I’m not going to lie. One More for the Road sucks. The stories are dry, brisk, and lack clarity: Several times I’ve found myself going back and rereading passages just to get my bearings. They’re missing an indefinable something that I remember the tales in The Stories…possessing.
No one can bat a hundred. Not even Bradbury. The man wrote fiction from the late thirties to 2012; of course he’s going to have a few stinkers. But now I’m starting to wonder if the problem isn’t me. Were those stories I read so long ago really as good as I remember them? Have my tastes matured, or simply changed? I can’t say. Looking back I remember really liking a few of those stories, especially Night Call, Collect and The Small Assassin. Did Bradbury’s style work for me then? Is One More for the Road Bradbury on an off day? Is Bradbury just overrated? I don’t know.
But I do know that One More for the Road just isn’t cutting it. I plan on finishing it, but it isn’t as magical as I hoped it would be, and for that, I am endlessly disappointed.