Freaks of nature. I don´t understand that American tradition. I hear it was also popular in the UK in the XIX century. I don´t remember ever seeing anything like that in my country. We don´t have Halloween either, so…
I have just read Ray Bradbury´s Something Wicked this Way Comes, and it is a sweet tale about that age when you are barely a teenager, still smelling of childhood, and still far from adulthood, and then some unexpected event happens that makes you grow beyond your years, or makes you realize that life is so much more than your small town and simple pleasures however it is not as exciting as you thought it should be, cause it means loss, accountability, pain and sorrow.
Yes, it does use a Carnival with a sideshow of freaks as the driving force behind those events, and the idea of something unusual, freakish begins with the main characters, Will and Jim, born seconds apart, one still on October 30th and the other on October 31st, one with fine White blond hair and the other with dark chestnut hair and Crystal green eyes, one with both parents, the father being sadness incarnated, the former raised by his widowed mother.
Neighbours and in a sense twins, different in everything and yet equal, loving each other like Brothers.
There is also the theme of good versus evil, of Mr. Dark (the Illustrated man, who bears the faces of his victims tattooed on his body), luring and trapping people in the carnival as its attractions, as freaks, tempting them with their secret shames or desires. Two of those engines of entrapment are the mirror maze and the carousel. Once in the maze the individual sees his secrets and desires and is overwhelmed by them, unable to escape unless rescued by someone on the outside; the experience, however, remains as temptation. The other magic ride is the carousel, which tweaks with time, making one grow physically older or younger as it moves forward or backwards and it teases our fear of death and age, our conceptions of maturity, and of power.
Whereas Evil seems powerful and has plenty of weapons, Goodness seems guileless and weak, represented by Will Halloway and his father Charles, a middle aged man, who is chronically sad, questioning his Faith in life. Rather than being completely good or incapable of doubt, Charles and Will are Always finding ways to resist temptation, not without regret for what they might have lost, as Charles tells Will.
Jim, on the other hand, rather than being evil, is someone treading on thin ethical lines, because he is mostly curious, eager to break free from a mother who hovers around him too much for fear of loosing him, wondering about the outside world and thirsty to experience life to the fullest before it ends. He does, however, love his mother and his best friend as a brother, and does not mean harm to anyone, and though he knows things he can´t quite understand what he knows, which is a paradox of early adulthood: seeing so much and understanding little.
Love conquering evil is an inspiring thought isn´t, it? If it is evil then it is not love, I guess.
It is a shame that I´ve read his book so late in my life. When you´ve seen so many freak show and Halloween themed movies, series, comics and books, a certain aesthetic comes to mind and sort of taints the imagery an author as peculiar as Bradbury conjures in this little novel.
It is far from Tim Burton, not it is grotesque in American Horror Story style, it does indeed have a romantic Stephen King aura to it, as in The Body and I know that King has read Bradbury… and it is also hard for someone who comes from a land of Always summer to understand the change of seasons the way folks who grew up with four distinct seasons do.
For me life is a long summer that may be hotter or cooler, sunny or rainy, but the trees never loose their leaves, and the landscape don´t really change its colour. Yes, the colour is brighter, as if on a saturated film, or more pastel, but green is green, different flowers bloom all year long, , fruit and so on.
This is a story with shades of red, tan, brown, of green getting ready to give way to bare trees. Fruit overripe, and Strong scents from deteriorating leaves on the ground. Of transitioning into adulthood, bracing for hard times.
The freaks of the sideshow are not saved, they are not returned to their former selves, in fact, you don´t know exactly what happens to them. They are what they´ve became. The boys rode the carousel a little, they´ve grown a little beyond their years but were still Young enough to enjoy running home with Will´s father, happy to have discovered purpose, meaning or just the joy of being alive.
You can´t live without temptation, without choosing, without being changed by life, that´s the big ride I suppose, the one you can´t rewind, and start over any time you want. We´re all freaks, if we let desire and things we don´t fully understand run rampant we will be freaks out of the closet, if we control them… we´ll be Will, Jim and Charles.