And the voices wailed Fire, fire, run, run, like a tragic nursery rhyme, a dozen voices, high, low, like children dying in a forest, alone, alone.
If The Martian Chronicles
wasn't a collection of short stories and vignettes, I think I'd put it in my running for The Great American Novel. For as much as a phrase like "The Great American Novel" means fuck-all of anything. Still, I'm happy for the serendipity that caused me to read this right after The Great Gatsby
, because I found the two quite complimentary in a lot of ways. Particularly in that whole "arresting images and haunting tone" thing (also the "book I tried to read when I was younger but didn't manage" thing).
When I was 9 or 10 I decided to try reading The Martian Chronicles
. After all, it had "Chronicles" right there in its name! Surely it would be sweeping and adventurous, perhaps Star Wars
-esque. It looked unbearably long to me, but I managed to soldier through what felt like an awful lot of challenging prose before I eventually gave up.
When I finally read all 181 pages of the book this year, I was able to pinpoint exactly where it was that I'd given up so long ago. It was page 11. I wasn't much of a reader as a kid. But even then, to one who saw 181 pages as unending and saw a book as purely a way to get a story told, there was something that struck me about those eleven pages that I'd never experienced through pure words on a page before.
Haunting, melancholy, magical, sad, airy, and oppressive mood.[You will find the phrase "Flannery O'Connor with rockets" in the rest of my review, which is here.]