Monday, October 16, 2006

Green Town, Illinois

I've been listening to a review copy of Colonial Radio Theatre's forthcoming CD dramatisation of Dandelion Wine (which is beautifully done, by the way). That, and thinking about the imminent release of Bradbury's new book Farewell Summer, got me curious about the relationship between Bradbury's fictional Green Town - home of Ray's alter ego Doug Spaulding - and his real home town of Waukegan Illinois.

In Eller and Touponce's Ray Bradbury: The Life of Fiction there is a sketch of Green Town that Bradbury drew in the 1950s. At the suggestion of his publisher, he drew the layout of the town and also wrote out a cast of characters. All this was to help him get a grip on the material, and to help him see one of the problems with his draft of Dandelion Wine, which was that it was really an assembly of short stories, nearly all of them dealing with different characters. The publisher was afraid that the reader wouldn't be able to keep track of what was going on. (This, of course, was well before the coming of 'blockbuster' or 'bestseller' novels, with their casts of thousands.)

Bradbury's sketch shows the layout of fictional Green Town (see below - click on image to enlarge).

What is striking is that if you look at the real Waukegan from the air - courtesy of Google Earth - you get a very similar image (again, click on image to enlarge):

...especially when you realise that the Bradbury family lived on the intersection of Washington Street ('grandpa' on the Green Town sketch) and South St James Street ('Doug and Tom' on the Green Town sketch). Note the similarity of the ravine in both images. The area around the ravine between Sherman Place and North Park Avenue is nowadays called Ray Bradbury Park. This seems to correspond exactly with the bridge over the ravine that Lavinia Nebbs uses to walk Helen Greer home before her encounter with... the Lonely One...

Walloon has reminded me that there is more information on Bradbury's Waukegan (with lots of excellent links) on this thread of the Bradbury Message Board.

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