Sunday, August 26, 2012

Shadow Show Reviewed

The most perceptive review yet of the tribute volume Shadow Show appeared this week in the Los Angeles Review of Books. SF and fantasy scholar Gary K. Wolfe - whose best known essay on Bradbury established the "frontier myth" reading of The Martian Chronicles - has written a lengthy review which not only evaluates the book itself but uses it as an opportunity to gauge Bradbury's literary influence.

Wolfe writes:

Few would consider [Harlan] Ellison and Bradbury as close siblings in any literary or stylistic sense, but [...] there’s some of the genetic material of those old pulp classics in both writers.

But such are the mysteries of literary DNA. Those old retroviruses can express themselves in unexpected ways generations later, and Bradbury was a carrier. He may have read Eudora Welty and Willa Cather and imported some of their stylistic grace into genre fiction, but by the same token he passed along some of the imaginative energy of Brackett or Henry Kuttner to the writers who followed him.

Wolfe then explores each story in the anthology in turn, considering the extent and nature of Bradbury's influence. One of his key points is that nearly every contributor to the book refers in their afterword  to discovering Bradbury at an early age, and nearly every one references Bradbury stories that were originally published prior to 1962. That was the year Something Wicked This Way Comes was published, and it seems to mark a changeover point at which Bradbury switched from "becoming Ray Bradbury" to "being Ray Bradbury", Wolfe observes, consciously echoing Jon Eller's recent biographical volume Becoming Ray Bradbury.

Shadow Show has received a lot of reviews, but many of them have been cursory and lacking in awareness of what the book truly demonstrates. Wolfe, I think, has got it spot on. I haven't read all the stories in the book yet, but his review prompts me to get on with it!

Gary K. Wolfe's full review can be read here.

No comments: