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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
When it comes to the short story, no author is better -- or more prolific -- than Ray Bradbury. I still remember that fateful day when I was first introduced to Bradbury's works. I was in ninth grade, and our English teacher, Mr. Kane (the coolest teacher in the school; he had a gray beard and played the saxophone), assigned us a short story to read: "The Day It Rained Forever." After that, Bradbury's short story collections became a literary staple for me, with classics like Dark Carnival, Driving Blind, The Other Foot, and The Golden Apples of the Sun. And, as if that weren't satisfying enough, in the '80s I got to watch his short stories come to life on USA Network's Ray Bradbury Theatre.
Bradbury's imagination is like the rotation of the Earth: It never stops moving. Year after year, he produces classics like Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He has published more than 500 works: short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse.
One More for the Road is, unsurprisingly, a collection of short stories. The 25 literary gems included are nostalgic, speculative, thought-provoking, and insightful. Some may be bittersweet, others scary, but always they examine the intricacies of the human condition. In "Heart Transplant," two cheating lovers wonder if they could ever fall in love again with their spouses. When their wish comes true, they experience very different results. "First Day" is about an oath a man made with his three best friends on the first day of school to meet again by the flagpole in front of the high school 50 years after graduation. Will all four friends keep their word?
My personal favorite was "Tete-a-Tete," a story about two writer friends who see an elderly Jewish couple sitting on the same bench every time they walk through the park. The couple, Al and Rosa Stein, are always talking at one another, but they never seem to truly listen. The interaction between the married couple is highly animated and nonstop, and quite entertaining. The writers decide to record some of the conversation on a whim as fodder for a potential writing project. Then one day, the couple isn't there. It turns out the old man has died. After all those years together, whom will his widow jabber to now? The writers eventually see the woman again, sitting alone on the same bench deep in conversation, as if her husband were right next to her. Has she lost her mind? All I'm going to say is that you will love the twist at the conclusion of this story!
Another strange, memorable story was "One-Woman Show." Ellen Thomas is a stunningly beautiful dancer. During her show, she becomes several different characters: "a French cocotte, an English tart, a Swedish seamstress, Mary Queen of Scots, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Maude Adams, the Empress of China." Critics are mesmerized, audiences are infatuated -- so why hasn't her husband seen her perform in over a year?
Other noteworthy stories include "The Laurel and Hardy Alpha Centauri Farewell Tour" and "In Memoriam," a bittersweet story about a grieving father who lost his son in the Vietnam War.
One More for the Road is yet another exceptional collection by the master of the short story. Some of the stories are sad, some ironic, others just plain weird, but all of them are stamped with that unmistakable Bradbury wit and style. (Paul Goat Allen)