Anyone who grew up in the Midwest and cared about books and reading always had Ray Bradbury. He didn’t seem all that different from us – a Chicago-area boy whose books were full of awkward characters who always seemed out of place, and whose places were somehow both familiar and strange. How many 16-year-olds know how that feels?
Bradbury died Tuesday at the age of 91, and if it seems odd to write about him on a wine blog, then it’s no odder than the fireman who started fires in “Fahrenheit 451” or the colonists from Earth who made over Mars in their own horribly flawed image in “The Martian Chronicles.” And “Dandelion Wine” was his autobiographical novel, set in a fictionalized version of Waukegan, Ill., about a half hour from where I grew up and where my mom worked for the school district.
There’s a scene at the end of Fahrenheit, something that’s stuck with me for more than 30 years. The outcasts who took in the fireman return to the society that shunned them after a nuclear attack. “They’ll need us now,” says their leader, and he says it not with revenge, but with grace and redemption and forgiveness. Such is the power of books.
So a glass held high tonight for Ray Bradbury, and let’s all have a sip of dandelion wine.