You must be really stupid (or at least pathologically reckless) to make a list of the very best Ray Bradbury stories.
OK – now that that’s out of the way, here’s my table of contents for an imaginary story collection called The Very Best of Ray Bradbury.
We already have two huge books, each containing 100 stories, that contain nearly all Ray’s best short work. The idea of this imaginary book is to capture Ray’s best in just 50 stories, and to correct one or two obvious selection errors, such as the omission of “R Is for Rocket”.
I’d like to give you my top 50 without further ado. The problem is that I love further ado, so let me say this first:
Of course there are going to be contentious omissions and inclusions. That’s what makes it fun.
You’ll find only one Irish story. I would have loved to include one more (my choice would have been “The Hunt Wedding”), but what to leave out? I scanned the list more than once but couldn’t find anything less worthy.
I must stress that not all the stories are personal favorites. A few are included because the list would be less representative without them. I’m not that mad about “The Fire Balloons”, for example, but it’s a frequently mentioned and thematically important story, so you can’t really leave it out.
Some of the stories from the last few collections were considered and wouldn’t have disgraced the list (“Tangerine”, for instance), but again, I just couldn’t find anything I could bear to leave out.
Let the suggestions, amendments, disputes, quibbles, and just plain hair-pulling commence!
A word of warning, though: I’m not budging on “The Pumpernickel”.
Here are the 50 stories, listed chronologically in order of first publication. Publication details from The Life of Fiction, by Eller & Touponce, 2004. Titles used in Bradbury collections are preferred :
R Is for Rocket (Famous Fantastic Mysteries, December 1943)
The Lake (Weird Tales, May 1944)
The Jar (Weird Tales, November 1944)
The Big Black and White Game (American Mercury, August 1945)
The Million-Year Picnic (Planet Stories, Summer 1946)
Frost and Fire (Planet Stories, Fall 1946)
Homecoming (Mademoiselle, October 1946)
The Small Assassin (Dime Mystery, November 1946)
The Man Upstairs (Harper's, March 1947)
Jack-in-the-Box (Dark Carnival (Arkham House, 10 May 1947))
The Next in Line (Dark Carnival (Arkham House, 10 May 1947))
Uncle Einar (Dark Carnival (Arkham House, 10 May 1947))
I See You Never (New Yorker, 8 November 1947)
The October Game (Weird Tales, March 1948)
The Earth Men (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1948)
Mars Is Heaven! (Planet Stories, Fall 1948)
The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl (Detective Book, Winter 1948)
Kaleidoscope (Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949)
There Will Come Soft Rains (Collier's, 6 May 1950)
The Fox and the Forest (Collier's, 13 May 1950)
The Long Rain (Planet Stories, Summer 1950)
The Whole Town's Sleeping (McCall's, September 1950)
The Veldt (Saturday Evening Post, 23 September 1950)
The Fireman (Galaxy, February 1951)
The Fire Balloons (Illustrated Man, The (Doubleday, 23 February 1951))
The Pumpernickel (Collier's, 19 May 1951)
The Fog Horn (Saturday Evening Post, 23 June 1951)
The Pedestrian (Reporter, 7 August 1951)
The April Witch (Saturday Evening Post, 5 April 1952)
A Sound of Thunder (Collier's, 28 June 1952)
The Great Wide World Over There (Maclean's (Canada), 15 August 1952)
The Golden Apples of the Sun (Golden Apples of the Sun, The (Doubleday, 19 March 1953))
And the Rock Cried Out (Manhunt, September 1953)
The Dwarf (Fantastic, January-February 1954)
Interval in Sunlight (Esquire, March 1954)
All Summer in a Day (Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1954)
The Swan (Cosmopolitan, September 1954)
The Picasso Summer (Playboy, January 1957)
The Leave-Taking (Saturday Evening Post, 25 May 1957)
The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (Saturday Evening Post, 4 October 1958)
The Shoreline at Sunset (Fantasy & Science Fiction, March 1959)
Long After Midnight (Eros, Winter 1962)
The Anthem Sprinters (Playboy, June 1963)
I Sing the Body Electric! (McCall's, August 1969)
Henry the Ninth (Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1969)
The Burning Man (Gente (Argentina), 31 July 1975)
The Better Part of Wisdom (Harper's Weekly, 6 September 1976)
Gotcha! (Redbook, August 1978)
The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair (Playboy, December 1987)
That Old Dog Lying in the Dust (Driving Blind (Avon, September 1997) )
Great selection, douglasSP. I think in a couple of hours I will suddenly think, "Wait a minute!" and realise that you have omitted something really important. But apart from that, this looks a very good list.
What's amazing as I browse this list, is how many of these stories are as-near-as-dammit perfect short stories.
Inthe "perfect" category, I would include:
The Million-Year Picnic
The Small Assassin
Mars is Heaven!
The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl
There Will Comes Soft Rains
The Whole Town's Sleeping
The Fog Horn
...No, I have to stop. My list is too long!
Well, that's one reason why I posted it. I want you and our other friends to convince me to make amendments.
I'd love to make room for "The Wind", "The Crowd", "The Lost City of Mars", the ones mentioned above, and others - but what to leave out? That's the key.
For instance, do I perhaps have too much Elliott family in there? We already have "Homecoming" (I know dandelion loves that one) and "Uncle Einar", but should "The April Witch" perhaps make way for something else?
Am I overrating "Henry the Ninth"? And so it goes on and on.
Ah, yes... "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl" - one of the baffling omissions from The Stories of Ray Bradbury.
It was one of the stories in one of my 10th Grade school books (this was English for second language students), and my teacher opined that it was her favorite story in the book. Me, I preferred a story called "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney.
Teacher was right, of course. I was much younger then.
Exactly why I don't like "greatest hits". I'm an album person, and could never make such a list. But I've enjoyed reading yours.
Doug Spaulding, when it comes to music I agree with you - the songs I like are never the hits.
You don't have "The Crowd"? Then you must make room for it! I would give up ALL the "Irish" stories in favour of "The Crowd". (My preferred Irish story - if there has to be one - would be "The Beggar on O'Donnell Bridge", but even that is far from perfect.
I've never been a fan of "Homecoming" and the related stories. I can appreciate them and what they achieve, but they are not stories I care to read.
As for "Henry the Ninth" - I've always thought it was a very weak story! I think it's because the Britain represented in the story is not any Britain that I recognise. (Just as the Irish stories don't represent any Ireland that I've ever witnessed - except the bogus, stereotypical Ireland I've seen in Hollywood films.) In my experience, Americans seem to quite like "Henry" and the Irish stories, but we Brits tend to find them laughable.
This is as good a time as any to draw attention to Sam Weller's occasional series of posts on "essential" Bradbury stories. Prof. Weller has so far blogged about 16 "essential" stories, and already he has three stories I didn't have in my top 50!
The blog is here: http://listentotheechoes.com/
The stories featured so far, with the dates of the blog posts, are:
1. The Veldt (22 August 2010)
2. The Fog Horn (2 September 2010)
3. The Lake (12 October 2010)
4. There Will Come Soft Rains (14 December 2010)
5. I See You Never (15 December 2010)
6. Powerhouse (30 April 2011)
7. The Whole Town’s Sleeping (15 December 2011)
8. All Summer in a Day (17 December 2011)
9. In a Season of Calm Weather (4 January 2012)
10. The Homecoming (3 May 2012)
11. Mars Is Heaven! (22 May 2012)
12. The First Night of Lent (1 September 2012)
13. The Next in Line (17 December 2012)
14. A Sound of Thunder (17 May 2013)
15. Kaleidoscope (4 February 2014)
16. The Sound of Summer Running (24 June 2014)
Ain't it the truth?! That's why I listen to Deep Tracks on Sirius XM!
Here's a nice article on five Ray Bradbury stories that teach you all you need to know about writing—and they're not all obvious choices:
Word Choice made Mr. Bradbury's stories always lively and challenging. How often does one need to check a dictionary to get a better appreciation of his metaphoric plays within the language!? (While in the classroom, this always called for a pause and a few pages of research...)
Here is a bit of lexical pondering similar to those from RB's pages:
Heavens to Murgatroyd! Would you believe the email spell checker did not recognize the word murgatroyd?
Lost Words from our childhood: Words gone as fast as the buggy whip! Sad really! The other day a not so elderly (65) lady said something to her son about driving a Jalopy and he looked at her quizzically and said what the heck is a Jalopy? OMG (new) phrase! He never heard of the word jalopy!! She knew she was old but not that old.
Well, I hope you are Hunky Dory after you read this and chuckle.
by Richard Lederer
About a month ago, I illuminated some old expressions that have become obsolete because of the inexorable march of technology. These phrases included "Don't touch that dial," "Carbon copy," "You sound like a broken record" and "Hung out to dry."
Back in the olden days we had a lot of moxie. We'd put on our best bib and tucker to straighten up and fly right.
Heavens to Betsy! Gee whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy moley!
We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn't accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China!
Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when's the last time anything was swell?
Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers.
Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn't anymore.
We wake up from what surely has been just a short nap, and before we can say, well I'll be a monkey's uncle! or, This is a fine kettle of fish! we discover that the words we grew up with, the words that seemed omnipresent, as oxygen, have vanished with scarcely a notice from our tongues and our pens and our keyboards.
Poof, go the words of our youth, the words we've left behind. We
blink, and they're gone. Where have all those phrases gone?
Long gone: Pshaw, The milkman did it. Hey! It's your nickel.
Don't forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper.
Well, Fiddlesticks! Going like sixty. I'll see you in the funny papers. Don't take any wooden nickles
It turns out there are more of these lost words and expressions
than Carter has liver pills.
This can be disturbing stuff !
We of a certain age have been blessed to live in changeful times. For a child each new word is like a shiny toy, a toy that has no age. We at the other end of the chronological arc have the advantage of remembering there are words that once did exist and there were words that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It's one of the greatest advantages of aging.
See ya later, alligator!
All of which Mr. B so powerfully captured in his classic tale: "To the Chicago Abyss"
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