What exactly is happiness, and can you build it out of scrap metal and paint it orange? That's just one of the many questions that perplex twelve-year-old Douglas Spalding in Ray Bradbury's 1957 classic, Dandelion Wine. He also sets his mind to figuring out what a guy has to do to get himself a pair of Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot sneakers, as well as what's up with the killer in the ravine.
See, our man Douglas has a major epiphany while traipsing through the woods picking berries: He's alive. And he's super stoked with this realization. But in Green Town, Illinois, in the summer of 1928, the problem is staying alive.
However, despite the super creepy murders of three "old maids"—a.k.a. single women in their thirties—Dandelion Wine is nothing if not a majorly nostalgic trip to the good old days for its author. Most of the short stories that make up the novel are Bradbury's semi-autobiographical remembrances of summer, which were published in magazines between 1946 and the book's release in 1957. Dandelion Wine, then, with its forty short chapters, is like the 1950s equivalent of YouTube videos.
Fans of Bradbury's earlier works, such as The Martian Chronicles and the dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451, may be surprised to find that Dandelion Wine is so firmly grounded in day-to-day reality—Bradbury's known as a sci-fi genius. And worry not: Dandelion Wine has plenty of bizarre machines, time travel, and even a fortune-telling wax dummy who may or may not secretly come to life and torment the guy who runs the local arcade.
But to simply call the book sci-fi, or even fantasy, is to seriously diminish its power as a philosophical reflection on aging and death. And Dandelion Wine packs a wallop in this department.
Plus, hey: serial killer.
Ever tried to get a friend's attention while they're glued to their phone? Ever asked your mom the same question fifty times while she's scrolling through her email while "listening" to you? Yeah, we thought so. Enter: Dandelion Wine.
If ever there was a book that foresaw the Internet and warned us about it, it's this one. Bradbury was super interested in the drawbacks of technology, namely its negative effect on actual human relationships. He was horrified one night when he saw a woman out for a walk with a man, while listening to a transistor radio, and the man had to lead the woman through the streets so she wouldn't get hit by a car. So yeah… it's probably safe to say he'd be appalled by our relationships with our smartphones today.
Dandelion Wine is all about the power of human connection, about logging face time—not to be confused with FaceTime—with the people in your community. People are real live time machines, capable of transporting us to different places and eras through the super simple technology of conversation. We don't need a machine to make us happy as far as Bradbury's concerned; we only need each other. Aw…
But hey, if this is all a little too low-tech for you, worry not: You can still totally download Dandelion Wine and read it with the e-reader app on your phone. We don't want this to be a complete shock to your system or anything.
Discovery Insider: Ray Bradbury: The Future He Didn't Want to Happen
In the mood for some deep musings from the day of Bradbury's death? This is the spot for you then.
This is Bradbury's official website, with tons of info about his life and work.
Dandelion Wine Gets the Movie Treatment
It might read like little vignettes, but that doesn't mean Bradbury's "most personal novel" can't light up the big screen.
Vino Iz Oduvanchikov—or Dandelion Wine, the Russian Version
Director Igor Apasyan made a Ukrainian/Russian co-production of Dandelion Wine back in 1997.
At Home with Ray Bradbury
A cool little article on Bradbury's website about the home where he lived and wrote.
"Ray Bradbury: 10 of his most prescient predictions"
A slideshow from The Washington Post about the gadgets and trends Bradbury's work foresaw. Dude was pretty on the money about some things.
How to Make Dandelion Wine
Phil Tonks of Grandview Winery demonstrates the fact that dandelion wine actually is a real thing.
A Conversation with Ray Bradbury
The National Endowment for the Arts interviews Ray Bradbury about his life, his work, and how he fell in love with books. He's kind of adorable, and we love his big yellow tie and big fluffy cat.