Episodic, Like Snapshots from Summer Vacation
In the introduction to Dandelion Wine,
Bradbury said, "in my early twenties I floundered into a word-association
process in which I simply got out of bed each morning, walked to my desk, and
put down any word or series of words that happened along in my head." He
then wrote for the rest of the morning, challenging himself to remember as much
as he could about the topic of the day and craft it into a short story right
then and there.
The episodic structure of Dandelion Wine, in
which each chapter could (and did) stand as a piece on its own, is the result
of this writing process. Bradbury published much of the novel as a series of
short stories in various magazines before combining his recollections into a
What we end up with is a forty-chapter
book with dozens of characters, a structure that calls to mind a scrapbook of
summer vacation snapshots. Most of the characters never interact with each
other; though they are neighbors in a small town and therefore probably know
each other, we see them through the lenses of Tom and Doug Spaulding. When the
chapters are only half a page long or end with ellipses, we can see them as
partial snapshots, one in which the flash turns everyone's eyes red or Bradbury's
thumb shows in the corner of the lens.
But make no mistake: Bradbury's
not the literary equivalent of an amateur photographer. How could he be, when
he has the mad skills necessary to write a sentence like this?
With no fuss or further ado, she traveled the
house in an ever-circling inventory, reached the stairs at last, and, making no
special announcement, she took herself up three flights to her room where,
silently, she laid herself out like a fossil imprint under the snowing cool
sheets of her bed and began to die. (32.6)
To stretch the photography metaphor a little farther, you could say that Dandelion
Wine is like a scrapbook of vacation photos, some of them taken
with an iPhone, but by a professional photographer who also has a high-end
Nikon in his toolkit.