Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews
early tales, there are countless examples here among the new material of flaccid, self-indulgent overwriting, some of which are near comic:
    • ... sucking vile liquors toward a surface abandoned because of the possible upchuck of nightmares ...
    • Planes fly like pterodactyls on huge wings.
    Oh yes? So the planes are flapping their flexible wings up and down in a complexly articulated fashion?
    • ... you looked down to see your pale light painting lost towns the color of tombstones and spectral ghosts.
    As opposed to the non-spectral type of ghosts.
    • She leaned forward suddenly and gave him such a kiss on his mouth that his eardrums fractured and the soft spot
    • With one last crushing gesture he crammed his fist to his ears and dropped dead.
    • A rabbit thumped and ran in Timothy's chest.
    • "Like ghosts?" // "Which use people's ears to look out their eyes!"
    Actually, I suppose if you've managed to cram a single fist in both ears simultaneously this last one shouldn't be too difficult as an encore.
    Let it not be thought that there are no nuggets of gold to be found in From the Dust Returned . Some of the reprinted stories have, for obvious reasons, all the exquisite fantastication of language and imagery that led in the first place to Bradbury's eminence; and elsewhere, in the more recent work, every now and then it is as if the same Muse had called back briefly to blow a breath of inspiration into his face. When this happens, the prose and imagery suddenly lift exhilaratingly off the ground, and one is left gasping. But then, all too soon, we're back to rabbits thumping and running in Timothy's chest. The overall impression with which I came away from this book was thus, sadly, that it's a very slight piece of work ... and that it's about time I dug out that dusty copy of Bradbury's splendid non-novel Dandelion Wine (1957) to read it yet again.
    —Infinity Plus

Let's All Kill Constance
    by Ray Bradbury
    Morrow, 210 pages, hardback, 2003
    The nameless narrator of this book, a Hollywood screenwriter – clearly identified by the circumstantial information given on page 68 as Bradbury himself – is beachfront neighbour to fading movie queen Constance. One dark and stormy night she comes to him telling him that she is in threat of her life; when she shortly afterwards disappears he goes off on a quest – sometimes on his own, sometimes accompanied by one or more friends including cynic-with-heart-of-gold private eye Crumley – in an attempt initially to save her but soon just to work out what the hell is going on. As we follow them we gain a portrait of the Hollywood of yesteryear, its idiosyncrasies and its fundamental glamorous tawdriness.
    This is Bradbury's third attempt at a roman-a-clef noir detection – earlier were Death is a Lonely Business (1985) and A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) – and it's enjoyable enough in a superficial sort of a way: vaguely entertaining, but completely uninvolving. It is this latter quality, or lack thereof, which is the novel's downfall as a noir, for noirs depend above all on an atmosphere that requires the total involvement of the reader. Bradbury's natural style, with its flightiness and exaggerated poeticism, works against him in this genre – ironic to find oneself saying this, because of course it was precisely that style which made particularly his early works of fantasy so comprehensively engrossing. There it was perhaps that the style left open so much space for ambiguity; here the ambiguity irks. (Chandler's language, for example, was often richly poetic, but at the same time its meaning was always crystal clear.) Here's a sample:
    All the doors still stood wide, bright lights burned inside while Gershwin punched holes in a player piano roll in 1928 to be played again and again, triple time, with no one listening except me and Crumley walking through lots of music, but no Constance.
    Even after one's worked out the meaning of this sentence there are still,

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