A thousand pumpkin smiles look down from the Halloween Tree, and twice-times-a-thousand fresh-cut eyes glare and wink and blink, as Moundshroud leads the eight trick-or-treaters–no, nine, but where is Pipkin?–on a leaf-tossed, kite-flying, gliding, broomstick-riding trip to learn the secret of All Hallows’ Eve. And they do. "Well,“ asks Moundshroud at journey’s end, "which was it? A Trick or a Treat?”
“Both!” all agree. And so will you.
Ray Bradbury signed this copy of The Halloween Tree for me almost 25 years ago at the long gone Mystery Bookstore that was briefly located in the Wiltern Theater building at Wilshire & Western in Los Angeles. I snuck away from my desk at work (which luckily was only across the street) to meet Bradbury. Most signings are stuffy affairs, author behind a table, bookstore manager hovering close by to keep things moving along like a factory assembly line. This signing was more a party than a signing. Bradbury seemed genuinely happy that people had come to see him. He took time to speak with everyone; he and I spoke about my experience with Dandelion Wine. As you can see from the photo above, Bradbury also wasn’t satisfied with scribbling his name in a book while looking to who was next in line. My copy of The Halloween Tree has its own Halloween tree.
One thing I remember most about meeting Ray Bradbury was shaking his hand. When our hands clasped, these large, thick fingers wrapped around mine and my entire hand disappeared inside his handshake. At that moment I remembered the story of Bradbury writing what would become Fahrenheit 451 on a rental typewriter in the basement of the UCLA library (there’s a NY Times article about it here). It’s a wonderful anecdote.
Quite simply, The Halloween Tree is Ray Bradbury riffing on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: a group of boys are taken on a nighttime trip through the past by a mysterious entity while trying to help save a friend who may or may not still be alive. If you’ve never read it you should take a trip with the ghosts of Halloween past.
James Kirkwood adapted the novel P.S. Your Cat Is Dead from his play of the same name. The play opened April 7, 1975 and lasted 16 performances. Despite the short run P.S. was nominated for three Drama Desk awards including best play. Don’t feel bad about the short run; another little thing Kirkwood wrote opened Off-Broadway a week later & ran for over 6,000 performances. That was A Chorus Line.
Although many people think P.S. is biographical, only a few aspects of Kirkwood’s personal life were used as part of the character Jimmy Zoole. Both were struggling actors who had been on a soap opera for a brief time. Kirkwood had also been robbed several times. Other than that, the book (and play) are fictitious. Kirkwood’s first novel There Must Be a Pony is a more semi-autobiographical work.
The book has a fanatical fan base and I’m one of those fans. The photo above is a scan of the book I bought at the B. Dalton bookstore way back when. I’ve read it many, many times and have shared it with dozens of people. You can read more about my history of the book over at homo-centric.
There was a film made of the book but the Steve Guttenberg vanity project is unmitigated shit & should be ignored. The book has been reissued and is also available at the library. It’s a little dated, but still a fun read. Treat yourself and find out about hunnybuggle burgers & Bengalnese Thunderfuck.
“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” Ray Bradbury (born August 22)