The Cat’s Pajamas by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a collection of 20 short stories by Ray Bradbury written between 1946 and 2004. Bradbury was the master. Besides his imaginative gift for storytelling, he was a torch-bearer for language that was both beautifully crafted and highly readable. Bradbury often used words poetically but without detracting from story. I believe he did so through sparing and careful use. I also appreciate the way Bradbury smoothly moved between genres, and the fact that his stories could have a moral without being moralistic.
I’ll list the stories in this collection with just a few words about each.
1.) “Chrysalis”: An unlikely friendship develops. A story about race.
2.) “The Island”: The dangers of isolation. Tension skillfully ratcheted up.
3.) “Sometime Before the Dawn”: Why does the neighbor cry late at night?
4.) “Hail to the Chief”: What if Senators wagered America at an Indian casino?
5.) “We’ll Just a CT Natural”: This is one of my favorites, but it doesn’t have a complex story or involve clever sci-fi elements. It’s just a woman waiting for a visit from a man who she used to nanny, but who’s made it big as a writer. Two simple questions keep one glued to this story. Will he show up? If not, how will she handle it?
6.) “Olé, Orozco! Siqueiros, Sí!”: This is a commentary on what is art in the modern art scene.
7.) “The House”: A couple buys a fixer-upper, but there are mixed feelings between them.
8.) “The John Wilkes Booth / Warner Bros / MGM / NBC Funeral Train”: How time travel would spawn a history-entertainment complex.
9.) “A Careful Man Dies”: A hemophiliac author who’s writing a tell-all meets his match.
10.) “The Cat’s Pajamas”: A couple of lonely cat people vie for ownership of a stray that they happen upon simultaneously.
11.) “Triangle”: As in, “love triangle.” A take on the story of X loves Y, but Y is indifferent to X; while Z loves X, but X is indifferent to Z.
12.) “The Mafioso Cement-Mixing Machine”: It’s a metaphorical cement mixer, but it’s useful for—as a mobster might say—“takin’ out da trash.”
13.) “The Ghosts”: The children are enchanted with them, but their father wants to drive them off. The difference between how children and adults see the natural world, in a nutshell.
14.) “Where’s My Hat, What’s the Hurry”: A man goes through his little black book to find a woman more responsive to the “city of love” than his wife has been.
15.) “The Transformations”: This is another story about race and walking in the shoes of another.
16.) “Sixty-six”: This is a prime example of the genre-fluidity of Bradbury. It’s a murder mystery, but not just a murder mystery.
17.) “A Matter of Taste”: Human space explorers travel to a distant world and meet a species that is wise, benevolent, helpful, but they can’t get past the alien’s creepy appearance.
18.) “I Get the Blues When it Rains”: The fickle nature of nostalgia.
19.) “All My Enemies Are Dead”: A man tries to console a friend who believes it’s time to die upon seeing the obituary of the last of his enemies.
20.) “The Completist”: Having everything may include things one doesn’t want.
I’d highly recommend this collection for readers of short fiction. While some of the stories are over sixty years old, they’ve aged well.