June 24, 2014
(Original story illustration for “Summer in the Air” by Amos Sewell from The Saturday Evening Post, Feb, 18, 1956)
“The Sound of Summer Running”
Where to Find It: Dandelion Wine, The Stories of Ray Bradbury
First Published As: “Summer in the Air,” The Saturday Evening Post, February 18, 1956
Plot Synopsis: At the beginning of summer 1928, Douglas Spaulding sees a pair of brand-new tennis shoes in a storefront window. His shoes are worn out, his feet feel heavy, and he is convinced that this resplendent pair of Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Shoes will change his summer forever.
Backstory: Bradbury on the origins of the story from Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews:
“I was on a bus going into Westwood a few years ago, and a young boy jumped on the bus, threw his money in the box, raced down the aisle, and threw himself into a seat across from me. And I looked at him, and I said, ‘My god, if I had his energy, I could write a poem every day, a story every week, a novel every month. What’s his secret?’ I looked down at his feet. He had the brightest pair of new fresh tennis shoes on his feet. And I said, oh, my god, I can remember when I was a kid, my father taking me downtown and buying me my first pair of new summer tennis shoes. I went home, and I wrote the short story.”
Critique: This story is a shining example of Bradbury’s range as a literary writer. He did not need an otherworldly landscape or elements of the fantastic to meditate on the human experience. Bradbury found magic in the everyday—in this case, a new pair of tennis shoes and the perspective of youth. The best Bradbury, in my opinion, is rooted in unforgettable story with a philosophical question at its center, all told in his singular, poetic style.
Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmallows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes, and it was summer.