’ Parsonage was a rooming house in an old Pasadena
mansion: a hotbed of science fiction
, real science (Roger Oppenheimer, brother of J. Robert
, was often a visitor), music and magic(k) of many kinds. Anything from a Champagne
breakfast to a midnight ritual could and often would be a part of an average day, in between caring for goats, kittens and doves in a backyard herb farm, advanced discussions of science and philosophy, and curiously enough, ordinary workdays spent off-site in demolition, the test site, or the lab.
Ray Bradbury, though not, apparently, a boarder, was familiar enough with the Parsonage to reminisce fondly about his days there to a friend, the New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams. Together, they planned a series of stories about an uncanny family that lived in a big old house, with laws unto themselves, illustrated by Addams. Unfortunately, Ray was a confirmed Angeleno by then, and Addams a New Yorker, so the project fell apart after a couple of stories, which were recycled as standalone pieces.
Flash forward some fifty years. Addams is dead, having more than fulfilled his part of the bargain by making “The Family”, in their ornate Second Empire house, an American icon. Ray is by now very old, and feeling his life and his storytelling ability fading, decides to finish the job.
The result is “From the Dust Returned” : an exquisite cycle of portraits examining time, mortality, difference, love and loss, each from the point of view of one of The Family, here, "The Elliots", from Grand’mere (a mummy…in several ways) to the cat and pet spider, to the House itself (and how it came to be that all these people ended up somewhere in the Midwest is a tale well told).
The pivot story is “The Homecoming”, a tale of alienation, love, and family politics, unfolding over the course of a long Halloween weekend. You see, somewhen about the time of WWII, they took in a baby, who turned out to be a mortal boy. In a family where the macabre is ordinary, he is treated as the outsider — he doesn’t like drinking blood, he’s unable to do magic, he can’t fly or deal well with living at night. Yet, he does find his role…
Not all these stories are great — and if you’re a Bradbury fan, you’ve probably encountered a few of them already. None of them are particularly Thelemic, though one of the other two major authors from the Parsonage (Heinlein) used Crowley’s ideas in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, “Waldo”, and “Magic, Inc.” and Bradbury’s fiction runs rings around the third. I suspect you might have heard of L. Ron Hubbard? In comparison, Bradbury is like a fine Bordeaux to Hubbard’s fruit punch-billing-itself-as-cognac.
The final story will knock your socks off. Guaranteed.
I’d say, check it out.