The holy grail: ‘Dark Carnival’

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(Click on the thumbnail photos above for larger images.)

“Dark Carnival” was listed on the “Books by Ray Bradbury” page in all of his old Bantam paperbacks of my childhood, and yet I could never find a copy. Somewhere along the way I learned why: The 1947 story collection, Bradbury’s first, was published only in hardcover by a small publisher, Arkham House.

Only 3,112 copies were printed and the book often goes for $3,000. Original price: $3. “Ray Bradbury brings something surprisingly new and delightfully different to the field of the supernatural,” reads the jacket copy. The book was reprinted in 2001 in a limited edition, not that I knew about it, and (sigh) it now sells for about the same price as the original.

I had been okay with missing out on “Dark Carnival” until embarking on my quest to read all the Bradbury stuff I’d never read. Then I decided to take this gap in my knowledge more seriously, compiling a list of all the “Dark Carnival” stories — 27 in all — and figuring out which ones had been reprinted, and where.

Many appeared with minor rewriting in the Bradbury collection “The October Country” in 1955, and more showed up in later anthologies and collections; a few more are in a British-only paperback. Four stories, however, have never been reprinted, with RB deeming them too poor for re-release.

I know someone who owns the original: Dwain Kaiser, owner of Magic Door Books in downtown Pomona. Kaiser is a longtime science fiction fan and collector who believes he paid $10 for his copy.

I made a deal with Kaiser, a friend of mine: Since the book is too expensive to buy and too valuable to borrow, could I sit in his store and read those four stories? I could.

And so I went in, sat down on a rainy Saturday and polished ’em off. Frankly, two of the four, “The Maiden” and “The Night Sets,” were indeed lame, but “Interim” and “Reunion” were okay. In any event, I read them.

Now I’m reading the last of the reprinted stories so that I can say, after 30 years of Bradbury fandom, that I’ve read “Dark Carnival” — without going broke.

Thanks, Dwain.

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  • DebB

    I was just in Magic Door yesterday, and found a few treasures in the mystery section, including some Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. I like that the people there seem to be book lovers, as opposed to simply book sellers.

    Have you ever wandered through the antique stores on the other side of Garey? Some of the vendors there have used books. I found a history of rock and roll, tons of photos, printed in 1978. At that point in time, rock and roll history was a little shorter, so there are photos of artists left out of books now. It’s going to a friend as a birthday gift.

  • meg

    Did you say it was published by Arkham? I had no idea the asylum had a publishing arm, but it should come as no surprise.

    (Yeah, I know, Lovecraft — but still.)

    Hope you had a great birthday, D-Bomb!

  • Doug Evans

    Too cool! The pics alone are worth the price of the, er, click on the bookmark.

    Here’s what you should now do in your spare time: become a wiki editor and update the “Dark Carnival” page, providing info on which stories from that collection can now be found in which of Bradbury’s later collections, minus the four that have never been collected elsewhere. Think of the service you’d be doing humankind! Or at least the Bradbury completist like yourself.

    Glad to help! Any time you find yourself with free time and nothing to do, just come to me for suggestions.

    [I really should update the Wikipedia page because piecing the information together took effort. Good idea, Doug! (I say this even though it may only encourage you.) — DA]

  • Jonnie Owens

    Folks involved in the Pomona Big Read are hoping to receive another NEA Big Read grant for the fall of 2010. If we do, we’ll be reading Fahrenheit 451 and hosting Ray Bradbury in Pomona. But…we’re waiting to hear…

    [We’ll keep our fingers crossed. — DA]

  • Dwain Kaiser

    Glad to be of help. I have a copy of his fanzine from ’40 that I think you’d enjoy reading, it has a great Bok cover.

    When I got the zine signed the comment I got from Ray was, “where the hell did you find this.” I doubt if many copies have survived to today.

    Dwain Kaiser
    Magic Door IV –
    Quality Used Books
    In the Heart of the Art Colony

    [As the governor once said: “I’ll be back.” — DA]

  • Bob House

    What a great story! In looking around for more infomation about “Dark Carnival,” it appears that there was a “companion” LP of music with the book. Ever hear it — or hear of it? I found the information at

    [Had never heard of it. It’s as expensive as the book! — DA]

  • Bob House

    Interesting page on collectible (and expensive!) Bradbury books from a website I use for old (cheap!) books.