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“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.