I recently purchased another copy of October Country, Ray Bradbury’s compilation of short stories, after losing my copy purchased years ago (and I mean years), wanting to reread some of the stories and derive inspiration from Bradbury’s amazing writing. Last night I read The Jar, and boy, did it remind me of why I love Bradbury. Aside from his wonderful use of descriptive language, he weaves such strange and unusual stories, leaving more to the imagination than actually telling. The Jar is, well, about a jar containing a strange substance, as described by Bradbury: one of those pale things drifting in alcohol plasma, forever dreaming and circling, with its peeled, dead eyes staring out at you and never seeing.
The protagonist, Charlie, buys the jar from a carnie because he wants attention and respect in his holler, and people begin gathering at his house to stare and wonder about what the jar contains. And as Hitchcock would agree, their imaginings are much more bizarre and frightening that the reality of the jar’s contents. The stories and memories conjured by the jar are both fantastic and tragic. One man dredged up a traumatic childhood memory after staring at the jar. Another provided a wonderful take on the contents, as something that crawled out of the primordial swamp: That am the center of creation! That am Middibamboo Mama, from which we all come ten thousand year ago. Believe it! I have to wonder how long it took Bradbury to come up with the term Middibamboo Mama. It’s hilarious.I won’t give the ending away. You do find out what the jar really contains, but that’s not the scariest part of the story or the beauty of The Jar or why horror movies that don’t show you the boogey man are so effective, like Blair Witch Project. You never actually see a witch and really don’t know what killed the students, if anything at all. And with writing, why withholding bits of information, never fully telling the whole story, letting the reader fill in the blanks also works. We don’t know the full story on the jar. If we did, the tale wouldn’t be as intriguing. It’s really about what Charlie does with the jar, and what the jar drives him to do that makes it a classic horror story and what makes me squirm after reading it!