WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS is a collection of 22 never-before-published short stories written by one of the most celebrated authors of our time. These tales are mostly about men, or sometimes about men and women, and seem fresh and strange yet completely familiar.
In "Ma Perkins Comes to Stay," Ray Bradbury describes a man going crazy (or is he?) when a radio personality comes to stay at his house. Joe has heard of Ma Perkins because she gives advice on the radio. But he can't understand how she has come out of the radio to be sitting in his living room or why his wife is happy about it and not confused in the least.
Just as I was wondering where the science fiction that I had heard so much about was, I came to "Fly Away Home," a story of Mars exploration. Again, the theme of going crazy appears with the possibility that going insane is just a form of sanity. After all, it would be natural to feel uncomfortable after a six-month trip in a spaceship, correct?
"Miss Appletree and I" returns to the examination of long, successful marriages and what they mean. George and Nora have had a long-running joke that George has an ongoing affair with Miss Appletree, a beautiful woman with better qualities than Nora. As their marriage becomes dull, it is Nora, not George, who suggests that he bring up his "mistress" again.
Many of the stories seem reminiscent of Roald Dahl's creepy, strange tales that were at once simple and surreal. "The Murder" comes out of a bet that Mr. Hill makes with Mr. Bentley, who insists that he could never commit murder. Twenty cents goes to the winner of the bet: either Mr. Hill can trick Mr. Bentley into a killing, or Mr. Bentley is as kind and normal as he says.
The title story is not just a retelling of Casablanca. Instead, it describes how two men meet in the middle of the night in Paris while one is out getting pizza for his wife. It takes the classic scene of tourists meeting locals and not understanding them and adds a touch of the surreal and strange to it.
Somehow I've missed out on reading Bradbury my entire life, and I couldn't decide if obscure short stories were the place to begin when he has such famous works to be read. This collection seems a bit better suited to an older or male reader than to myself, but it picks up steam as it goes along, and the selections in the second half are more interesting than the ones in the beginning.
Titles such as "We'll Always Have Paris" and "Come Away With Me" bring up flashes of the movies or songs in which the phrases also appear, and other stories are so true to life that they feel like I have already lived them. "Un-pillow Talk," almost entirely in dialogue, is like a story version of When Harry Met Sally.
WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS is heavily populated with characters. The people, sometimes strange and sometimes down to earth, are the most colorful things in the book. Each story is snappy and easy to read, yet you'll always want to go back and check it out again.
--- Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez