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Droewyn


March 8th, 2013

Project Edification: March @ 10:41 am

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

I didn't read a lot of children's classics. I was a precocious reader, and some member of my family bought me the entire Nancy Drew series in hardcover. I pretty much went straight from those to the adult sf/f section before I was ten. As a result, I missed out on all of the Oz books (except for the novelization of Return to Oz, which doesn't count and I didn't like anyway because holy shit that shock therapy bit in the beginning was traumatizing).

It took me about an hour to read this, and it was.... definitely a book written for children in the days when it was thought that adding a B plot would cause their dear little heads to explode from the effort of keeping track of more than one story. The language was simple and repetitive ("Oh no, if we do not overcome this new hurdle, we will never reach the City of Emeralds and I shall never get a brain." "And I will never get a heart." "And I will never get courage." "And I will never get home to Kansas."), and the story itself was a lot of random events strung together. Other than the bit where Dorothy was imprisoned by the Wicked Witch as a serving girl, which was easily the best part of the book, obstacles were overcome as soon as they were encountered. (Oh no, the Scarecrow is stuck in the middle of a river! Oh, look -- a stork! Miss Stork, can you please go and fetch our scarecrow out of the river? Oh, thank you! We almost had some actual dramatic tension up in this story, and that would have been simply awful!) I might have liked it a whole lot more if I'd read it at six when I was supposed to, but as an adult in a post-Harry-Potter world I expect a bit more from my kid-lit. I didn't dislike it, but it's not exactly winning this year's Droewynbery Medal award, either.

It was interesting comparing and contrasting it to the movie. The bit with the green glasses in the City of Emeralds was cool, and I didn't actually know that the "it was all a dream" ending wasn't part of the original story. And the fact that the good witch Dorothy meets in the beginning is the Witch of the North and not Glinda makes a whole lot more sense. I mean, why the hell would Glinda send Dorothy on a dangerous cross-country quest to get home when she knew damn well the slippers could do that the entire time? How "Good" a Witch is Glinda, anyway? The answer is of course that the Witch of the North didn't know what the slippers did, and Dorothy doesn't meet Glinda until the end.

Bottom line: Meh. I liked it well enough to not want that hour of my life back, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to leave a lasting impression. I'd really like to hand it to a six-year-old and see how well they like it.
 
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From:starcat_jewel
Date:March 8th, 2013 04:03 pm (UTC)
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I didn't try reading any of the Oz books until I was about 11 or 12, and that was already too late; I couldn't finish it because the way Baum talks down to his audience was just too grating. A 6-year-old is much less likely to notice that, I suspect -- and of course in his time, that was just the way adults talked to children. At this point I'm not sure I'd even consider the movie a not-to-be-missed classic, unless I had a child who was interested in Wicked and its spinoffs.
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From:droewyn
Date:March 8th, 2013 04:17 pm (UTC)
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Hmm... I wonder if I had an easier time finishing because I'm old enough to know the book isn't for me, but an eleven-year-old is very aware of being condescended to. Also, being able to tear through it over the course of two work lunches helps -- it's not like slogging through something the size of LOTR.
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From:sdaisyk
Date:March 8th, 2013 04:39 pm (UTC)
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I never read Oz books as a kid either. Just was doing a wikipedia search for all the books (given your comment to me on your other post)...did not even realize!

Do you know if Oz the Great and Powerful movie that is coming out is based on any of the books, or is it in the vein of Wicked as an alternative history/canon/understanding?
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From:droewyn
Date:March 8th, 2013 04:41 pm (UTC)
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No idea, sorry. Given how Burton completely invented Willy Wonka's backstory, I wouldn't be surprised if it's entirely made up.
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From:sdaisyk
Date:March 8th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
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From what I can tell is it isn't...none of the canon books are prequel type info and there is no mention of a book on IMDB.

I thought that at least the part about Wonka's dad being a dentist was in the original book? I had the original book from the library at some point after the remake but never did finish it because my dad took it to read himself...
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From:droewyn
Date:March 8th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
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I don't think Wonka's childhood was mentioned at all, really, but it's been years since I read it.
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From:starcat_jewel
Date:March 9th, 2013 12:04 am (UTC)
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This article addresses your question. And be sure to read the quote from the producer, down in the comments. He appears to think that there's a serious shortage of strong male protagonists in young people's fiction.
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From:wolfette
Date:March 8th, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
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what age group was it originally aimed at, do you know? I suspect I'd have liked it well enough as a 3 or 4 year old.

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From:droewyn
Date:March 8th, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
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I'd guess 6-10, considering the language wasn't quite Dick & Jane simple.
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From:wolfette
Date:March 8th, 2013 08:04 pm (UTC)
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maybe not, but suitable for parental reading at bedtime.
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From:johnpalmer
Date:March 8th, 2013 07:39 pm (UTC)
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I found the Oz books to be interesting, but I was coming to them thinking of them as old fashioned children's books, and I could feel as if I was "in on the joke" with respect to the tone. I read some more of them, and yeah, I suppose the tone is condescending, but I always felt that it was kind of gentle-grandfatherly, so I think I could have handled them a bit outside of the normal age range.

I think part of the difference might be that I kind of feel of them as being like bed-time stories, (i.e., comfortable), rather than real adventure stories.
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From:cyranocyrano
Date:March 10th, 2013 06:59 am (UTC)
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I was very fond of the concept and the world.
I hated the writing style.

Droewyn