Monthly Archives: October 2012

Read: The Wizard of OZ by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Michael Hague

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When I was a baby, my parents decided that they would collect Wizard of OZ memorabilia for me. Dad being an antiques dealer, this isn’t too unexpected since their house is essentially a museum of colonial items. But why, the Wizard of OZ, I’m not sure (*see FOLLOW-UP after the picture for the real story from Dad). The extended family joined in and I have a good size collection of books, glasses, dolls, and much more. Most of all, I love the movie with Judy Garland. The VHS might still work but I upgraded to a DVD several years ago. It’s classic, from my childhood, yet remains a great adventure story. I don’t know why I wasn’t frightened as a kid by it. Probably because I knew the story and movie so well and knew it would be alright. I can’t recall the first time I watched it, having seen it so young and so many times.

This entire time, I owned The Wizard of Oz, both as the single book that I finally read for this post, and the ones that make up the series of other Oz stories (unread and at my parents’ house). My copy has a dedication on the title page “Merry Christmas, Emily 1989 Nana & Grampa”. This is a lovely version with its illustrations that are true to the story so it helps flesh out the original version nicely. Though movie quotes and images and scenes did crop up, especially when they weren’t actually in the original. Overall it is the same but there are many differences and a lot of Oz creatures and adventures left out.

A couple of times growing up, I picked up this book and began to read it but found it too similar to be of interest. And the first 50 or so pages basically are the same. But I treasured and could recite the movie so Dorothy had to have red ruby slippers, not silver and Glinda wasn’t old nor kissed Dorothy on the forward to protect her–clearly I’d decided that the book didn’t get the movie right so I stopped.

Returning to it now, I soak in and relish all the differences and the enormity of the world Baum created along with the complexity of the originally story. Granted, the movie is amazing for what it captures and was an awesome technicolor feat for its time, and it still look gorgeous. However, the book is more of a traditional fairy tale than the movie reveals–close to a classic Grimm brothers’ fairy tale with murder and brutal details. Fairy tales were made for adults with them in mind as the audience to either entertain in courts and for women to tell each other while doing chores, for example. MGM did to Baum what Disney did to Grimm, made the stories kid-friendly. Both serve a purpose but I enjoy reading the originals too.

Recommended?: Yes! Though it may be hard to get a kid to sit through this version since the movie is so pervasive. Baum’s originally isn’t nearly as dark as a Grimm brothers’ fairy tale. Dorothy and her friends toil so much more and their adventure is grander than in the movie, so it’s like an American Dream where you have to prevail and preserve–there’s no Glinda to wave her wand, just the kiss that protects Dorothy herself. And no songs in the book. That was all MGM.

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FOLLOW-UP (Oct. 18, 2012):

After talking with my dad, I got the video of The Wizard of Oz when I was 2-3 and watched it over, and over, and over, and over. He said the right word for it is “obsessed”. Having this obsession with the movie, they decided that since they like collecting that I should have a collection and it might as well be Oz memorabilia. I’m glad to now have the real chain of events, for the record. Plus, it makes much more sense that I played the movie repeatedly without tiring because I’ve definitely read books and series in that intense, devouring, can’t-get-enough state before–along with some other movies and now TV shows, too. But none like how I watched The Wizard of Oz. Again, as a young kid, Bambi also was typically in the VCR, though not nearly as often. That obsession caused to me, at age five, to name my cocker spaniel puppy Bambi, and he was such a dear. 🙂 Deer. Hee hee.

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Read: How to be alone by Jonathan Franzen

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How to be alone by Jonathan Franzen isn’t as lonely or instructive as the title sounds. Actually, it is a collection of his published essays through 2002. The overarching theme for all the essays is that they were published by Franzen. He covers dementia and Alzheimer’s, the Chicago US Postal Service, privacy, sex books, smoking and the tobacco industry, super max prisons, and several other essays that examine different slices or memories of Franzen’s life–including the Oprah incident over The corrections when he turned down letting her use it for her book club (he remedied that by giving her Freedom for her book club instead). At the end of his explanation of the revision and expansion to the paperback version I own, Franzen explains that the connection of the essays is the collection’s title:

“But the local particulars of content matter less to me than the underlying investigation in all these essays: the problem of preserving individuality and complexity in a noisy and distracting mass culture: the question of how to be alone.”

Collections of essays, or even non-fiction for that matter, aren’t my normal reading diet but I couldn’t pass up a Franzen book, regardless of what it held between its covers. I enjoyed them all. They are dense, extremely well-crafted morsels of his writing. If you haven’t read a Franzen novels, this will give you a taste how he writes.

However, the continuity is odd. There aren’t intros or explanations before any of the essays and for me this meant a mixed bag of topics, like not looking while reaching into a Halloween candy bag filled with loot and not knowing what you’ll pick out (it is October already!). Story and plot line are still my favorite, so this book won’t get me to read essay collections regularly. Yet I will start including them more in my reading lists if they are of particular interest. If they covered one topic or subject then perhaps I’d enjoy a collection more. Reading various essays that Franzen published in greta literary magazines, though, was a treat. This one will hit my re-read list because it seems like a book in which I will learn and enjoy it more each time through since he fits his amazing sentences full of great ideas as well as language and multiple reads would further sort out the denseness.

Recommend it?: For general readers, probably. I wouldn’t call this a quick read but it’s an interesting one, and if you’re willing to take the essay topics as they come then it’s for you. Franzen fans definitely must read this because he pours much of his self into the essays throughout and has several that go into his personal life and why he writes.

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* It’s been a while since the last post–nearly two months! After I sorted my bookshelf and pulled out the ones on this list for 2012 Reads, I’m more motivated than ever to finish this project. I’m at 7 books read so far and will pick up speed here on out!

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace update:

When I began this project, I was on page 80-something in February and now reached 297. A little over two-hundread pages might not sound like a lot but go try reading the book yourself and you’ll see. Will I finish this on by year’s end? Wait and see… I’m on footnote 100-something, since they are crucial to the storyline, backstory, and as clarification.