Book Look: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
After I read Carry On Mr. Bowditch in third grade I became fascinated by books. For years I was rarely seen without a book in my hand. I was reading enough as a kid that I ran out of children’s books pretty fast and read the adult version of Jurassic Park after the movie came out. One book I never read though was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first in a series of Oz novels. This is a bit surprising when you know that my favorite movie, after The Empire Strikes Back, is Return to Oz. This 1980’s Disney “sequel” took a completely different look into the Oz universe, focusing more on the world described in the books than the Technicolor sing-along we all know and love. But I finally crossed my goal of reading the first Oz book off my list in a way I never imagined: on my iPhone. With the Classics app, I read an entire book electronically.
My overall impression: genius. L. Frank Baum is a witty, clever writer and the Oz universe is filled with strange, quirky characters that would feel at home in a Joss Whedon TV show. The characters are more varied than in the musical and the world is filled with much more magic and depth. Nevertheless the movie is actually a pretty faithful adaptation once you look past the singing. Like Peter Jackson’s adaptations of Lord of the Rings, many backgrounds and details are faithfully recreated, from Oz as a giant head (though in the book this is only one of his many forms) to our hero’s initial battle with the flying monkeys in the forest.
On the small iPhone screen, the book translated into about 500 pages of material. Classics uses the same kind of page turning system Apple just implemented in iBooks buy where a swipe or tap of your finger will advance the page, but after the first few times the effect becomes very natural – not a distraction like I would have thought. I have not used a Kindle , Nook or other e-reader so I can’t compare the feel of e-ink books to the iPhone, but I never had a problem with eye fatigue despite reading the entire book in a couple large chunks of time.
While the movie version of Oz features a more Harry Potter style of magic (no real need for resources to cast spells) the magic in the Oz book is more tangible. The Wicked Witch of the West has limited resources and in a number of attacks she exhausts her magical creatures before calling upon the flying monkeys, who are quite tragic creatures bound into services by the wearer of a golden cap endowing magic powers.
The behavior of Oz himself is different as well, more con man than wizard or ruler. Oz requires everyone in the Emerald City to wear green goggles at all times to perpetrate the illusion that everything there is green – from cloth to people. Even his words of encouragement and congratulations to our heroes are more jaded and sharply worded than the movie, but are in fact, real advice. As Oz says, he isn’t a bad man, just a bad wizard.
· To Scarecrow: “You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings you knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.” [I like not capitalizing earth here, literally referring to the Scarecrow being lowered from his pole to the ground]
· “You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”
· “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If only you knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”