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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, Book 1) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's odd that this is the first time I've read an Oz book. I think I started one or two, long ago, and never finished them. But many people rave about Oz, and I love old books from that era (especially children's books), so recently I picked it up and read it through.

It didn't take long. In fact, I was quite surprised at how quickly I got through it. It's quite a short book. It's also very simply written. I don't think most young American children (say, ages 7 and up) would have any difficulty reading it at all. The grammar is slightly more formal than modern American English, but the vocabulary is startlingly ordinary; far less challenging than I'd expected.

Perhaps that's because most of the books I've read from that general era (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900) are English, and use a considerably deeper vocabulary. The majority of Americans would struggle with an unabridged Peter Pan or Winnie-the-Pooh, and be utterly defeated by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

That said, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a nice, light, and very quick read with some pleasantly funny moments. I'd heard that it was an extended political parable - the scarecrow representing Midwestern farmers, the Tin Woodsman representing the factory workers of the new Industrial Revolution, and the Lion representing...actually, I don't remember - but if that's the case (and it may well be) the result certainly doesn't seem to very complex. I probably won't read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for myself again very soon, but I'll probably soon read it to my son - or see if he's interested in reading it for himself.

I can't help but wonder if I'd have loved the book if I had first read it when I was seven. But I just don't know.

Oh, I almost forgot: Of course I've seen the movie many times, and am quite fond of it. I expected the book to be very different from the movie, and it was - but it turned out that the movie was more faithful to the text than I'd realized. That said, I have to say that the movie actually seemed to make a strong theme (there's no place like home, of course) which the book lacked. But then, Dorothy seemed much younger in the book.

It was also interesting that in the book, the voyage to Oz was clearly NOT a dream (Uncle Henry had had to build a new house to replace the one that had been taken away by the tornado), whereas the movie made it fairly clear that Oz HAD all been Dorothy's fever-dream (since, among other things, the house was unchanged and still there).

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Date: 2009-08-28 09:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janewilliams20.livejournal.com
most of the books I've read from that general era (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900) are English, and use a considerably deeper vocabulary. The majority of Americans would struggle with an unabridged Peter Pan or Winnie-the-Pooh, and be utterly defeated by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Really? I'd always assumed that the stereotype of the under-educated American with the limited vocabulary was down to "patriotic prejudice", and the contempt in which American publishers apparently hold their audience, but you believe it to be genuine?

I only read the unabridged Peter Pan as a an adult, but I know I enjoyed Pooh and Alice as a child, and Pooh at least is still very popular with children here.

Date: 2009-09-01 07:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bobquasit.livejournal.com
No, Americans really are that stupid and illiterate. There's no doubt in my mind.

I think that Europeans tend to think that ALL Americans are like that, though, which is an error. Only about 75% of Americans are really that uneducated, I would guess.

But even the majority of those who read only read crap, and not much of it. I see people reading trashy bestsellers, and stuff like the Harry Potter books. I've been reading Thoreau's Walden in small bursts (it's fairly heavy going for me), and it has occurred to me that I haven't seen ANYONE reading that sort of "deep" or classic book on the train in years.

And the majority of train commuters don't read at all, of course.

The US has a very anti-intellectual bent. That's been ameliorated slightly by the advent of the "cool nerd" meme, but in the real world things haven't changed much.

Date: 2009-09-01 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janewilliams20.livejournal.com
I suppose the Americans I "meet" (mainly online) are, almost by definition, the educated ones. My sample has a built-in bias.

Date: 2009-09-02 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janewilliams20.livejournal.com
I'll be doing a couple of days train-communing later on this month, I'll have to do a little private survey of what Brits do while on the train into London. My guess would be over 50% reading, with that being split between a newspaper, a paperback novel, an academic textbook (with notes), and "work documents" - that last may involve a laptop if they have room.
I'll probably be writing rather than reading, myself.

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