Book Review: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum

Nov 26, 2012 by

“We’re off to see the Wizard…  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

This is one of my all time favorite movies.  I have always loved it – and remember fondly when it would be shown on television once a year.  My family would turn it into an event with popcorn and my brother and I were allowed to stay up late.  Technology being what it is today, I own the DVD and watch it often with my kids (or maybe by myself.  I’m not ashamed.)  I’d always wanted to read the original book, but just never got around to it.  Until now.  This is pretty much the general rule, so I was not particularly surprised.   The story is pretty much what you think it is:  a little girl and her dog get caught up in a tornado, which brings them from their mundane life in plain Kansas to a magical world.  Now in this unfamiliar land, she meets up with a Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman, and a Cowardly Lion with whom she travels to find the Great Wizard of Oz to have their wishes granted.  Along the way, they meet with Wicked Witches, Good Witches, Flying Monkeys, and Munchkins.

Book Review: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank BaumIn the book, they meet many other curious creatures which add to the adventure.  Other major differences?  (Here is where I’ll start mentioning spoilers)  I always kind of loved that in the movie, the Scarecrow, etc. were imagined versions of people Dorothy knew in Kansas.  Also that her whole adventure was when she was out cold unconscious after being hit in the head during the tornado.  However, in the book, this just isn’t the case.  The world of Oz is real, and real time passes while Dorothy is there – enough time for Uncle Henry to build a new farmhouse, to replace the one presumably still sitting in Munchkinland.  This really is a huge difference, and makes the entire story more of a fantasy, and not just a dream.  Does that make sense?  Also, I really liked that the book made reference to the fact that Dorothy needed to sleep and eat during her long journey on the yellow brick road.  Many people are also put off a bit that Dorothy’s shoes are silver and not ruby as in the movie.  But you have to remember that when the movie was released in 1939 – it was one of the first to be in color, and ruby slippers look way more impressive than silver.  On a much smaller note – The Flying Monkeys used to scare me in the movie, but I like them much more in the book.

I also just wanted to mention that I listened to most of this as an audio book, narrated by Anne Hathaway.  She did a great job, though some of her “voices” for characters were somewhat interesting!

*****
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum
Originally published 1900
Narrated by Anne Hathaway
Series:  Oz #1
Kindle/Audible version
Source:  Purchased New
*****
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Book Review: “The Shining” by Stephen King

Jun 26, 2012 by

Winter is coming to the Rocky Mountains.  The Outlook Hotel, a luxurious resort will soon be cut off from the rest of the world by the heavy snowfall.  Jack Torrance has been hired as caretaker of the hotel and will live there through the winter with his wife Wendy and their 5 year old son Danny.  Jack is going through a rough patch – he was fired from his teaching job, has given up drinking, and is trying to salvage his marriage after it was nearly destroyed due to his alcoholism.  Wendy is trying to make things work with Jack, trying to support his new sobriety but is constantly suspicious of her husband’s activities.  She is also very concerned about Danny, who goes into trances and just seems to know things… like what she is thinking or when his father is in trouble.

At first, moving into the hotel seems to have been the right move for the Torrance family.  They are spending quality time together and Jack is writing again.  But Danny’s nightmares worsen.  He is seeing horrible things within the hotel.  Jack starts to see them too, but refuses to admit it.  Then they all start to hear voices…. and the ghosts.  Danny’s nightmares are starting to come to life…..

movie versionI had seen the 1980 film by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson a few times, but I’ll admit that while it was scary…  I didn’t really like it.  I mostly remember it as being really long, but I thought I would have given me a basic outline of what to expect when reading the book.  Sure, I guess it did on some level, but not really even a little bit.  This is so SO much better!  The creepy scary levels are off the charts in this book.  I literally had to pause between chapters toward the end, just to catch my breath.  My heart felt squeezed with terror.

Stephen King is just the master of suspense and horror.  I’ve read him before, and loved it all, but I was still somehow caught off guard with how precisely he builds and creates his frightful tales.  The way he showcases Jack’s loosening grip on reality really keeps the reader on edge.  The violence is gruesome.  Within the dreams, he uses such vulgar and repulsive images and language to keep the feeling of disgust always present.  He just doesn’t miss a trick.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to have read this book.  Yes, I will be reliving key parts for weeks to come in my dreams, but I will gladly endure it.  This book was written in 1977, and superfluous details may feel dated to the reader, but the sheer horror and creepiness of the tale is timeless.

******
The Shining
by Stephen King
Signet, 1978.  First Published 1977.
464 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****
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