‘Charmed sentences follow one another like dance steps along the winding road itself’


From The Book:

Although details have not yet been released, The Los Angeles Times reported last year that preliminary plans are in the works for an upcoming movie of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. By midsummer this year, the Harry Potter film series will have run its course, and what better way to fill the gap than by taking up Baum’s set of Oz books (this is the first), with its cast of zany characters including a princess who undergoes a sex change and a legion of splendidly garbed humanoids whose limbs end in wheels instead of hands and feet? I disagree with Salman Rushdie’s elevation of the iconic and justly well-loved 1939 film, the Judy Garland one, over the original Baum text. This text—literary, philosophical, and brilliant—merits priority.

Notwithstanding the whirlwind of adaptations, adulterations, dramatizations, spin-offs, ad-ons, pop-ups, memorabilia, and kitsch that have spiraled throughout the century since its original publication by George M. Hill in 1900 (with illustrations by W.W. Denslow), the original masterpiece survives and defies its would-be re-fashioners. Do we know why? Reading it again and trying to recall how turning its pages felt to me years ago as a child growing up in New York, I realized one would need a cloak of invisibility so as to slink past that angel with the flaming sword.

The book drops you, rubbing your eyes, into a mysterious ether—onto shifting sands (recall the “Deadly Desert”)—into oneiric realms, where you lose yourself and wander, enchanted: “The cyclone had set the house down, very gently… in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty….” “The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick…” “I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?” Charmed sentences follow one another like dance steps along the winding road itself. Yet few readers have focused on the book’s prodigious mental adventures.

The Wicked Witch of the West, William Wallace Denslow, 1900

“Yellow Brick Philosophy”, Ellen Handler Spitz, The Book