Tuesday, September 06, 2005

My latest Oz reading

I just now finished that book I mentioned in an earlier post, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in American Popular Culture: Uneasy in Eden by Neil Earle. It's one of those academic books that Professor Wogglebug would love, analyzing The Wizard of Oz to within an inch of its life. Fortunately, Earle comes at it from many different points of view, and doesn't seem to have a particular point of view that he's advocating; on the contrary, he tries to show that it can't be interpreted in just one way, as it has so many layers. It's too bad, however, that he's limited his focus to just the book, the famous 1939 movie, and The Wiz, as this leaves out all kinds of other information that would have helped develop his points -- or blown them out of the water! I don't think he even mentions the rest of the Oz books, nor does he touch at all on the 1902 stage play, the 1925 movie, or any of the other theatrical versions of Oz before 1939. In fact, at one point he implies that the '39 movie was the first time the story had ever been referred to as The Wizard of Oz as opposed to the novel's original title of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (which was shortened on the cover within just a few years).

Earle also makes assertations about how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz shows its roots in American economics, and how Dorothy's life is made better by the cyclone when she gets a new, better house -- yet fails to mentioned what happened to Dorothy and her family later on in the books when Uncle Henry can't pay the mortgage and the bank comes to take away his farm, or that Oz eventually does away with money itself. Earle also ties in some aspects of Oz with the advent of mass advertising, but completely fails to mention Baum's role in that phenomenon as one of the first to realize and communicate the effectiveness of displays in show windows.

All in all, this was a more rounded book than I was expecting, but the omissions and numerous factual errors that could have been very easily checked left me cold. The extremely high price tag certainly doesn't help, and I very much doubt that I will see this book in my collection in the near future.

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