Coming late to the party, grabbing a few minutes from preparations for a flight
from Japan to Australia tonight.
My wife has confirmed my memory that we purchased several of the Oz books and
read them with our daughter. We remember them as fantasies filled with odd
characters. Besides the the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion, the later volumes
included the Highly Magnified and Educated (HME) Wogglebug, an intelligent
flying sofa, and a villainous princess with a wardrobe full of heads that she
changed the way ordinary people changed hats.
The daughter wound up a US Naval Academy graduate married to a very large and
masculine Marine Corps jet fighter jock. I have long felt that people with
literary tastes overestimate the influence of the books they happen to read.
Sent from my iPad
On Mar 8, 2020, at 6:50, Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Further in the spirit of the “early readings” thread, I just read the article
“The Oddness of Oz” by Alison Lurie. This article appears in the 12/21/2000
issue of the NYROB. I was surprised to learn that L. F. Baum wrote a number
of Oz books, none of which I read when I was young, and Lurie mentions that
“in the 1930s and 1940s they [Baum’s Oz books] were actually removed from
many schools and libraries.”
In 1941 I was seven just two months before Pearl Harbor and since the Oz
books were intended for children, and I was doing my best to read books for
the more-mature, perhaps I chose not to read them. Or perhaps my grandmother
steered me away from them.
Also, my parents took me to see the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” in 1939 when I
was five and I was empathetically terrified when the tornado took Dorothy
away from her home in Kansas. I was appalled, or I assumed that she wouldn’t
be able to find her way home again. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to
if a tornado swept me away. I have had a very poor sense of direction my
entire life and was apparently very aware of my limitations while sitting in
the Grenada Theater with my parents at age five.
Of course in reading Lurie’s articles I now learn that Baum didn’t intend
Dorothy’s adventures to be bad things. Also, she did later find her way back
to Kansas, but she didn’t stay there. Furthermore, after the bank
repossessed the family farm, she moved her Aunt and Uncle to Oz; which would
have helped me a lot watching the movie, had I been told that by my parents –
or maybe they did tell me and I didn’t believe them.
Also, Lurie writes, “Though the Oz books have always been read by children of
both sexes, they have been especially popular with girls, and it is not hard
to see why. Besides being a world in which women and girls rule, it is also,
as Joel Chaston has pointed out, a world in which none of the major
characters has a traditional family. Instead, most of them live alone or
with friends of the same sex. The Scarecrow stays with the Tin Woodman in
his castle for months at a time, while Ozma, Dorothy, Betsy, and Trot all of
rooms in the palace of the Emerald City, and Glinda lives in a castle with a
hundred of the most beautiful girls of the Fairyland of Oz.”
Well, now, if Lurie had ended her comment with the word “rule,” I wouldn’t
have questioned it, but the rest of it seems a feminist assumption, but none
of the girls I grew up with seemed to be. I had a girl-friend when I was
five. Her name was Arlene Cooper and she made a tremendous impression of me.
I can recall asking her if she liked me, and she replied, “I don’t like you.
I love you.” I recall missing her when, probably, her family moved away and
she had to go to school elsewhere, but I suspect that whatever became of her,
she preferred a world in which there were boys, and then later on men. And,
it would seem, so does Alison Lurie. She was born in 1926, married her first
husband in 1948, had three children, divorced in 1985 but married again in I
think 1989. She seems to be living happily with her second husband today,
and would have been married to him when she wrote the above paragraph in