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Twelve Months of Reading

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Glinda of Oz [Jun. 26th, 2010|06:36 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |accomplished]

 
 
And so we reach the end of all of the Oz books written by L. Frank Baum.  This was really an interesting experiment in studying not just the foundation of something which has become an incalculable thread in pop cultural knowledge but what feels like a very early attempt at the booming young adult fantasy novel.  I'm glad I did it.

I gave Glinda of Oz 4 stars because it returns to type of adventure and events that occur based on a cause and effect basis (as all good writing should have) rather than "and now we're somewhere wacky with something we have to figure out and will never reference again once we've escaped."

One final political observation: "Everybody here is a dictator of something or other.  They're all office holders.  That's what keeps them contented.  But I'm the Supreme Dictator of all, and I'm elected once a year.  This is a democracy, you know, where the people are allowed to vote for their rulers.  A good many others would like to be Supreme Dictator, but as I made a law that I am always to count the votes myself, I am always elected."

And one final good lesson: "That is all that makes life worth our while -- to do good deeds and to help those less fortunate than ourselves."

There are many simple and happy messages like this throughout the 15 books.  Many adventures, some contrived, some engaging.  But it still seems the most important and powerful message is the one we learned at the end of the first book, namely, "There's no place like home."
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The Magic of Oz [Jun. 25th, 2010|08:06 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |relaxedrelaxed]

 

I gave this book 2 stars.  This was the first of two books published after L Frank Baum died.  It was also the first book after WW I and has a very nice dedication to the Children of Our Soldiers, the Americans, and their Allies.

Enjoyed the masochism in the opening chapter that reads "...but he reflected that Ozma was a girl and some time might change her mind..."

More digs on 1919 pop culture makes me giggle:
"I have given it a dandy title...I shall call the song: 'When Ozma Has a Birthday, Everybody's Sure to be Gay, for She Cannot Help the Fact That She was Born."
"That's a pretty long title, Scraps," said Dorothy.
"That makes it stylish...Now-a-days the titles are sometimes longer than the songs."

I made some note of the Lonesome Duck having the only Diamond Palace in the world.  I'm not sure why I thought that was important but it is another unpleasant Baum character that I actually enjoy :).
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The Tin Woodman of Oz [Jun. 25th, 2010|06:33 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |happyhappy]

 
 I gave this book 3 stars.

More good politically loaded lessons "speech without thought is dangerous."  "when one loses his head he loses his brains."

I really liked the storyline of them coming across a man made up of the pieces from the Tin Woodman and Tin Soldier especially since it created one of the deepest philosophical discussions in the entire book series: what does it mean to "be someone."  As the assembled man says "...it is absurd for you tin creatures, or for anyone else, to claim my head, or arm, or any part of me, for they are my personal property."  "You?  You're a Nobody!"  Deep.

 
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Bedside Prayers: Prayers and Poems for When You Rise and Go to Sleep [Jun. 24th, 2010|12:46 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|, ]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]


You may be thinking: "This isn't an Oz book!" And you'd be right.  

At the moment I intend to try and go back to using this blog as a place to write thoughts or capture quotes or what not from whatever I happen to be reading at the time.  I hope anyone reading this does the same as the spirit moves them (so to speak).

This was a random book my parents (read: Mom) got me for my birthday 10 years ago.  Now that I've moved in with the boyfriend, I've got a bookshelf in the living room, the top shelf of which has all of the books I own but haven't read yet.  A few weeks ago I was looking for something quick to read and couldn't get into the bedroom (naptime) so I took this off the shelf and gave it a whirl.  it's mostly nice fluffy poems/prayers that make you feel good without digging too deep.  Which is fine, there's definitely a place for that.  Though the cynical part of my brain kept thinking of that fake Inspiration poster that has a pretty picture and says something below it like "If all it takes for you to get inspired to greatness is a picture of a pretty flower, you don't have it that rough."  Or something like that.  A lot of it felt kind of along the same line as bad Christian pop lyrics.  Again, nothing wrong with that and not every song has to be a masterpiece but I guess I pick up on the irony that these are supposed to touch your soul and a lot of times left me just kinda meh.  Perhaps I'm being a liberal, intellectual, judgy asshole in expecting too much from Hallmark Publishing.  But that said, here are the poems/lines I liked.

"It is better to light candles
than to curse the darkness.
It is better to plant seeds
than to accuse the earth."
-- Merle Shain

I know this one's kind of cheesey but it made me feel like a special little snowflake:
The Inner Flame
I am not more than
a wisp
           of
           smoke
to the world,
but
to God
I am a flame of hope and promise
in a darkened room.

-- Joan Noeldechen

"The clouds that cover sunshine
They cannot banish the sun..."
-- Author unknown


"Let there be a window in my knowing,
That I might bend, unfolding as a bright stem to light..."
-- Marilyn Shelton

Kindness
It is the history of our kindnesses
that alone makes this world tolerable.
If it were not for that, for the effect of
kind words, kind looks, kind letters...
I should be inclined to think our life
a practical jest in the worst possible spirit.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson

Time
                Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love
        Time is
        Eternity.

-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
 
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The Lost Princess of Oz [Jun. 24th, 2010|12:22 am]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |calmcalm]

 

I gave this one 3 stars.  I think I preferred this story over some of the others because it used characters we knew and cared about, but in a different way.  Plus there's two concrete stories of travelling to resolve a mystery that compliment each other.  Of course the hero's journey elements are the same but it's a formula that worked for 15 books so who am I to knock that.

Nice little thoughtful lesson: "Dangers don't hurt us.  Only things that happen ever hurt anyone, and a danger is a thing that might happen and might not happen and sometimes don't amount to shucks. "

I like a White Rabbit showing up to lead the way in what feels like an homage to Alice in Wonderland.  I also like his line "I'm not afraid for myself...It's you I'm worried about."

I enjoy when Baum has sassy characters and the woman who tells the Frogman to piss off makes me giggle.
"In the Yip Country where I am more honored and powerful than any King could be, people weep with joy when I ask them to feed me."
"Then that's the place to go for your breakfast."
"I fear you do not realize my importance...Exceeding wisdom renders me superior to menial duties."
"It's a great wonder to me...that your wisdom doesn't inform you that you'll get no breakfast here."

And a thoughtful observation by the Scarecrow to wrap up this book "I often feel sorry for the meat people, many of whom are my friends.  Even the beasts are happier than they, for they require less to make them content."

 
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The Scarecrow of Oz [Jun. 23rd, 2010|11:35 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
 

I don't know if you guys are on goodreads but that's the best place to keep up on my reading from here on out.  Plus you can also see the ratings I gave these stories as I read them.  Just mentioning it cause it's kind of a cool site on it's own and also it's been a while since I read these stories and even using the notes I've got in the margins may not be all that interesting or informative in terms of what I got out of the book in the moment.  According to goodreads I gave this book 2 stars.  And here's my notes:

It's cool that he opens with another note regarding future incorporation of characters from his other books just like in Tik-Tok.  And, true to form, the characters show up. :)

I like that there's an Ork in this story.  No relation to Lord of the Rings.

Oh I love a good pun like when they met the Bumpy Man who's known as the Mountain Ear.  I also love that his expletives are baked goods "fruit-cake and apple-sauce!" "gingerbread and lemon-juice!"

The description of the evil "Blinkie" witch who was old and ugly and had an eye patch really seemed to remind me of the description of the Wicked Witch of the West in the first book.

"Your voice sounds like a refrig'rator"  Another comment on modern inventions in what seems like a negative light.  Amusing.  As is the entire concept of the magic picture frame where you can see people just like a television.  Though of course there's no negative connotation with the picture frame cause it's not commenting on anything that actually existed at the time.



 
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Tik-Tok of Oz [Jun. 23rd, 2010|10:30 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

 
 
I enjoyed his author's note at the beginning about how he'd received notes from kids about bringing in characters from his other novel franchises into the Oz books.  And then in later books he does.  One distinct feeling I got over the course of reading these books is that L. Frank Baum was a consummate showman and if he could be successful with a story, he'd milk it as far as possible.  That would explain why he did the books, the stage plays, and even created a film production company in Hollywood initially dedicated purely to Oz movies.

I liked the concept of royalty being under-ripe and needing to bloom before it could be picked and rule.  A lot of these later books didn't seem to have much in the way of the historic analogies that the first book did, but every now and then things like the concept above made me think that perhaps the social commentary was still there.  If only in smaller doses.  It's also interesting that this commentary on the aristocracy came on the eve of World War I.

Another thing I enjoyed were the grouping of light maidens: Daylight, Sunlight, Moonlight, Starlight, Firelight, and Electra "ready to flood us with bright rays."  It's interesting how things like electricity (and planes and cars in other books) are described/addressed in a way that's casual but still regards them as something new and not to be taken for granted.  Again, another sign of the times.

That's pretty much everything I took from this book.  I looked at the wikipedia article to remind me of the story and I remember specific characters and incidents but it's basically another journey story with characters we've visited before.

 
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Little Wizard Stories [Jun. 23rd, 2010|09:56 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

 

This was a cute set of morality tales geared for an even younger audience than the rest of the books.  A nice kind of recap on all the major characters we've seen so far, with some interesting parings.  A little heavy handed with the lessons on each story but I figure it goes with the age range.
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The Patchwork Girl of Oz [Jun. 23rd, 2010|09:33 pm]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

 
 
I thought I had already posted about this one but it doesn't look like it ever made it to the internet.  This is the only other book of the series that I had read before starting this time around.  I don't know why I'd randomly picked this one up but I remember it being a favorite and held on to it for quite a while before it got left behind in all of my moves.  There's actually a good possibility the book is still at my parent's house for my nephews to read.

What I enjoyed about the book then was what I enjoyed still.  There was an actual sense of conflict and need to make things happen before things went really wrong.  I also think the Patchwork Girl Rags is one of my favorite Baum characters.  Somewhere in the book she talks about how proud she is to be different and how awful it would be to be "normal" and the same as everyone else.  Of all the manufactured "lessons" to come out of these books, I think that's one that's pretty solid and thoughtful.  Almost as deep as "there's no place like home."
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Spiritual Hoodie-Ha [Jan. 20th, 2010|12:31 am]
Twelve Months of Reading

mattsmovies
[Tags|, , ]
[mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

A while back I finished reading Anne Rice's "The Vampire Armand". Having read the Vampire Chronicals in order up to this one, I can say this is probably the weakest book of them all, but it doesn't stop her from having the philosophical essays that you find in all of her works and I would argue are a large part of what make her stories so compelling. Below I'm transcribing a quote from Armand describing his experience of travelling back in time through a vision to witness Christ's crucifixion. What I like about it is that it really kind of crystalizes a lot of my feelings on the concept of Jesus.

"Lord...it doesn't mean what you think. It's spoken with too much intimacy and too much warmth. It's like a secret and sacred name. Lord...He is the Lord, yes, but only because He is the symbol of something infinitely more accessible, something infinitely more meaningful than a ruler or king or lord can ever be...He was...my brother...Yes. That is what He was, my brother, and the symbol of all brothers, and that is why HE was the Lord, and that is why His core is simply love. You scorn it. You look askance at what I say. But you don't grasp the complexity of what He was. It's easy to feel, perhaps, but not so easy to really see. He was another man like me. And maybe for many of us, millions upon millions, that's all He's ever been! We're all somebody's sons and daughters and He was somebody's son. He was human, whether He was God or not, and He was suffering and He was doing it for things He thought were purely and universally good. And that meant that His blood might as well have been my blood too. Why, it had to be. And maybe that is the very source of His magnificence for thinkers such as me. You said I had no faith. I don't. Not in titles or in legends or in hierarchies made by other beings like ourselves. He didn't make a hierarchy, not really. He was the very thing. I saw in Him magnificence for simple reasons. There was flesh and blood to what He was! And it could be bread and wine to feed the whole Earth. You don't get it. You can't. Too many lies about Him swim in your ken...I can't get Him out of my head. I never have. I never will."

I dunno...what do you think?
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