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Over There (in the UK)

December 28, 2000 at 6 PM

As a kid, I read

As a kid, I read L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz numerous times. I went on to read the dozen or so sequels he wrote too, and then read them again for good measure. There was something easy and happy about the books, like a long rope of red licorice, or being pushed on a swing.

I also read C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and most of the other books in the Narnia series. Those were great too, but in a different sort of way. They were mysterious, deep and, at times, difficult.

Were I to open one of the two today, it would doubtless the latter. Opening up a Baum book today, I find stories too simple, characters flat and predictable, and plots desperate for some challenge or hardship. Lewis' books, however, live on as great works, for children and adults alike.

Salon.com editor Laura Miller deftly compares Baum, an American, with the Lewis, a Briton, in a study of why the Oz series fails miserably compared to Narnia. Although she comes off sounding like many other American intellectuals — a domestic apologist looking to the civilized Britons with envy — Miller still does the job right. "Just as the British think that children are important enough to merit the work of their best writers, British children's writers think children are important enough to be treated as moral beings."

What a novel idea.

Comments

———

Previously: In the “It’s So Crazy,

Subsequently: I’m back in Montreal, and

December 2000
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