This isn’t terribly political, which I hope is OK for HuffNo Friday. It’s about the power of the written word; and how I believe none of us should ever feel like we’re wasting our time writing and blogging, be it about politics, or whatever.
I’m a former journalist, now a writer and editor for a living (which is why I’m on HP way too much – avoiding writing), so the written word is very important to me.
Our family always gets together once a year, switching between Christmas and Thanksgiving every other year. This year, we got together at a vacation rental under the shadow of Mount Shasta — the biggest mountain you’ve ever laid eyes on in your life — for American Thanksgiving.
Well, some dumbkopf in *this* household, don’t ask me who, found some great deal on plane tickets from Montana to Redding, Calif., but the down side was, geesh, a 7-hour layover at Sea-Tac. Well, I got plenty of fingers wagged in my face about what kind of dumbkopf would book a flight as cheap as it was with a 7-hour layover, but the damage was done. We were committed to the trip.
We brought a portable DVD player for “Kiddo” so she wouldn’t get too bored during the layover. She brought a couple of books. The problem was, she wasn’t all that interested in watching movies or reading, because she was too sleepy and cranky after getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a flight before the crack of dawn.
The good news was, there’s LOTS of stuff to do in Sea-Tac. The bad news is, LOTS of stuff basically burns itself out after a couple of hours.
After eating breakfast and then wandering through a bunch of stores (I got Kiddo a new Fedora hat that she wore for the whole week. She was very excited by it. Oh, yes, I’m so stylish, I’m so hip, and yet I’m still so very, very, damned bored stuck in this airport terminal and it’s all so tragic ….), we, eventually wandered into a bookstore (of course). At this point, the buzz of wandering through a giant airport was just then beginning to wear off. She was beginning to get bummed out. She’s a good kid, but it’s a little too much to expect a 9-year-old to maintain a sunny disposition cooped up in an airport for 7 hours.
Well bookstores always make a big dent in my VISA. We bought six or seven books, total. I bought “Republican Gomorrah.” I had heard lots of people talking about it on HP, so I decided to give it a try. I also got a Stephen Baxter novel, one of my favourite writers. (He writes a lot of dystopian stuff). Then, I walked past an intriguing book on a shelf in the kids’ section.
It was a very, very thick graphic novel. It was of the original Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank Baum 109 years ago. The art was gorgeous; it was about 200 pages long and very, very expensive. I figured it might tide Kiddo over for a while and I secretly bought it for her while she wasn’t paying attention. She immediately buried her nose in it.
We found a kids’ lounge with beanbag chairs and she plunked down in a beanbag for the next four hours quietly reading her new book. No more sulking. Just curled up in a beanbag with hot cocoa, her faithful iPod and new book and new Fedora hat for four hours. She was in bliss. She kept reading it on the plane and, amazingly, managed to finish all 200 pages (OK, this was a graphic novel, but I’m still guessing more than 20,000 words of text) by the time we landed in California.
Once at the vacation rental, she read her new book to my young nephews every night (The little ones follow her around and other people in the family call her “Wendy”). When she went into town with some older cousins to see some stupid vampire movie, partly to get a break from the high-maintenance younger cousins, I decided to check out this book. Now I was intrigued by what the big deal was. To be honest, I never read any of the Oz books when I was a kid.
The book is nothing like the film, which I probably haven’t paid any attention to in 20 years. (The last time I watched it was when a bunch of us did that trick with playing “Dark Side of the Moon” to the movie. It actually works. It’s kind of creepy.).
The book is actually quite deep and existential. The plot is considerably more complicated than the movie. The part where everyone receives brains and hearts is only about the halfway point of the novel. There’s no singing and dancing of course, and Dorothy’s adventures are considerably more dark and frightening than in the movie. Her triumphs are far more inspiring, much more than just “clicking her heels together.”
So we got the original 1900 Baum book at the library the other day. They didn’t have the other 12 Oz novels, but she asked them to order them. I can’t imagine she’ll actually manage to plough her way through 13 Oz novels, but I’ve learned not to put anything past her.
And I learned again the power of the written word (with a little help from comic book artists) … to fascinate a kid for an entire week much more than a movie ever did.