Thursday, July 14, 2011

The new Harry Potter movie

I hate to be out of touch! I always feel so inadequate when there’s a national phenomenon and I’m out of the loop. As a blogger of popular culture (not that anybody is paying me… or even asking me to be a blogger of popular culture) I do sort of feel it’s my responsibility to stay up with current trends. That’s why I watched AMERICAN IDOL (until it became too mind numbing even for me). That’s why I watched Oprah (well, maybe not “watch” per se, but I did see clips on THE SOUP). I’d watch MTV to see the hottest new bands but they don’t play music on MTV anymore (so the “M” now just stands for what, Money?). I’m familiar with video games like Bio-Shock (so I can accept compliments from people who think I’m the Ken Levine who created it). I own an iPad. The point is – I make it my business to ride zeitgeists like they were plow horses.

So it pains me to say, with the final HARRY POTTER movie coming out this week, that I am not into Harry Potter.

I tried. I read the first book and loved it. So brimming with imagination. Saw the first movie and thought they did an excellent job of translating it to film. But by nature, I’m not a big fantasy guy.

I read another Harry Potter book along the way. Enjoyed it but not as much. 700 pages is a lot of wizards and wands for me. Saw one of the other Harry movies. Same thing. Okay but didn’t grab me.

And then last year, all the hoopla about the final two installments coming out. And the emphatic declarations that this would indeed be the end of the series. The kids in the cast are now old enough to star in THE SUNSHINE BOYS.

I didn’t catch part one when it was released during the holiday season. Misreading the zeitgeist horribly, I just naturally assumed everyone was going to be flocking to BURLESQUE.

But I was curious. Not curious enough to do anything but mildly interested just the same.

And then recently my daughter Annie and her writing partner, Jonathan rented the DVD of part one and invited me to watch it with them. Perfect! I thought. I’ll be able to catch up and at the same time enjoy a rip-roaring movie.

I made it through an hour. I was so confused. And that’s with Annie & Jon trying to fill me in.  Harry and the gang fly to some house somewhere in the moors to hide from someone, but the location is not so secret that they can’t entertain guests and even have an outdoor party. And then suddenly they’re back in London at a present day coffee shop and then another old house where a creature arrives and then someone else, and then they go through a portal to another world where they have to get a locket, and then it becomes MAD MEN meet THE MATRIX, and now Harry has to wear the locket, and every so often he has dreams where he can see what evil his nemesis is doing, and… WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING??

If you’ve followed the series and are up on Harry Potter lore all of this made complete sense. Annie & Jon were having a rollicking good time. My head was about to explode.

So I won’t be seeing the new HARRY POTTER movie that opens this weekend. I feel bad about that. Not bad enough to go back and watch six movies or read 15,000 pages, but I do feel like I've been excluded from a club. And not a real exclusive club either. A club that’s easier to join than Costco.

Still, this is one worldwide craze I’m going to have sit out. Enjoy the final HARRY POTTER. I hope it lives up to all your expectations or even exceeds them. And don’t worry about me. I’ll be in the theater next door, hedging my bet just in case there will be a BAD TEACHER 2-9.

42 comments:

Akhen1khan2 aka Jack Eason said...

Face it Ken, like me you are of the wrong generation for appreciating Harry Potter lol. :)

PatGLex said...

You're forgiven. The movie, to me, actually did a great job of explaining the parts of the book that I thought were boring and overwrought.

And insofar as not being in on a phenomenon -- I've never gotten Woody Allen's humor, and I have yet to see a Transformers anything -- cartoon, movie, book, etc.

RCP said...

"So it pains me to say, with the final HARRY POTTER movie coming out this week, that I am not into Harry Potter."

It's your life.

Bob Summers said...

I've read all the books, and the books are much better than the movies. I listened to some of them on CD, read by Jim Dale, and he was amazing.

I don't know what it is that drives me nuts about the movies. I just can't stand them. I never thought I would say that the way I saw all of that in my mind was better than the set decoration and art department could come up with.

Mac said...

You and me both. Being in on a phenomenon is fun, but this one passed me by. I have nephews and nieces who are crazy about it, but I've no idea what they're talking about.

Col. Flagg said...

Harry Potter? Who? Make a Colonel Potter movie and I'm there.

Barbara C. said...

With the HP the worm really turns at the end of #3, Prisoner of Azkaban. You read the first two and think they are a nice little books, and then when you get to the end of book 3, the lightning strikes and you realize that the first two were WAY MORE than nice little books.

Bob Summers, I am totally with you on the movies...they drive me crazy. I understand that a certain amount of editing is done to transition from book to screen. I think what gets me are the details that are changed for absolutely no reason and the absolutely irrelevant things that are sometimes added. But, alas, I am already scoping out when I can stash my four young kids with Granny and go see how badly they messed up this final movie.

Roger Owen Green said...

I saw the first movie, read none of the books. Someday. Maybe.

Jim S said...

That's all right Ken. People don't have to watch everything. I once admitted that I never saw an episode of American Idol and had no plans to, and someone (it was you) looked at me and said how could I not, if only to be up on the cultural zeitgeist (you didn't use that word). Hey, the premise didn't appeal to me, and the five or 10 minutes of the show I saw every now and then didn't impress me.

Hey, I still think that Curb Your Enthusiasm is just a first draft of every Seinfeld episode before they got down to the polishing that made that show shine like a diamond. I find the jokes, once you get the gist of the show, obvious and easy to predict. In short, I don't enjoy the show. Just writing that sentence makes me afraid of the Curb fans who will want to hunt me down and "convince" me that the show is brillant.

Tim W. said...

I watched the first four or five movies without benefit of reading the books. It got more and more confusing, not because I didn't understand what was going on, but because I couldn't understand the motivations of the characters at all. With every movie, I could sense more and more was being left out (through necessity).

Then I started reading the books to my two young girls and finally understood.

Ken, if you didn't read each book in order, I can understand why you didn't quite get it. And if you skipped a movie or two, that would make it all the more confusing.

I've stopped watching the movies until we finish reading all the books (have to wait a bit because the youngest one is a little too young for the later books).

Reads more than menus... said...

I read the first book. I shrugged and tossed it away. Hackneyed and manipulative. I could see how little kids could be lured into its clumsy web, but any adult could see it was fluff in the wind.

Well, I wildly overestimated the perceptions and tastes of my fellow grown-ups while underestimating the literary deviousness of Rowling.

We all should be such a combination of sly and lucky.

Mark Patterson said...

I've read them all and watched them all. I like the series, but your mileage obviously varies on this one. Nothing wrong with that.

I dunno about the rest of the Potter fans out there, but I'm not feeling any urge to convert anyone.

Mr. Levine, I'd rather you watched movies that genuinely interested you. Life's too short, you know?

If it's not your cuppa, then it's not.

Janet T said...

Read the books, that made me happy- I'm good

Phillip B said...

Whatever the Harry Potter books may or may not be - they are most certainly the first time a writer made more than $1 billion for writing. (Unless someone can prove Dickens and Twain made that much inflated to today's dollars).

That alone may be a more interesting story that the books themselves....

D. McEwan said...

"Akhen1khan2 aka Jack Eason said...
Face it Ken, like me you are of the wrong generation for appreciating Harry Potter lol. :)"


Hello? I am three and one half months younger than Ken, but I must be of a different generation then, because I read all the POTTER books and loved them, and have seen all the films except the last one, loved them and bought them.

The problem here is Ken looking at the books and films like they are stand-alone stories, rather than each one a chapter is a large novel.

Ken complained that the second time he tried to read one of the books, it was 700 pages long. This means it was not the second book. Of Course it made no sense.

Watching the first movie or reading the first book, and then skippng ahead several films/books is insane. Let's say you wanted to read David Copperfield. Would you read chapter one, then skip ahead and read chapter 20, and then try to read Chapter 60? This is out of 64 chapters? Would you watch Season one of Lost and then skip ahead and watch Season 5 and expect it to make sense?

The ONLY way to follow the story is to read or watch (or both) ALL of them, in order!

The Potter books/movies are not sequels; they are succesive chapters in one long, long story. (A very good story.) You know, If you watched the first hour of The Fellowship of the Ring and then watched the last hour of The Return of the King it would make no sense either.

Scot Boyd said...

I don't think the cast of Harry Potter is even old enough to get the "Sunshine Boys" reference.

Tim W. said...

Reads more than menus,

Not everyone's an arrogant prick who can't see the virtue in a whimsical story with endearing characters. By the way, I thought The DaVinci Code was a nice idea, but badly written, yet have never once questioned my wife's intelligence for enjoying the book.

Pat Reeder said...

Doug McEwan said:

"If you watched the first hour of The Fellowship of the Ring and then watched the last hour of The Return of the King it would make no sense either."

I have a feeling that if I watched all 1400 hours of the director's cut steamer trunk DVD set of that, it would still make no sense to me. Having tried three times in high school to get to the end of page one of "The Hobbit" without falling into a coma, I am completely at peace with the idea that I will be cremated before I ever watch a single minute of any "Lord of the Rings" film. I just have a low tolerance for swords and sorcery. Tits and togas might keep me awake, though.

As for "Harry Potter," I read about half the first book in someone's guest bedroom during a boring party, thought it was very good for children's literature, but felt no need to go on. Also saw the first movie, thought it was okay, and figured, "That's enough, here's where I get off." But I agree with Col. Flagg above: make a Sherman Potter movie, and I'll be there. As long it stars Harry Morgan and isn't recast with Russell Brand.

te said...

Would you watch Season one of Lost and then skip ahead and watch Season 5 and expect it to make sense?

I gave up after Season 1 didn't make any sense.

YEKIMI said...

Waiting for the porn version "Hairy Pooter & The Tingling Testicles". Maybe then I'll be interested in watching.

D. McEwan said...

"Pat Reeder said...
I have a feeling that if I watched all 1400 hours of the director's cut steamer trunk DVD set of that, it would still make no sense to me. Having tried three times in high school to get to the end of page one of "The Hobbit" without falling into a coma,"


No one is required to like Tolkien, thugh it's odd to be proud of being unable to read one page of a book that has charmed millions of readers, and which thousands of 8 year olds for over 70 years have had no trouble reading, let alone adults. Frankly, I'm usually not a sword & Socery fan either, but I devoured Tolkien in college, and have read the trilogy about once a decade ever since, and love his Silmarillion as well. And I've watched all of Jackson's extended editions six or seven times. I love them. You're not required to.

To judge a seven book series, which intentionally matures as it goes along (The books assume the readers are a year or more older by each book, and they get more and more adult. Not much whimsy, though there is certainly some, in the last book, which is full of darkness and death before its sunny, moving final pages.), by reading "About the first half" of one is hardly an informed judgement. An opinion based on 50 or 100 pages out of a saga of well over 2000 pages total is worthless.

te, Last time I watched the first season of Lost, which was about three months ago, as I've just finished rewatching the entire series again like a great, LOOOONG novel, it still made sense, as it always did. Sure there were mysteries, and eventually you got to the bottom of most of them. It's a great ride.

You know, everyone, you can watch a small part of a large work, or read a small part of a large story, and decide "It's not for me," and abandon it. That's fine. We're all allowed our own personal tastes. But if you've only watched a small part of a large work, or only read only a few pages, less than 1%, of a large story, you are not qualified to render an opinion on the work as a whole to others. If a critic leaves a movie five minutes in, fine, but his review of said movie is worthless.

Yekimi, there is already a gay porn version out (Already? It's about two years old), titled Whorrey Potter & the Sorcerer's Balls. Like the final Harry Potter movie, it's in 3-D, and is being billed as the First-ever 3-D gay porn movie. There may well be a straight porn Potter parody also. I pay no attention to straight porn.

Breadbaker said...

I'm 55, which I think is close enough to Ken's generation, and I've adored all the books and some of the movies (the Chris Columbus ones are sort of dreck, but the Cuaron one was simply superb). There are plenty of popular culture monuments I don't like at all, so I have no problem with someone who doesn't enjoy or feel the urge to invest the time in Rowling's work. Chacun a son gout and all that.

LinGin said...

Breadbaker - The BIO channel is running a series of specials on the Potter films. I realize this is so much PR but Chris Columbus was highly praised by each of the succeeding directors for establishing a template for their own efforts. Particularly Cuaron who said that Columbus gave the kids in particular (I mean, who really needs to direct Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith) such a solid foundation that he felt free to go where he wanted to. And remember nothing was done without the approval of Jo Rowling who was the final authority.

D. McEwan - I love you.

Ed D. said...

I've read all the books... the last one is by far the best. But when I watched the last movie, part I, it made little sense. Lots of pastels washing the screen.

But this is the series that got my kids reading. When the first one came out we were about to read it to our oldest kid and instead he grabbed it and wanted to read it himself. His first book. We helped with words, but he got through it.

What a wonderful series to have for my kids growing up. Good plot, good character and thematically compelling. And nuanced too. Dumbledore dying but leaving a legacy to Harry. The weakest kid, troubled kid, shining in the end, finding his feet and purpose. Much else. Love that my kids had it for their time. Love it.

LinGin said...

Ed D - And this is why Jo Rowling is my hero.

WV: deread (no joke): what way too many kids were doing until JK Rowling came along.

Lisa Hunter said...

Harry Potter is HIGHLY serialized. All the elements in Deathly Hallows were introduced in previous movies. I can't imagine trying to jump in to the finale without having seen what comes first.

Also, your emotional attachment to the characters builds throughout the series as you watch them growing up. Imagine, for instance, that the first episode of MASH you ever saw was the one where Colonel Blake is killed. A character you met for 15 minutes is gone, versus a character you've known and loved for years.

Lisa Hunter said...

BTW, the story takes place over seven school years, and since the movies took 10 years to make, the actors are only 3 or 4 years "too old" for their roles. That's part of the appeal for college-age kids -- the series has been about their generational cohort from the time they were in grade school, and it grew with them.

Barbara C. said...

Tim W.: I always wonder how confused the people who see the movies but haven't read the books get because so much is cut out.

D. McEwan: You pretty much say it all.

And Lisa Hunter is quite correct. There really is not that big of an age gap between the HP actors and characters especially compared to most television shows set in high school. (Lane on Gilmore Girls was supposed to be 16 but the actress was 27! Corey Monteith of Glee is also 11 years older than his character.)

Tony said...

This video might help: http://kottke.org/11/07/harry-potter-summed-up-in-seven-minutes

D. McEwan said...

Barbara and Lin, thanks for the love.

Hey folks, Ken's remark about the kids' ages was a joke. Remember, we come here to laugh? After all, Glee, and every other show about teenagers ever made has cast actors in their 20s to play 17 year olds since filmed enterainment began. I wrote a play (Rebel Without a Clue) that was a parody of teen rebel movies of the 1950s, and in the opening stage directions, I mandate that all the actors playing teenagers MUST look at least 30.

Matt Patton said...

To Pat Reeder:

I did make it past the first page of The Hobbit, but the second chapter was something of a trial. I never finished it, either. Eventually, I gave it to my second brother-in-law, who had always loved the book, so it made someone very happy. As for me, I've read several of Frank Baum's Oz books and loved them. And I didn't read any of them until I was an adult, so we probably all have certain kids books we can still enjoy as an adult--I also recommend Ian Fleming's Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, which is not only much better reading that most of the Bond novels, but even has a pretty good recipe for fudge in the back.

As for the HP movies, I've only seen one--The Prisoner of Azkaban. I enjoyed it a lot, and if nothing else, the film got three very good actors (the kids who played the kids) launched on their careers. Not to mention supplying at least a few days work on a regular basis to most of the good character actors in the British Isles.

D. McEwan said...

Matt, I was raised on Baum's OZ books, had all of them read to me as a kid, and reread the whole series myself in my 30s. I am always a bit puzzled by people comparing them to the Potter books, wich lots of critics do, because beyond both being children's fantasy novels, they are barely comperable.

Both show a lot of imagination, but he is clearly improvising plots, recyling plots, sometimes really baldly (Tok-Tok of Oz for instance, is a really just a rewrite of Ozma of Oz), and The Marvellous Land of Oz was intended to be adapted for a stage musical, and featured lots of stage patter dialogue, and a chorus line of girls for Jin-Jur's Army.

The Oz books vary widely in quality. Some are fairly serious in tone (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is very straight-forward), while others are very jokey, with often annoying over-punning in the prose. The best ones, like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Ozma of Oz, and The Patchwork Girl of Oz are very good, but others, like Rinkitink in Oz, The Road to Oz, and The Scarecrow of Oz are tedious to get through. But often even the weak ones can contain some marvellous bit of imagination. The Tin Woodman of Oz for instance, is pretty much a mess, but the scene where the Tin Man confronts his own former human head, still alive, in the tinsmith's cupboard, and has an argument with his own head as to which of them is the real Nick Chopper is a dizzying look at identity.

But the Oz boks are very inconsistent, contradictory (In some, people in Oz can die, in others no dies or ages, if you're an infant, you reamin one forever. Not my idea of a magical paradise. In the early ones they have money, but the later ones have eliminated any economic system, and operates in a straight-forward, totally Socialist economy. The pre-history of Oz - that is, before Dorothy - and Ozma's backstory, changes radically from book to book.) and vary tremendously in quality.

Rowling's Potter books are very consistent. All of them are well-written, the whole series was plotted as a whole before the first one was written, and they avoid contradicting themselves they way the Oz Books do, and just overall, they are of a higher quality than the Oz books, and certianly reward the adult reader more than Baum, bless him, does.

Pat Reeder said...

Doug McEwan wrote:

No one is required to like Tolkien, thugh it's odd to be proud of being unable to read one page of a book that has charmed millions of readers, and which thousands of 8 year olds for over 70 years have had no trouble reading, let alone adults.

Doug, I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of sarcastic hyperbole. I'm actually quite literate. (I even noticed you misspelled "though," but am far too polite to point it out). I just am not on the Tolkien wavelength, although I did enjoy the National Lampoon's "Bored of the Rings," the existence of which proves I'm not the only one. That faux medieval magical fantasy style of writing just irritates me. My first wife loved Regency Romances, and reading a few pages of that had a similar headache-inducing effect, like trying to decipher pig Latin.

I admit, though, I generally don't care for sword-and-sorcery style fantasy. In 99 percent of cases, I'd rather watch a movie about real people made on a tiny budget than any $200 million Hollywood CGI-fest. I don't begrudge anyone else enjoying it (although if you spend your free time dressing up as Gandalf and going to wizard conventions, I think you need to get a life). Read all the Tolkien you want, just leave me alone with my Thurber and Benchley and don't try to inflict it on me.

VW: Enest - The matchmaking website for birds.

Pat Reeder said...

PS, Doug:

Before you imply that I have bad taste in literature, you should know that I own a copy of your book that I bought off of Amazon. I'm your reading public. Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!!

Pat Reeder said...

To Matt Patton:

Thanks for the tips and commisserations on your frustration with Tolkien's circular prose. I read "Chitty, etc." several eons ago when I was catching up on a lot of Ian Fleming, but don't remember it well. I will check it out again. My wife also has several first editions of the lesser-known "Oz" books that were passed down through her family, and I'll have to crack them open. Did you know Frank Baum tried to turn them into silent films himself? (Bad idea for him financially). I have a boxed DVD set called "The Origins of Film" from the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian that has one of them on it. It's called "Patchwork Girl of Oz" from 1914. Not exactly an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, but interesting for film historians and Oz fans. There's also the Larry Semon-Oliver Hardy version of "The Wizard of Oz," but that bears about as much resemblance to Baum's work as Tolkien does to Hemingway.

sephim said...

For people who got confused because they read the books out of order or something like that, maybe this will help...

http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harry-potter-films-according-to-someone-who-never-saw-them/

Fallen Rose said...

I share your sentiment. I followed what was going on, but I thought the overall premise was annoying. The whole appeal of Harry Potter to me was getting out of gray, dull, negative "muggles" land and into colorful, interesting, positive "wizard" land. Yet, all these scenes were gray, dull, negative - and in muggles London, and other muggles areas, over and over. Why am I watching this? I'm thinking to myself. I've got enough gray negative dull mind numbing muggles crap in real life - I don't need to pay to see it on a screen. So, I too, will not be seeing the next Harry Potter movie.

By the way, on a side note, I have always felt that TV has gone to crap, and now I know why - I saw that all my favorite TV shows from the past - YOU WERE THE WRITER! Glad to find you online. Take care.

Matt Patton said...

Thanks for all of the comment on the OZ books -- Doug is right that they vary wildly in quality sometimes, but they're sill a lot of fun to read. I wouldn't, couldn't compare them to the Potter books because I really haven't read any of them. Not my thing. Still, if they got kids reading, good for Ms. Rowling. She earned her billion dollars.

Johnny Walker said...

Dude, you can't skip books. The whole thing is one big story! You can skip the films, though. In fact, I feel sorry for those who are having the stories played out by the films, as they are a poor facsimile (unsurprisingly).

marshall1 said...

the films are so far away away from the books they might be expressed as my wallet from my ambitions.

D. McEwan said...

Pat,

A. I didn't mispell "though," I had a typo that slipped past me on a hurried proof-read before hitting "send." (I'm a terrible proof-reader, which I was professionally for a while at The Hollywood Reporter, 25 years ago.)

B. You omitted from your quote of my post: "You know, everyone, you can watch a small part of a large work, or read a small part of a large story, and decide 'It's not for me,' and abandon it. That's fine. We're all allowed our own personal tastes."

I believe I strongly made the point that we're all allowed our own tastes. Why (and HOW) would I "inflict" Tolkien on you? My only point is, if you haven't read it, you can't really criticize it. I'm fairly sure the novels of Danielle Steel and Jackie Collins are crap, but never having read any, I can not make an informed judgement on them.

I find a music in Tolkien's prose that appeals to me, I like his humor very much (There's a not-un-Benchley-esque flavor to his domestic-hobbits humor.), and the whole large-scale imaginary world works for me. I finds a great beauty in his Silmarillion myth cycle. From Oz to Middle-Earth to Neverland to Wonderland to The Island on Lost, I like a good, magical seperate/alternative world. I get enough Reality living real life.

I too read Bored of the Rings, back in college when it was first published, BEFORE I read Tolkien, because Douglas Kenney was an idol of mine. (Got to meet him once.) It was what got me to read Tolkien in the first place since, as I also mentioned, I too am not a reader of sword and sorcery stuff. You couldn't drag me into Game of Thrones. And I watched about 7 episodes of the Spartacus TV series before I abandoned it. The homoeroticism was all that had sustained me even that far, and even it wasn't enough to keep subjecting myself to all that atrocious dialogue. Has there ever been a worse-written hit series?

About five years ago, I reacquired Bored of the Rings and reread it. To my surprise, I found it didn't hold up for me, and just wasn't very funny to me any longer. It now seemed labored and obvious, more MAD Magazine than National Lampoon.

I was raised on Thruber and Benchley, though I took to Benchley much more than Thurber. My mother read Benchley to me when I was young, as she had loved his pieces since girlhood, and had a lovely large collection of them I devoured. I met Peter Benchley once, and spent half an hour just talking about his dad's works with him, showing him a book I had about his dad's theatrical shorts. Peter had not seen the book before. (The book was about a year old. The novel Jaws had just come out. He was on his book tour, so it wasn't yet a cultural phenomenon.)

I have most of Robert Benchley's theatrical shorts on video. Benchley has always been an influence on my own style.

I have never gone anywhere dressed as a wizard, though in 1974, when I was 24, I went to a Star Trek convention costume show dressed as a half-man/half-tribble, and won their "Most Humorous Costume Award". The judges who gave it to me were Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett Roddenberry. Gene had almost fallen out of his seat laughing when I said "Like all Tribbles, I reproduce once every 12 hours, and if I keep it up, they're going to throw me out of the hotel"

(Continues below)

D. McEwan said...

(Continuing)

I have a boxed set of all of the Oz films made by Baum's short-lived movie company. (There are only 3) Coincidentally enough, in the mid 1980s, I loved one block from where his studio had been located. (El Centro & Santa Monica Blvd.) They are certainly not much good. I think The Patchwork Girl of Oz is the best of them, and is at least a recognizable adaptation of the book. But yes, making those movies turned out to be a bad financial move for Baum. (And it's impossible to really understand those films within the cultural context of 97 years ago, when they were pretty much cutting-edge fantasy films. They certainly do not hold up.)

I also have the Larry Semon Wizard of Oz, which was made years later, after Baum was dead, and if he hadn't been dead, that movie might have killed him. It is unwatchable, rather literally, as I've never managed to force myself to view the entire thing. A tremendous bore. What a waste of Oliver Hardy.

The Oz Books I grew up with were all early editions from the 1920s, that my mother had had as a girl back in the '20s. They included all the Baum books, and several of the Ruth Plumly Thompson ones. Much as I loved the Baum ones (Even the worst of them are still fun reads, though Rinkitink in Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz can be real slogs to push through), I disliked the Ruth Plumly Thompson ones, too "girly" for me, and never read more than two of them. Sadly though, I do not possess those elderly volumes. They went to my sister, and then to her kids, and are now in the possession of my sister's grandkids, which is where they belong. I have nice paperbacks of all the Baum Oz books (and a couple of his non-Oz books: Queen Zixi of Ix and The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus), except for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as for that I have The Annnotated Wizard of Oz, a deluxe hardcover beauty. All these books retain their original illustrations. Great as Denslow's pictures were, it was John R. Niell's pictures that was the Oz of my childhood imagination.

When MGM made their famous Wizard of Oz, a costumer foud a coat for Frank Morgan in a Hollywood thrift shop. After they bought it, Morgan found a paper with Baum's name on it in a pocket. Baum's widow, Maude Gage Baum, was still alive, and she verified that the coat had indeed belonged to her husband, and she had donated it to Goodwill after he died. Morgan wears it in the movie in all his scenes as Professor Marvel, which is ironic, since Baum did not create Professor Marvel, who was invented for the movie. Still, an amazing coincidence!

In the late 1980s, the Hollywood Public Library had a Baum exhibit. There was one exhibit that blew me away to see. It was a nub of a pencil, barely 2 and a half inches long, and discoloerd with time and use. It was in a frame on a hand-written note. The note said: "With this pencil, I wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum." I felt I was seeing a Holy Relic.

Hope you enjoyed my book, which was not written with a pencil. Though Patrick Dennis is more of an influence on it than Benchley, I'd like to think Benchley readers would embrace it. (Thurber has never been an influence on my work.) Any misspellings in it?