Monday, February 23, 2009


What is it about Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz that engages people year after year? After watching the classic movie with my kids, I checked out the original book. I was surprised at the differences, most notably how Dorothy is a much stronger, more self-reliant character who has to use her wits to get out of many more troubles than the movie character.

I also picked up The Wizard of Oz: Shaping an Imaginary World and discovered that after the success of his book, Mr. Baum lost money in several theatrical/film ventures and wound up having to write 14 sequels to the Oz books (usually coming out right before Christmas time). The sequels continued after Baum's death and some librarians/children's literature scholars dismissed the entire series as having any value to children 30 years after the Wizard of Oz was first written. However, the 1939 film version kept Oz and its characters part of the American landscape.

I'd heard of the broadway show, Wicked and knew songs such as "Popular" were from it. I didn't realize the 2004 musical was based on another book about that magical kingdom written in 1995.
Author Gregory Maguire created a story for the grownups in Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West. Just as you may be surprised when Lady Chatterley's lover reads more like a political manifesto than a juicy romance, so does Wicked explore weighty issues such as the nature of evil, while exploring political and religious holds on people who live under the dictatorship of the Wizard. I found myself slogging through the story of Elphaba (also known as the Wicked Witch of the West), her sister, friends (including Glinda) as they grew up in Oz during the earlier years of Oz's rule. I was enchanted with the story, though, and found the parallels to the book really interesting -- a talking lion makes perfect sense, the power of the glass prism shoes (not Ruby red) is explored, even the flying monkeys are explained. Elphaba is a complex, meaningful character in this book who seems to wreck havoc in the lives of those close to her-- without meaning to. Throughout her life she seems blessed and cursed at the same time. Because she didn't survive to give her side of the story and happened to be born with green skin, she became a nightmare character for generations of children.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Motorcycle Diaries

The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Che Guevara


I feel that it is very unfortunate when icons become solely known for their revolutionary tendencies. I find that their beginnings are far more fascinating. Ernesto Che Guevara’s diary is one that is very close to Beat literature in some senses. It is a manifestation of change, of discovering culture and social identity, and of taking this discovery to hone in on the individual. When most often times people look within to find themselves (that sounds very fluffy-bunnyish. I apologize—barf bags are located in the front pocket of the seat in front of you.) I agree with Guevara that it is outside of the self that we discover the human being and figure out that our role is at once miniscule and abounding. The film is excellent too…but read the diary first.

S. Clark

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I know this blog promotes reading for fun but I wanted to give my thoughts after reading the Jan 30th Dakota Student article on Tackling Textbook Troubles. I've just returned from the American Library Association Conference where I saw presentations by Nicole Allen, leader of the Make Textbooks affordable campaign, associate professor David Wiley, the "Chief Openness Officer" for Flat World Knowlege and Mark Nelson, "Digital Content Strategist" for the National Association of College Stores.

As I librarian, I was familiar with the "Open Access" movement to allow faculty to retain/negotiate rights for the research they produce. At this talk I learned of a push to create high quality textbooks that may be free to view online and available in print at a nominal cost-say $30 (for accounting and engineering textbooks!). Interestingly, the book store industry rep embraced this concept because bookstores do not make much of a profit from textbooks. Nelson talked about bookstores collaborating with libraries to create digital bookshelves. Someone mentioned that so far students have continued to buy (the very affordable) print versions to own but have easy access to the textbooks electronically while on campus (I wonder if Follet knows about this new strategy--I found on their website a 2004 document dealing with textbook prices).

The library does have some online books right now and we look into buying more but we need to match the right content with the right price and have access that doesn't expire. We haven't found that right mix yet. Today's Futuretense public radio program I like to listen to shows we're not alone in this problem, Why ebooks have yet to take off in a big way (2/3/09 program).

So, maybe someday soon real change will come for student reading, recreational and otherwise.