10 December 2013

He Could Play the Wizard. Then Again, He Could Play Anybody.

For its latest “By the Book” column, the New York Times Book Review interviewed actor Bryan Cranston, who’s not an author but has read audiobooks, and is much more famous and admired than many authors. Among the questions:
If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?

The “Wizard of Oz” novelist, L. Frank Baum. . . If he really was a racist as is rumored. And if so, how could he write such a heartfelt story? Were the Munchkins a metaphor? Did he have the Wicked Witch of the West killed off because he hated green people?
The question of racism involves Baum’s editorials on the Sioux, which I discussed back here. The Munchkins as metaphor might refer to the silly Populist allegory theory. As for the Wicked Witch, she was green in MGM’s Technicolor movie; in Baum’s book, she had only one eye.

But Cranston’s fundamental question remains: What is the source of heart-warming art? Does it require an author to be pure of heart himself? Or is that a requirement we fans wish to impose?

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