August 2nd, 2008


A World of Pure Imagination

I finally got around to actually reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as its sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. They were very quick reads, and I enjoyed them. It does seem like some of the kids' sins in the original book are a little out of date nowadays. It's not as common for people to object to gum-chewing in general (although, admittedly, Violet Beauregarde was pretty gross about it), and the fact that the Oompa-Loompas' song about Mike Teavee implies that the main problem with kids watching a lot of TV is that they don't read books anymore suggests that there might have been some professional jealousy involved on Roald Dahl's part.

One thing I noticed about Great Glass Elevator was the advanced technology in it. In Chocolate Factory, the world seemed to be pretty normal aside from the factory itself. In the sequel, however, the United States has just launched its own space hotel. Near the beginning of the book, Dahl writes, "Newspapers and television had been shouting about almost nothing else for the past six months. Operation Space Hotel was the event of the century." But since Elevator is an immediate follow-up to the first book, does that mean the space hotel and the golden tickets were Big News at the same time? Anyway, perhaps when this book came out, a space hotel really seemed like something that would be built pretty soon. I know I had a book as a kid that said the Hiltons planned to build a space hotel if the cost of space travel dropped to a certain level, and Dahl has the United States government consider "Mr. Hilton" as a possible saboteur of the Space Hotel. Anyway, the book had a lot of clever ideas, but a much looser plot than Chocolate Factory, which might explain why it's never been filmed.

On a related topic, if Willy Wonka is supposed to make the best candy in the world, how come the actual company called "Willy Wonka" makes kinda crappy candy? I think there's a general difficulty associated with using fictional product names for real-life things. I mean, I guess making a Muggle approximation of Bertie Bott's Every-Flavour Beans was all right (and yes, I did eat a small box of them, including the gross flavors), but it's possible to take the idea too far. Incidentally, on the commentary for The Beast with a Billion Backs, someone mentioned that Fox copyrighted the name "Slurm" for a drink. If they decide to market Slurm and it doesn't actually come out of a colossal worm heinie, I'm not interested. :P

Finally, I saw a link to this list of the top 50 children's books on the Oz Club forums some time ago. I thought it would make a good meme, but I forgot about it at the time. Reading Chocolate Factory reminded me of it, though, so here it is in meme form. I'm bolding the ones I've read all the way through, and italicizing the ones I've read part of. (There aren't quite as many of those as usual, since these are mostly fairly short books, but it's the case for some of the story collections.) Also, I'm underlining my favorites.
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