cover image Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz

Salman Rushdie. British Film Institute, $14.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-85170-300-8

This is one of the first in a new series of monographs pairing writers and film scholars with a film of their own choosing from the BFI archives. At first glance, the controversial author of The Satanic Verses might seem an odd pairing with the MGM musical classic, but Rushdie proclaims that the Judy Garland film was ``my very first literary influence.'' The essay that follows this confession is sprightly, witty and surprisingly deeply felt. Like the embattled Rushdie, Dorothy is an exile looking for a way back home, the victim of a wicked witch not unlike Rushdie's nemesis, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Rushdie revels in the film's ``joyful and almost complete secularism,'' while confessing his debt to it for the style of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. He also offers an idiosyncratic feminist defense of the Wicked Witch of the West and some mordant humor, as in his dismissal of Toto as ``that little yapping hairpiece.'' The second half of this slender volume is a short story that inflates the ruby slippers into a bloated and portentous metaphor. The tale's failure, however, isn't enough to take the luster off the essay that precedes it. Illustrations not seen by PW. First serial to the New Yorker. (Sept.)