In 1992, Salman Rushdie published a thoughtful essay on “The Wizard of Oz” and its surprising influence on his own writing in The New Yorker. As a child, in Bombay, he titled the first story he ever wrote, “Over the Rainbow”. Rushdie was fascinated by the film’s two themes: Escape and Homecoming. The film, he argues, “is about the joys of walking away, leaving the grey and entering the paint, starting a new life in the ‘place where you don’t get trouble’.” It can also easily be interpreted as a kind of homage to the experience of immigrants – with Judy Garland’s beguiling “Over the Rainbow,” which serves as a “great eulogy to the uprooted self.” Rushdie’s work points to the lure of this idea of reinvention. Another step down the yellow brick road (and to less busy shores), he seems to say, and one is well on his way to freeing one’s imagination.
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This week we bring you a selection of pieces about the influence of the film on literature and vice versa. In “A Psychotronic Childhood,” Colson Whitehead writes about how his childhood love of B-movies and science fiction influenced his prose. (“Years later, when I finally came to write my own horror novel ,Zone One, I tried to capture this elemental horror of the familiar, which turns into a murderous state.”) In “The Movie Lover,” Pauline Kael reflects on how she found her own voice as a film critic. In “Slow Fade,” Arthur Krystal explores F. Scott Fitzgerald’s complicated relationship with Hollywood. (“Billy Wilder, who seemed sincere to like Fitzgerald, compared him to “a great sculptor hired for a plumber’s job.”) In “No. 1512-II,” Lillian Ross describes the tensions behind the scenes of John Huston’s blockbuster adaptation of “The Red Badge of Courage.” Finally, in “The Clockwork Condition,” Anthony Burgess explores how Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film captures the spirit of his dystopian satirical novel “A Clockwork Orange.” (“Alex is a comic allotment of Alexander the Great, who makes his way through the world and conquers it. But he becomes a conqueror – impotent, wordless.”) Both film and literature gain new layers of meaning over time. We hope that these pieces will inspire some satisfying cinematic (and literary) detours this weekend.