My book quest has made it into my dreams. Typically my dreams are about anxiety or mundane activities with a little weird thrown in. I spent many years bartending and waiting tables; my anxiety dreams for nearly a decade involved some form of me being in the weeds. If you aren’t familiar with the phrase “in the weeds”, it’s a service industry phrase to describe getting overwhelmed by your tables/customers. There are many causes for a good server to be in the weeds, but they normally stem from a particularly needy table or poor seating timing. My mundane dreams typically involve something that I would do in my waking hours. A few weeks ago, I had a dream that I was required to converse with other people using only PHP (server-side web programming language) statements and methods. I woke up laughing.
So, my book dream, I was with Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder and not Johnny Depp). He was giving me a tour of my high school cafeteria. My classmates were at various tables acting out assorted Disney movies. I’m not sure why or how the cafeteria transformed into the set for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but it did. Willy Wonka seemed to take this morphing as an obvious transition and proceeded the tour in our new location. This is where I woke up.
I’ve seen the 1971 edition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory several times, although the last sitting was years and years ago. I’ve not seen the 2005 version. Here’s the first thing that struck me about the book in contrast to the movies. Willy Wonka isn’t as weird in the book as he is portrayed to be in either of the movies, but particularly the 2005 release.
As a kid, I found Willy Wonka terrifying, and the oompa loompas doubly so. Full disclosure, I am completely freaked out by little people. I am ashamed that I feel that way, as I know they are people and should be treated with respect. They freak me out in the same way that an unleashed dog nearing me freaks me out. I was bitten by an Irish Setter when I was 5, and unfamiliar dogs still make that lizard part of my brain light up with the fight or flight response. I feel the same when confronted by a little person, although I was not bitten one. Still the same fight or flight physical response happens.
After the first few chapters of the book, I was put at ease by a number of things. First, Willy Wonka was peculiar, but not to the extent that I was expecting given both the movies. And the oompa loompas were described as being knee-height, bearing more in common with Tinkerbell than the orange-faced terrors in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Once the uncomfortably weird aspects of the movie were purged from my mind, I really enjoyed the book. The book was less dark than either of the movies. With one exception, the uncertain fates of the naughty children are pretty heavy. They imply that Augustus Gloop could be mashed into raspberry cream. Veruca Salt along with her parents could be incinerated. Although the book seems to pass this off as less scary than it seems as I write it now.
In short, I really liked this book. I liked it more than either of the movies, and I am a Gene Wilder fan. Because Willy Wonka is less frightening, the ending with Charlie and his family moving into the factory is far more sensible. Finally as a vehicle for teaching morality to children, I thought it wasn’t as heavy handed as some of my other reads on this list. Now, only to get over my irrational issues with little people…