Sunday, July 23, 2006

My latest Oz readings and acquisitions

I know, I know, the convention has been over for a week now, and you want to hear all the news. Soon, my pretties, soon! But here's a little taste, in what I've recently read and bought.

First, readings! Before the convention, I finished The Oz Encounter by Marv Wolfman. I'd read this before, when I got a used copy of the original paperback edition years ago, but I liked the new edition better. The chapters that take place in Oz (well, a dream version of Oz) use the original typeface, and redrawn chapter headings from The Road to Oz to add to the atmosphere. This is a well-designed book, and I enjoyed reading it again from a more experienced perspective. But hardcore Oz fans will want to avoid it, as it's not really about Oz anyway.

You may have read my adventures about getting my copy of Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire on this very blog back in September. Well, it finally bubbled up to the top of my reading pile, and so I tucked in. I was a little worried about taking a signed first edition on the road with me, but it came through just fine. This was a good read, and in some ways I enjoyed it better than Wicked. Maybe this time I had a better idea of what I was in for, and came at it with different expectations. Then again, I came at Wicked not expecting to enjoy it, but I did. This time, I think my expectations were more neutral. Also, without the Wicked Witch or (most of the time) Dorothy, this read less like an Oz book. When the Oz elements did pop up (especially Glinda, the Scarecrow, and the old woman, her "grandson," and their four-horned cow), it surprised me, as I really got caught up in Liir and his adventures as he discovered who he really was, and what that meant in the first place. Some nice twists and good plot and character developments made this a very pleasant and enjoyable read for me, even though it wasn't the "real" Oz, nor was it always a happy book. Like others, I'm wondering if Maguire has set this up to become the second volume of a trilogy, as there are still loose ends, but I'd be happy if this is where it ends.

And now, stuff I've gotten! First, I got to thinking about Queen Zixi of Ix and how hard it would be to get a first edition. Then I learned about how different that edition was from its original publication in St. Nicholas Magazine, with misaligned colors and the illustrations not quite matching up with the one-column format, as St. Nicholas was printed in two columns. So, I thought, why couldn't I get the story's original publication in St. Nicholas? I knew they published bound sets of the magazine for libraries. I did a little poking around on Bookfinder, and sure enough, I found both volumes from 1905 at reasonable prices. To be sure, they are not in terribly good shape — the first volume's covers are completely detached from the rest of the book — but the interiors seem to be all there and in nice shape. I'm looking forward to rereading the story again as it was originally presented.

Everything else I've bought lately has been at the Convention, and I doubt I'll be getting any new Oz books for a while as a result. But that's all right, as my to-read pile is already starting to get a little rickety, it's so tall now. Here's the list:

  • The 2005 edition of Oziana, the Club's literary magazine. (The 2006 edition is due from the printers in October, and as I was able to afford a premium membership this year, I won't have to wait for it this time.)
  • The last copy the Club had of the January/February 2001 issue of The Horn Book magazine, with a feature article about Oz by Michael Patrick Hearn (and, by coincidence, a piece on using children's literature to teach math).
  • Two new short story anthologies from the Club, The Collected Short Stories of L. Frank Baum, which even includes some stories published in previous books, such as Mother Goose in Prose and American Fairy Tales; and The Wonder Book by Ruth Plumly Thompson, the hard-to-find colleciton of some of her early newspaper work. (Hey, if these do well, can we later get a collected poems of L. Frank Baum?)
  • New hardcover, dust jacketed editions of the Oz Club's earliest books: Yankee in Oz and The Enchanted Island of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson, The Forbidden Fountain of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw, and The Ozmapolitan of Oz by Dick Martin. These are all print-on-demand editions with ISBNs, and for the first time look and feel like real Oz books. I hope they'll show up on Amazon soon.
  • The Club pulled a few strings, and got a bunch of remaindered copies of The Emerald Wand of Oz and some early copies of Trouble Under Oz, both by Sherwood Smith, who was there. Needless to say, I got one of each (so now I have two of Emerald Wand, since I left my other copy at home) and they're both autographed now.
  • My one non-Oz Club buy was The Scream of the Sacred Ape, the new Hungry Tiger edition of the book originally published as The Boy Fortune Hunters in China under one of L. Frank Baum's pen names.

Honorable mention goes to my copy of Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote by John Fricke. I've known John for a couple of decades now, and he was happy to sign it for me, with his usual very long inscription which may take as long to read as the book itself. Also, one of the Winkies was kind enough to give me a copy of the new DVD The Wonderful Galaxy of Oz, a sci-fi take on the story.

And that is it! (For now...)

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