Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The latest Oz reading

I just finished off another whole big bunch of books. And here they are:

  • The Collected Short Stories of L. Frank Baum by...do I really need to tell you that? This has been one of the longest times I've ever taken to read a book, of any sort, just because I took it in pieces. I got the book when it first came out in '06, and I've just now finished it! At nearly six hundred pages, I didn't think I'd have the stamina to read it all at once. So I read a few stories at a time, along with the rest of my Oz readings. Good thing I had it with me when I first started working out here and had to live out of a motel for a few weeks, it was the perfect tonic for that situation! I'd already read most of the book before, of course, in various sources, but it was good to revisit these stories, and it's nice to have them all in one place. It is, however, not quite complete, as it's missing Baum's "Our Landlady" columns from his days in Dakota Territory (which were more topical, and therefore may not have quite been appropriate for this collection), and the stories from A New Wonderland/The Magical Monarch of Mo and The Little Wizard Stories of Oz. But it's pretty thorough otherwise. Okay, Oz Club, now that we have this book, how about The Collected Poems of L. Frank Baum, The Collected Scripts of L. Frank Baum, and The Collected Essays of L. Frank Baum?
  • My next book is another of those I can't tell you about, because of dubious legality (fortunately, it's also the last of those). Let's just say that chaos breaks out when a lot of magic spells that have been broken on some of our favorite Oz characters are reversed! It ends on a cliffhanger, but I already read the resolution to that in an earlier book. Um, I'm afraid there's not much more I can say.
  • Mary Louise Solves a Mystery by "Edith Van Dyne". I snagged this off ABE not long ago, and this was the last book Baum wrote as "Edith Van Dyne" that I didn't already have (but not the last I've read; that will be coming up in the next few months). The first third of the book or so doesn't even feature Mary Louise or her grandfather or the inevitable appearance by plucky girl detective Josie O'Gorman, but set things up for Mary Louise and Josie. Between the two of them — and for once, Mary Louise actually does have a big part in solving the mystery — they managed to piece things together, but I'd figured much of it out even before they showed up on the scene. Still, it's an engaging little potboiler that I'm sure teenage girls of a hundred years ago enjoyed.
  • A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth. Oh my word, I think I am seriously crushing on this little stage brat who originated the role of Glinda in Wicked. She's just as much a dynamo on the printed page as she is on stage and screen. She's had an interesting life and career, and she claims this book only skims the surface. She's saving the really juicy stuff for telling a lot later in her life. I was particularly amused by her best friend, Denny, and her boyfriend, Aaron Sorkin, interjecting and adding their own take on incidents (typing in italics) over Kristin's objections. Her recipes are a riot, too (and no, I don't think the cookies killed anyone, they were just catalysts). This is one of the few books I'm thinking about buying again — this time, the audiobook!
  • And finally, The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum by Rebecca Loncraine. This is the latest full-length adult-type biography of L. Frank Baum. To be honest, I wasn't impressed. I think Loncraine often stretched too far to make a connection between something that happened to Baum (or even just something that was happening in the news) and something that Baum wrote about. Still, she does go into more historical background than some other Baum biographies have done in the past, and she does have some interesting ideas. It's also interesting getting a Brit's viewpoint on Oz and L. Frank Baum, as she's able to come to things from a little different perspective. However, there were enough errors to bug me, such as the "Mungaboos" in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, the Quadlings having no arms and stretchy necks in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and "The Runaway Shadows" was not in American Fairy Tales. But what really got to me were the lack of citations. Loncraine gives no evidence in the text of her claims, and doesn't back anything up with specifics. To be sure, there is a short paragraph at the end of the book of some of her sources for each section, but it's not at all clear what came from what. I guess we're still waiting for that definitive Baum biography (right, Michael Patrick Hearn?).

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