Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Latest Oz-Related Reading

I'm not in one of my usual Oz reading cycles right now, but I had to read this one for a very special reason. In fact, I had intended it as part of my last cycle, but it didn't arrive in time. It seems that the first copy the place sent me got lost in the mail, so they hunted down another one! So, what book is this? I finally found an affordable copy of Crown Fire by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This is one of only two of Eloise's books I didn't have, and the last fiction book of hers. (Yes, that means the only one I'm missing now is Techniques of Fiction Writing, which seems to have jumped in price in recent years.) This is one of her earliest books, having been published in 1951, a dozen years before Merry Go Round in Oz. It's the story of Chip Ladou, a hotheaded young French-Canadian lumberjack working in the Pacific Northwest somewhere. (The nearby town is the fictitious Port Chance. There are enough references to local landmarks that it's pretty clear it's in Washington or Oregon. Since Eloise lived in the Portland area munch of her life, and most of her modern fiction is set there, this is not a risky assumption.) His temper takes him too far one day, and he walks out of camp before he can be kicked out. Logging jobs are getting hard to come by, however, so he settles in Port Chance, returns to high school, and gets a job as a dishwasher at the local soda shop. He gets in trouble for fighting on the first day of school, but he also realizes he has friends and allies, and a teacher takes an interest in him and starts teaching him how to box. It's a real little slice-of-life story, and Chip has a lot of growing up to do over the course of the book. Of course, set in a lumbering town and with a name like Crown Fire, you'd expect the climax to be a forest fire, which it is. I enjoyed the story as a piece of Americana and an example of Eloise's work, but if you're just an Oz fan, you don't need to hunt this down for your collection.

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