Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Latest Oz Reading

Yup, more to tell you about!

  • This weekend's short story, another from Oz Reimagined, is "Dorothy Dreams" by Simon R. Green. After the elaborate world-building and taut storylines of the previous books in this collection, this slight little number came as a disappointment, as it's little more than an aged Dorothy finding herself back in Oz, and that Oz isn't really Oz in the first place. Yes, it's Oz as metaphor. I won't tell you much more, so as not to spoil what little surprise there is, but it just rang hollow for me. It also totally ignores every Oz book except The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a nice little nod to other children's literature classics, however.
  • The Land of Oz (not to be confused with the second Oz book) is a tie-in book to Oz the Great and Powerful, designed for beginning readers. It's a pretty simple retelling of the story of the movie, told in short words in large type. It's not terribly expensive, and a nice way to get some screen grabs in color, but for the most part unremarkable.
  • Finally, the book that's gotten so many Oz fans riled up, Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan I. Schwartz. I must admit, I was not expecting a lot from this book, which is probably a good thing, since I found myself enjoying it — but probably not for the reasons Schwartz would want me to. It kept reminding me of Katharine M. Roger's L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz, in that Schwartz also did a lot of research into what else was going on around Baum during his life, and not just the personal highlights. And like Rogers, he tries to shoehorn a lot of those events into the creation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It rarely works well. Like a terrier with a rat, once Schwartz latches on to an idea of how history influenced Oz, he never lets it go. He's not able to back many ideas up, however, and creates scenarios when it suits his narrative. His ultimate goal is to show how his life influenced the writing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which means anything else after that was not important. He even admits in the endnotes that he moved a few events from later in his life up to tie into his thesis. And how could he so easily misspell the name of John R. Neill? He also manages to nail the anti-Native American editorials Baum wrote in South Dakota into the wood a few too many times, bringing them up over and over again in a way that I very much doubt Baum or his family ever thought of. And he attributes a lot of bits from The Movie to Baum, even though it was made twenty years after Baum died. (The story of Maud and the Bismarks becoming Aunt Em's crullers is just ridiculous.) The one intriguingly new bit of information I got from this book was Maud's background and her time at Cornell, but to be honest, with the amount of speculation that Schwartz takes part in here, that must be taken with a grain of salt as well.

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