Saturday, August 03, 2019

The Latest Oz Reading

Here's the second wave of my most recent Oz readings:

  • A Very Grimm Guide by Michael Buckley. I collected, read, and thoroughly enjoyed Buckley's Sisters Grimm series, about a bunch of classic old fairy tale characters living in seclusion in upstate New York. (Yes, a similar premise to the Fables comic book series, but handled very differently.) So when I came into some money and was able to buy a bunch of books, this was one of the first ones I put in my cart! It's a behind-the-scenes look at the series, with information about the characters, Ferryport Landing and its history, the Grimm family history, and lots of other great stuff (with editorial comments penciled in by Puck). It also looks at many of the stories that were mined for this series and their creators, so naturally there are a few pages on Oz and a profile of L. Frank Baum. And now I can brag that my Sisters Grimm collection is complete, although not all of them (including this one) have been autographed by Buckley yet.
  • My non-Oz Royal Historian reread this time around was Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This was Eloise's first book set in ancient Egypt, but not her last! I remember almost nothing about my first reading of this, so reading it again was quite a revelation. Mara is a slave, but she is clever and ambitious and yearns for freedom. Her abilities to read, write, and speak Babylonian gets her placed at the court of the pharaoh, Queen Hatshupsut. The only trouble is, she is recruited by both those who want to keep Hatshepsut on the throne and those who want to replace her with Prince Thutmose! Mara does the best she can to keep both sides informed and stay at court, but as usually happens in these sorts of stories things unravel and she is brutally interrogated. However, all turns out well in the end, as usually also happens in these types of stories. One thing I really appreciate about Eloise's historical fiction is that her characters are really immersed in their own cultures, and therefore so are the readers. What may be odd or unusual for us is absolutely normal for them, so we are completely embedded in their world, encountering it as they see it. Mara has a rare slip-up when Mara refers to the sea the Nile empties into as the Mediterranean Sea, and not Uat-Ur. But that was about it!
  • The Ruby Slippers of Oz: Thirty Years Later by Rhys Thomas. With last year's surprise recovery of the pair of Ruby Slippers stolen in 2005, I knew I had to get this book. Sure enough, it has been significantly updated since the first edition in 1989, and the real-life saga of all known sets of ruby slippers is still fascinating. And it turns out that Thomas was in the middle of the recovery of the stolen slippers, as the FBI contacted him to lend his expertise. He also has information about the conservation of the pair at the Smithsonian Institution, which recently went back on display. My one complaint is that Thomas devotes an entire chapter to the socio-economic symbolism of the silver shoes in the original book, and how that symbolism was lost in making the shoes ruby for The Movie. Thomas then brings the point up again at further points in the book. This was already a suspect interpretation in 1989, but further research and examinations since then should have pretty much put this to rest. But even if this interpretation of The Wizard of Oz had any sort of validity, it's really not at all part of the story Thomas is trying to tell.
  • Namesake, Book 3 by Isabelle Melançon and Megan Havey-Heaton. This is the third collected edition of the online comic. Let's just say things get more complicated for everyone. I really enjoy Namesake's take on Oz and other old stories, and how it's all a lot more involved and complex than anyone may think, and just how much is happening behind the scenes.
  • And finally (for now), my reread of Oz books from outside of the Famous Forty brought me to The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz, Book II: Tippetarius in Oz by Melody Grandy. I think Melody Grandy may be one of the best Oz authors ever. Her version of Oz is rich and layered, but still very much evokes what L. Frank Baum wrote over a hundred years ago. In this book, after the events of the first book, Zim Greenleaf's profile in Oz has grown, and by the end of the book he has come into contact with Glinda the Good and the denizens of the Emerald City. It at least goes better than he ever anticipated. He also helps out Tititi-Hoochoo, which raises his profile with the magic community outside of Oz. But Tippetarius is the title character, and now that he is on his own he has adventures as well. Tip eventually comes into contact with his brothers, the Princes of Lostland, when they're on their way to the Emerald City to kidnap Ozma, thinking she's their sister. (Well they're not entirely incorrect, but there are extenuating circumstances.) We also get an extension of the story of Aleta and Orlando, first published in an issue of Oziana some years earlier, and their story ends up becoming intertwined with all the others. There is a lot going on here, but it all fits together well and it is all very, very Ozzy. I cannot recommend these books enough to Oz fans, and I am really looking forward to the third book in my next wave of reading.
That's it for now, but I read a few more things, which I will probably report on tomorrow!

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