Monday, July 27, 2020

The Latest Oz Reading

I managed to knock a few more books out of my Oz to-read pile this summer, but circumstances have prevented me from writing about them until now. So, here are a few more:

  • Two Terrific Tales of Oz by Greg Hunter. Technically, this is a reread, since I got the original edition way back in the '80s. This is a much nicer reprint, however, and so now this is one of the very few books outside of the Famous Forty for which I have two different versions. It's a flip book, with each story printed so that it starts at the front, no matter which cover you are looking at and holding the spine on the left. First, in "Unc Nunkie and the White King of Oz", Unc, Ojo, and Victor Columbia Edison go off on an adventure to save the legendary White King. Turn the book over, and you have "Betsy Bobbin of Oz", where Betsy is granted a birthday wish of being reunited with her childhood doll, Pearl. Of course, this being Oz, Pearl comes to life, and she and Betsy are off having an adventure involving some malevolent silkworms. Both stories are brief, but charming and very Ozzy, and it's good to have them back in print in this quality edition.
  • I learned one big truth while reading Friends of Dorothy: Why Gay Boys and Gay Men Love The Wizard of Oz by Dee Michel: I should be gay! Everything about gay boys and gay men described in this book suits me to the proverbial T—with one huge exception, and that is I am attracted only to women. Nope, not even a glimmer towards men at all. (Well, okay, maybe one brief glimmer when Pierce Brosnan was wearing a tank top in an episode of Remington Steele, but it was very brief and never went anywhere.) I know Dee, and I know he's been working on this for a very long time, as he presented his initial ideas at the Oz Centennial convention way back in 2000. Eighteen years later, after much research and changes (or at least refinements) in attitude, this book is the result. It goes all over the place, delving into surveys of gay Oz fans and their experiences (a similar survey for straight Oz fans may have made for some enlightening contrasts, but I totally understand why he didn't do that), the history of Oz usage in the gay movement, and myths about Oz and gay culture (Judy Garland's funeral probably was not the spark that started the Stonewall Riots, just to give an example) are all explored in this book. It certainly threw some interesting light on Oz fandom, which I've been a part of for over forty years now, as well as insight into being a gay man that I doubt I could have gotten in any other way.
  • Josie O'Gorman and the Meddlesome Major by "Edith van Dyne". I hope many Oz fans know that Edith van Dyne was a pseudonym for L. Frank Baum, and he wrote the Aunt Jane's Nieces books and most of the Mary Louise books. One of his sons may have written one of the Mary Louise books late in Baum's life, when his health started to falter, and then, like the Oz books, Reilly and Lee decided to carry on the series after Baum's death with another writer. Emma Speed Sampson continued the series and transitioned it into a Josie O'Gorman series, since she really was the star of the series anyway. This was the final book, and had a relatively low print run as a result, so "Edith van Dyne" have had a tough time finding this one, and when they do, the prices can be quite high. So when I saw a relatively affordable copy, I jumped on it. The cover is in pretty bad shape, and the frontispiece is now detached, but the text is clean and sound, so it made for a great reading copy. Josie is away from her home grounds of Dorfield (so we see none of Mary Louise or their friends), having been asked to investigate the disappearance of merchandise from a department store in a nearby city. The store's own detective (the titular Meddlesome Major) is ineffective, so Josie goes in undercover as a sales clerk. She settles in, makes friends, does her job well, and eventually stumbles onto a shoplifting ring which she singlehandedly stops. In the process, however, the major gets it into his head that Josie is the thief, and his efforts to prove it and stop her adds all kinds of comical obstacles. In the end, Josie not only solves the case, she has a new job and a new base of operations, and it looks like she's on her awn at last, no longer tied to Dorfield. Sadly, however, this is the last book ever written by "Edith van Dyne", and so we may never see what else Josie gets up to.
  • And finally for tonight, Fables, Volume 13: The Great Fables Crossover by Bill Willingham. Yes, this is the next reprint volume of the Fables comic book, and in this case, it also includes issues of its spinoff title, Jack of Fables, as Jack has returned to the Farm to help deal with a villain who wants to rewrite history—literally! There isn't a lot of Oz content in this book, except a few appearances by Bufkin and the witch who is later to be revealed to be Ozma. I'm almost caught up to where I started reading the series as comic books, but I'm enjoying this so much beyond the Oz content that I'm thinking about also collecting Jack of Fables and maybe some other related collections.

No comments: