Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Latest Oz Reading

Another dive into my now-I've-read-it pile!

  • A pleasant surprise in one of our recent comic orders was The Silver Spurs of Oz by Erica Schultz and Omar Lozano. This was a surprise because neither Laura nor I could even recall seeing it or ordering it. But hey, it's Oz! At first glance, it looks like this graphic novel might have been lovingly inspired (which is a kinder way of saying "ripped off") from the comic The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, but this is a nicely different kettle of fish blazing its own trail. In this case, Oz is a Western-themed circus, and Dorothy is going to try out as a trick rider and lasso artist with her horse, Toto. Along the way, she meets up with Crow Sorre, Tinny Woods, and Leo Raion, who are also trying out. But she also runs into Strega West, who also does trick riding, with archery, on her horse Monkey, and Strega does not take well to Dorothy. But Dorothy knows she's going to do well because she's wearing her lucky silver spurs! When they go missing, however, Dorothy's not so sure she wants to try out. This is a fun little book, part of a series retelling classic stories (Alice, Secret Agent of Wonderland looks particularly fun), and they do a nice job translating the original book (yes, the book—although the red boots Dorothy wears are probably an homage to MGM's version of her footwear) into a kid-friendly tale. Everything comes out all right in the end, and there are some fun little Easter eggs scattered throughout (Strega West's last line is especially fun).
  • The other Oz-ish item that came in that comics order (one that we did expect) is Sea Sirens: A Trot & Cap'n Bill Adventure by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee. This book has been talked about a lot in Oz circles lately, and opinions are split. It is clearly inspired by Baum's The Sea Fairies in that characters named Trot and Cap'n Bill meet up with some mermaids and are invited to visit them under the sea after magically transformed to survive underwater. What sets this apart is that Trot is a Vietnamese-American surfer girl in modern day California, and Cap'n Bill is her cat. Trot's grandfather watches over them during the day, but he's suffering the early stages of dementia and doesn't always know who anyone is or what he's doing. Once Trot and Cap'n Bill go underwater, it plays out much like the first part of the book, with everyone going on a grand tour. With no villain the equivalent of Zog in this story, there really isn't a lot of peril, but the characters are great and the art is lovely. It's not going to make Baum fans forget the original, but if it introduces today's reader to him, that's big!
  • My Eloise Jarvis McGraw rereading continues wih her only non-fiction work, Techniques of Writing Fiction. This is from 1959, so it's before Merry Go Round in Oz, but she was already a well-established writer. She has all kinds of very practical advice for anyone trying to write fiction, in any genre, and I could just hear her saying a lot of it. Much of her advice probably wouldn't apply today—the market for short stories is probably very different, and I don't think anyone needs to worry about typing up a carbon copy before mailing the manuscript to the publisher—but the actual writing advice is spot on. We also get a little insight into her own life, and she talks about some of her earlier works, which means I'm now more familiar with them thanks to my rereading them (although apparently Pharaoh came out first, but that's her next book I plan to read). She even drops a mention of the Oz books. It's a tough book to track down (I remember all kinds of issues finding one, and then I was sent the wrong book!), but Eloise's fans will get a kick out of it.
  • And finally, for today, a book I picked up when I went to see Wicked last year, Defying Gravity: The Creative Career of Stephen Schwartz from Godspell to Wicked by Carol de Giere. This is the updated second edition, so there's a lot about what came after Wicked debuted, and some other projects he's been involved with as well. But this goes way back, to Schwartz's early days and how he got into the field of composing musical theater. It has some biographical elements, but the bulk is devoted to his shows, both the successes and the ones that didn't do so well—although many of the latter are finding new life in community theaters and other local productions. Because Wicked is so recent, it is better documented, and takes up about half the book. This is an essential book for Wicked fans, theater fans, and those seeking insight into the creative process.
The pile is getting considerably shorter! One more entry tomorrow should take care of things.

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