Sunday, November 14, 2021

The Latest Oz Reading

Oh, I have been vory busy lately—reading lots of Oz and Oz-adjacent books, but not much spare time to write about them here! But I've managed to carve a little time out rght now, so I'm going to see how many I can write about now.

  • The Wonderful Arts of Oz by Daniel "Munch" Kinske. This is a big coffee table book that is pretty much what the cover says. This folio has many examples of art (Oz and otherwise) by W. W. Denslow, work done for the 1902 musical stage extravaganza version of The Wizard of Oz, photographs of Ozcot, L. Frank Baum's Hollywood home, the stage show of The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, Oz illustrations by John R. Neill, and publicity material and photographs pertaining to both the 1925 silent film and the famous 1939 Technicolor film adaptations of The Wizard of Oz. It is a glorious book, and many of the pictures were new to me. Even the ones I knew could reveal new insights when reproduced at this size, however. It includes an introduction by Judy Garland's photographic stand-in, Caren Marsh-Doll. I do hove two complaints. One is that the font Denslow is used for many large blocks of explanatory text. Denslow works great for headlines and other short snippets of text, but it is very hard to read in extended passages. The other complaint is that it only goes up to 1939! So much Oz has come along since then, and there is plenty of material for a second volume. I would have also liked to see more from the books, as the Neill section is frustratingly brief. Still, this is a spectacular volume, and I very much appreciate having it.
  • I picked up a whole bunch of fun items from Lulu Publishing, including a reproduction of the Fall 1961 Reilly & Lee catalog. It's brief, and there's really not even that much about Oz, but it's a fascinating look at what else the publishers of the Oz books sold. I'd love to see other catalogs from Reilly & Lee's history reprinted in a similar form.
  • The Bashful Baker of Oz by Marcus Mébès reprints a charming tale from the 2003 issue of Oziana (which I talk about here. I was mildly disappointed that it wasn't expanded more into an even longer story, but it still works, and I'm happy to have this.
  • Dorothy ond the Wooden Soldiers of Oz by Ken Romer is a brief little tale, adapting some characters and incidents from the second Magic Land book, Oorfeen Deuce and His Wooden Soldiers, published in Russia. This is nice because the pages are big and the illustrations are simple, allowing the readers to color them. I doubt many Oz scholars will take this seriously, but I will certainly enjoy having this in my collection.
  • My reread of the Oz series continues with a slight sideways excursion to Sky Island, prepping the way for Trot and Cap'n Bill to make it to Oz in my next wave of Oz reading. Unilke The Sea Fairies, this is a tightly plotted tale, with Trot, Cap'n Bill, and their new friend Button-Bright having to deal with one obstacle after another in their efforts to reach home again once they reach the titular island. I couldn't help but thinking how much easier it would have gone for the Boolooroo if he had just let them go. But he had to have his way, which led to his downfall. Much is made in this book of the appearance of Polychrome, but it's little more than a cameo, as she just comes in for a few pages to straighten things out in the Pink Country, and then she's gone again.
  • That wasn't the only Baum book I got to read over the past few weeks. I was asked to be part of the proofreading team for a new book, and I was happy to look at The Maid of Arran, believed to be the first widely published edition of one of L. Frank Baum's earliest works. This was a play he wrote and starred in as a young man. It was while he was touring with The Maid of Arran that he met, wooed, and married Maud Gage, in fact. This is much more than a reprint of the play, however. It has many essays of background and analysis of the play, its part in Baum's career, the other people involved, publicity material, contemporary critiques, and even an excerpt of the novel A Princess of Thule, upon which the play was based. It is, in my opinion, the best analysis of a single work by L. Frank Baum since The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Besides the color paperback version I linked to above, it is also available in black and white and a deluxe hardcover edition.
  • I finally got to read a proper Baum Oz book with Tik-Tok of Oz. Having now seen a production of the play it's based on, The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, which in turn was based on Ozma of Oz, I can certainly see the throughline from one version to the next. Yes, a lot of this retreads Ozma of Oz, but there are a lot of original elements that make it nicely Ozzy in its own right. Quox the Dragon is especially fun.
  • Finally (for now), my new job has given me the financial security to take up collecting the works of Rachel R. Cosgrove again, and I managed to pick up her second book (after The Hidden Valley of Oz), Forsythia Finds Murder. She was married by this time, and so this is also the firstbook to be published under her new name of Rachel C. Payes. Forsythia Brown is a successful young New York author who, faced with a case of writer's block, heads to a resort in the Poconos to work through it. There, she meets the usual eccentrics and other characters who inhabit a novel such as this. It takes quite a while for anyone to die, but even before it happens all the players have their backgrounds and motives aired out, and it really comes as no surprise when the titular murder finally happens. Naturally Forsythia becomes a suspect, and also provides the final clue that solves the issue in the end. She even manages to find romance amid all the turmoil! Aside from being a gripping, if perhaps too pat, mystery, this shows us a window into the upper crust of New York society of sixty-some years ago. Lots of alcohol and tobacco are at the center of much of the socializing, and some characters also prove to be incorrigible gossips. It is not a book I would recommend to most Oz fans, but if you are interested in this side of a Royal Historian, you may want to track down a copy. I had hoped to read all of Rachel's book (that I don't already have) in publication order, but acquiring them all is proving to be a scavanger hunt, so i may jump around a bit.
I have lots of other books in my current Oz reading cycle, both rereads and new stories, so I'll have a few more of these entries in the coming weeks.

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