I may not have had a lot of time to write about it lately, but the reading has continued. So I thought I'd do a little catching up over the next few days.
- My rereading of the works of Eloise Jarvis McGraw continued with The Golden Goblet, which I believe is the last book she wrote set in Egypt. Ranofer dreams of becoming a goldsmith, but his embittered stepbrother, Gebu, who is in charge of him, will only let him assist in the smithy. But when Ranofer finds out that Gebu is using him to steal gold, he threatens to expose him. Gebu solves that by giving Ranofer an apprenticeship—in his own stonecutter's shop! As much as he hates stonecutting, Ranofer is pragmatic enough to go along and do his best. But when Ranofer finds out more skullduggery that Gebu is up to, he sees an opportunity to take charge of his own destiny. As always, McGraw does a terrific job of evoking Egypt by showing it to us through the characters' eyes, not ours. We see and hear and feel and smell Egypt as an Egyptian would, and our experience becomes richer for it. This is also a pretty exciting book, with all kinds of twists, but it all comes to a satisfying conclusion, as one would expect.
- I also read Eloise's only play, a little one-act called Steady, Stephanie! Ah, the affairs of the heart of a mid-twentieth century teenager! This comedy involves Stephanie, naturally, her steady boyfriend, Mike, and the new boy in town, Bronco, who Stephanie thinks is kind of exciting, until she actually gets to know him. Stephanie's kid sister, Georgia, pops in with the occasional bon mot, wry observation, or bit of advice. I tried to stage a production, or at least a reading, when I chaired the 2016 edition of OzCon International in Portland, as McGraw is from the area, but I never could get a straight answer on the rights. Apparently this was a bit of a relief to Inana McGraw, a guest that year and the artist formerly know as Lauren Lynn McGraw (and before that, Lauren McGraw Wagner). From what I remember, one of the characters is based on her, and she wasn't too wild about it.
- Another book from the '60s that I reread for the first time in decades was The Blue Emperor of Oz by Henry S. Blossom. This was one of the earliest extarcanonical Oz books, as Blossom self-published it in 1966, even though most of the Oz books, and their characters, were still under copyright at the time. I bought a copy of the 1982 second edition direct from Henry Blossom at one of my earliest Winkie Conventions, and this is only the second time I've read it. The Blue Emperor's drinking mug is in danger of being broken, which would be disastrous for the Blue Emperor. The problem is, nobody seems able to remember him! But he is Ozma's grandfather and Pomus' brother, so naturally Kabumpo gets involved early on. Meanwhile, in an Ohio pawn shop, Jam finds the head of the Gump, who assists him in getting back to Oz. Yes, many adventures and hijinks ensue before the Blue Emperor is restored, and everyone celebrates in the Emerald City before heading home again. This is a very Thompson-esque story, with visits to several "interesting" little communities, but the characters never lose track of their goal. It's a fun little romp, and now I'm just sorry it took me so long to get back to it.
- I've been wanting to read the Royal Explorers of Oz series for some time now, and finally broke down and acquired the omnibus edition of all four books in one. It's a little daunting to read them all at once, so I figure I'll just stretch this out over time by just reading one book at a time. Naturally, I started with Book I, The Voyage of the Crescent Moon. It's just a nice little sail around the continent on the Crescent Moon, with Captain Samuel Salt entertaining such visitors as honeymooning couple Maria and Derek (from The Bashful Baker of Oz), the Red Jinn, Trot and Cap'n Bill, and some visiting mermaids, among others. While they do a lot of exploring, Salt and his crew also have some tasks to perform. They then cross paths with Prince Bobo of Boboland, who is not the most diplomatic or savvy ruler (early on in the book, he manages to offend Queen Zixi of Ix by presenting her with a mirror!). But the Crescent Moon takes him home anyway, after Bobo's crew mutinies, as it's on the way to Ozamaland. That's right, in Book II, Tandy's finally going home!