Thursday, June 27, 2024

The Latest Oz Reading

Yes, I'm reading a lot of Oz stuff again. Not only that, I also have a pile of stuff I've read but not discussed here yet, some going back two or three years now! Yes, it's been a crazy time for me, but I'm on my summer break right now and I'm trying to deal with a lot of the clutter in my life right now, while I have the chance, before my summer gets extremely crazy in a few weeks. But more on that as things get closer, although there may be some hints in what I've been reading. Let's start with some books I've reread:

  • The Lost Princess of oz by L. Frank Baum. My slow progression through the Oz books, in order, has reached 1917. Lost Princess is particularly important to me because it was the last of the Baum books I owned as a kid, although I'd read the library's copy first. I then got it for Christmas from my always-supportivg grandparents. Looking in that original Reilly & Lee white edition, I noted the the inscription read 1975. This was a little over a year after I started collecting the books, so this year marks my fiftieth year as an Oz fan! Getting back to the story itself, it does hold up as an exciting adventure. It might seem overwhelming to keep track of as many characters as Baum put into this book, but they're all distinctive (well, except maybe for Betsy Bobbin and Trot), and it's plot is tight. Perhaps Baum should have introduced Ugu a little earlier, but the shock opening of so much Oz magic missing all at once certainly grabs the reader.
  • Kabumbo in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson. No, I'm not jumping ahead in my FF reading, it's just that the long-delayed Clover Press edition, with new illustartions by Sara Richard, arrived. Richard's style is a lot different from John R. Neill's, but her work is still gloriously Ozzy. Naturally she had to draw Ruggedo as a giant with the palace on his head, and it has the same impact as Neill's version. My biggest complaint is that there aren't enough illustrations. Come on, Clover Press, Oz is such a vivid place, let's see more of what it looks like! If you can't spring for more full-page color illustrations, put some black-and-white line drawings in the text.
  • Grampa in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson. Since it turns one hundred this year, and I needed some information from it for something coming up, I thought I'd also reread another Thompson book. I've always said that the basic stories of both Kabumpo and Grampa are the same, and reading them back to back just cemented that for me. These are archtypical Thompson, with a prince going out into Oz to save the kingdom and find a wife, only to find that their future bride was already traveling with them under an enchantment. That doesn't make Grampa any less fun, as it also has unusual locations and characters. Grampa didn't strike me as being quite as strong as Kabumpo, but it was still a fun read.
  • Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner. Did I mention my busy summer coming up? I wanted to reread this for another project that's coming up. For a book about Dorothy traveling back to modern-day America, she takes an awfully long time to get there. And when Gardner takes unnecessary side plots, he doesn't mess around! On their way to the remote part of Oz where they can visit America, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Sawhorse end up visiting the old Greek gods of Olympus and Wonderland! But after these diversions, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman finally make it to modern-day New York to help a movie mogul publicize his upcoming Oz movie. It goes about as well as you'd expect, with the tabloid press accusing them of being actors (and the Tin Woodman a robot), a rival studio sending mobsters to go after them, you know, the usual sort of thing. It is pretty clover, though, and Dorothy has much to contemplate about how much America has changed since she last lived there. This being Gardner, mathematics is used in a clever way to travel between Oz and New York. I think Gardner was much more successful writing articles and essays about Oz, but an a one-time experiment, this is a fun one.
  • Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. My reread of the works of Eloise Jarvis Mcraw has hit the '70s, and this is one of my favorites. Michael Cornhill is eleven and finds himself on his own in London during the Plague and must figure out how to survive. He taken under the wing of Tom Godfrey, a balladeer, but his friend Susanna keeps reminding him that it's not the only, or best, way to make ones lot in life. Then the Great Fire of London strikes, and everyone does all that they can to survive. McGraw had written historicals about ancient Egypt and the Old West, but this is her first one about Great Britian, and it's clear she's done her research. The little details and Michael's reactions feel so genuine and give a real sense of what seventeenth century London must have been like.
  • One new book I recently read seems to be the second of a series of non-Oz books by L. Frank Baum, after The Maid of Arran. The new reprint edition of The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors makes one of Baum's rarest books available again. This is for Baum completists only, as it's exactly what the title says. It's an interesting time capsule of the early days of department stores and how they attracted customers. Baum compiled many clever ways for stores to display their wares and draw people in. Had his fiction writing career not taken off the way it did, this kind of work may have supported Baum instead. Since I've now read some new Baum reprints, I'm now adding Baum's non-Oz books into my regular readings, but most of them I already have and they'll be rereadings.

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