miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)
[personal profile] miko2
(Reposting here from my LJ post of 2 days ago.)

I've been on kind of an Oz kick this week.

Actually, I've been on a bit of a children's story kick all around the last few months. This started with me rereading all of Bone, and then Rod Espinoza's The Courageous Princess, and the Eric Shanower Oz comic books. For the Bone books I have mostly paperback collections but a couple of them are hardcover... for the Courageous Princess, I have the deluxe hardcover edition that is now rare and expensive to buy. I did some research and found the Rod Espinoza still intends to finish this story -- someday. For the Oz comics by Shanower, I have the original paperback editions published by First Comics. More recently he recollected these into a couple of volumes, and also into one large volume, and there was a deluxe hardcover edition of that, but I didn't realize it until I looked it up last month, and like my Courageous Princess volume it is also rare and expensive these days. Sigh. I probably should pick up the newer paperback collection though, it'd be nicer than what I have.

(I also reread all of my Adam Warren Dirty Pair books, and bought the one volume that I didn't have, which is out of print and cost a bit of money for a fairly dog-eared and starting to fall apart edition. Bleah. And I'm currently re-reading my Elfquest comics, and I discovered that the color editions are no longer in print and also somewhat valuable. They don't have any current plans to print in color again. although black and white versions are easily purchased.)

Anyway -- back to Oz. I went through my Oz books and organized them and decided I should fill in the last missing pieces. In particular, Of the 40 "cannon" books (those published by the original publisher Reilly & Britton) I have all 14 of the Baum books and all 19 of the Ruth Plumly Thompson books, plus The Wonder City of Oz by John R Neill and The Shaggy Man of Oz by Jack Snow. The ones I'm missing are the two other Neill books (probably not worth getting), the first of Jack Snow's two novels The Magical Mimics of Oz (well worth getting), The Hidden Valley of Oz by Rachel Cosgrove (probably worth getting), and The Merry Go Round of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw. (very much worth getting).

There are six other books written by the above "Royal Historian" authors that might be worth picking up: Yankee in Oz and The Enchanted Island of Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson (but I probably wont' get hers), Who's Who In Oz by Jack Snow (own it already), The Wicked Witch of Oz by Rachel Cosgrove (own it already), The Rundlestone of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (own it already), The Forbidden Fountain of Oz by Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren Lynn McGraw, and The Runaway in Oz by John R. Neill. The last was going to be Neill's fourth book, but it was unillustrated when he died and so Reilly & Britton never published it. The version published a few years ago was edited and illustrated by Eric Shanower, and by all accounts is the best of the four Neill books so I've just ordered a copy.

I'm also collecting other Oz books (Apocryphal books), especially those that adhere closely to the originals. Some -- well, a lot -- of these "apocryphal" books veer widely from the original stories, and I'm not even talking about Philip Jose Farmer or Gregory MacGuire and their reinterpretations. I have a few of these "wide of the mark" Oz books -- The Mysterious Chronicles of Oz by Onyx Madden, The Glass Cat of Oz by David Hulan, Queen Ann in Oz by Karyl Carlsong & Eric Gjovaag, Masquerade in Oz by Bill Campbell and Irwin Terry, Visitors from Oz by Martin Gardner, and Dorothy of Oz by Roger S. Baum (just because you're related to L. Frank Baum does not give you a free pass on misrepresenting the land and characters of Oz).

I also have some apocryphal Oz books that are frankly much closer to Baum's original work than many of the so-called cannon books. Ruth Plumly Thompson did not exactly follow the rules that Baum set down, however haphazardly, and Neill was a much better illustrator of Oz books than he was an author. So in this camp I'd probably place: The Giant Garden of Oz and The Salt Sorcerer of Oz by Eric Shanower (who for my money understands Oz better than anyone living, and perhaps better than anyone save Baum or Jack Snow), Paradox in Oz by Edward Einhorn (and I just ordered the sequel, The Living House of Oz), The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz trilogy by Melody Grandy (I need to track down the third book) and, I'm not sure, but I recently picked up The Emerald Wand of Oz by Sherwood Smith, which has the advantage of being officially liscensed by the L Frank Baum Family Trust. That may or may not have any bearing on how well it's written and how true it holds to the original works -- in any case I got it at Half Price Books on Tuesday. Smith wrote a sequel, Trouble Under Oz, but apparently it ends on something of a cliffhanger, and he never got to write the third book of his expected trilogy. Eh.

So Tuesday I picked up an Oz book at Half Price Books, and also one of the Bone collections that contains the entire series, and also a biography of L. Frank Baum, which I spent much of that evening reading.

In the last 24 hours I enjoyed myself immensely while reading all of the Mari Ness's reviews of all 40 Oz books, plus a few of the others. Her reviews are funny and quite enlightening. In particular, I learned how little Ruth Plumly Thompson understood or appreciated the core of what Baum's Oz books were about. First and foremost, the Oz books were about people being accepted for who they were, and about girls who were adventurous and spoke their mind and were generally great role models. Baum also infused Oz with an almost Communistic society, free of money, free of greed, and where everyone was welcome and nobody had to work too hard. He included several working-class characters, starting first and foremost with Dorothy and her Aunt and Uncle. In contrast, Thompson's books almost always have a prince and a princess who are destined to get married; the books are invariably about royalty and working-class characters like Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, the Shaggy Man, and Captain Bill never appear in any of her stories. But beyond that, she introduces money, hunger, poverty, slavery, racism, cruelty, veiled arguments against Roosevelt's politics (she was a staunch conservative), war, and expansion by conquest. She was a noted writer of children's books before becoming the Oz historian, and many of her books are well written, but she remakes Oz into the place she'd prefer it to be rather than the place that Baum had originally designed it to be.

(And really, the racism in her books -- mostly in two later books that I haven't read yet, but Mari Hess's reviews are pretty in-depth -- is just ugly, ugly, ugly. It makes me sad that she wrote Oz books for so long and failed to understand the messages inherent in Baum's works.)

Based on what Mari Ness wrote, Jack Snow understood the heart of Oz. He was not as prolific or accomplished an author as Thompson, but he knew Oz inside and out. Likewise, Eloise Jarvis McGraw was a highly accomplished children's author (perhaps even moreso than Thompson -- she was awarded the Newberry Honor three different times, in different decades, and won other awards as well), and also clearly understood Baum's work more fully than Thompson. The Magical Mimics of Oz and Merry-Go-Round in Oz are apparently the two most Baum-like of the canon books written after his death.

Another thing I came across was LibriVox, a place that has audio versions of public domain books, which all of the original Baum Oz books are (and even many of the Thompson books). I'm working on downloading as many of them as I can. ^_^
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miko2: Ranma disguised as a schoolgirl to fool Ryoga (Default)

December 2012

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