Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Their Oz is yours, 'cause it's not mine

Not too long ago, I put in an order for four different Oz books, and I had wanted to wait and review them all together, but the last one still hasn't arrived. Waiting for mail (especially Oz-related stuff) has become somewhat of a summer tradition for me. I do it at other times of the year as well, but I always associate it with summer in particular. I've had this post stored in my drafts for a while now, though, so I might as well just post it now.

I suppose I'm somewhat of a purist when it comes to Oz, although that term is a little confusing. I mean, I liked March Laumer's Oz books, and I've seen people claim that they're not faithful to the spirit of L. Frank Baum's books. Regardless, I can say that this bothers me. Here's an excerpt from the page:

"The Alpimar series uses all these works by Baum, and other Baum works for that matter, as potential source material for genuine Ozian adventures and Baum-style dialogue. But Oz fans must remember that the Alpimar series builds its plot only on the first book -- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and brilliantly illustrated by W. W. Denslow. Thus Oz enthusiasts will have to empty their minds not only of the various Oz films and stage plays but also of the plot lines and assertions of all Baum's works but his most famous tale -- that which tells the story of the tornado that carries Dorothy off to Oz."

Translation? "We're too lazy to try for consistency with what Baum wrote, but we're going to steal his ideas when we can't come up with our own." Or at least that's how it seems to me. And really, can any book that requests that people "empty their minds" before reading it be particularly good? In fairness, the excerpts that are up on the page aren't too bad, but why introduce creatures that are slightly different from Baum's Kalidahs, instead of just either using Kalidahs or making up some totally different sort of monster? It just irks me that these people want to borrow liberally from the original Oz books while putting them down at the same time. I mean, I have problems with Wicked, but I've seen no indication that Gregory Maguire thought he was improving on Baum's work; he was just doing something different with it. (The opinions of some fans of Wicked are a different matter entirely.)

And here are some reviews of Oz books that ARE faithful to the originals. I'm not sure why I keep writing these, when I don't think anyone actually reads them (I'll be lucky if anyone reads ANY of this post after seeing the word "Oz" near the top), but I guess I'm just stubborn in that respect.

Dennis Anfuso's The Winged Monkeys of Oz is really nowhere near as good as his more recent effort, The Astonishing Tale of the Gump of Oz. There are some interesting ideas in it, and I liked seeing the Winged Monkeys again, but it didn't seem as satisfying as it might have been. I think one problem I had with it is that Melanie and her monkey friends never actually get to Oz, and their journey doesn't actually intersect with the other plots.

A Queer Quest for Oz is kind of an odd title to use in this day and age. "Queer" was frequently used in the Oz books in its original sense, but nowadays it usually carries a meaning that doesn't apply to this story, unless Cafeliché and Emil were making out offstage. The characters in this book were essentially stereotypes, but I think there were a few hints of character growth. The plot that we see is typical Chris Dulabone, with a lot of goofy jokes and bizarre back stories. My main problem with it is that it's really only the beginning of a story, with some indications at the end that there will be a follow-up if readers want one. Considering how much of a backlog Chris has, I'm not sure why he wouldn't just finish the whole story before publishing it. Oh, well.

The Corn Mansion of Oz is by Peter Schulenburg, author of The Tin Castle of Oz. Like the earlier book, it describes the circumstances leading to the building of a major character's home, and doesn't really have much conflict. I think it's cool that Schulenburg was able to get any story at all out of such a simple premise, though, and he is very creative with his new characters and ideas, while also incorporating quite a bit from various earlier Oz books. Corn Mansion introduces Miss Cuttenclip's cousin Aura Gammi, a live pirate's chest, and a giraffe who writes with her tail.

I guess that's all the Oz-related stuff I have to say for now. I might or might not make a non-Oz-related post today, and my review of The Magic Bowls of Oz will be forthcoming after I've actually received and read the thing.
Tags: books, oz
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