Friday, January 1, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: The Compete Baum Oz

Recently I accomplished something I've long wanted to do, which is to obtain ownership of the complete L. Frank Baum series of Oz books.  For most people, this is something to do with the Judy Garland movie, but only faintly related to a book, much less a series of them.  Marvel (along with the terrific duo of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young) created adaptations for a good number of them, which were my first experiences with any of the material outside of the first book.  I was immediately struck, and eventually remembered reading that first one, with how humorous and witty Baum's vision really was.  So I vowed that I would eventually read all of it.

Barnes & Noble had three hardcover collections that looked like the best possible way to achieve it.  So, finally, I got them.  And in the coming year I will get to read all of Baum's Oz novels (plus the collection of short stories also included). 

It's amazing to me that stuff this good became almost completely forgotten, and that our one collective memory doesn't really do Oz justice.  The later film Return to Oz approaches the material much more directly.  I'm not usually one to demand strict adherence to the source material, but what's happened to Oz since "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is something of a literary crime.  As far as I can tell, Baum's Oz belongs in the same category as Alice in Wonderland.  It's even a potent allegory, because as far as I can tell, Baum was writing about the shrinking world, and the decreased possibilities of finding the fantastic, let alone innocence, as everyone became more familiar with foreign cultures.  Which actually puts it in the same category as Gulliver's Travels, come to think of it.  Baum wasn't just writing for kids after all.

A hundred years later, and maybe Oz will someday earn its rightful place in literary history...

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