Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Green Dolphin of Oz

Wow, I've been reading a lot of Oz books lately. But believe it or not, my stack of Oz books is almost exhausted. I have a feeling that I should be getting more soon, and if not, I do have three of five of the Mary Louise books by Baum and some Oz-themed books I've yet to read, including A Barnstormer in Oz and The Oz Encounter.

The book I just finished, however, I wouldn't really call it an Oz book. The last several chapters do take place in Oz, and it has "of Oz" at the end of the title, but the overall tone is not of an Oz book.

The Green Dolphin of Oz is by March Laumer, who wrote many Oz books during his life, printing them through The Vanitas Press, his own imprint. Well, he does get cover credit, but it also says "& Others," and when you open up the book, a huge list of names is provided.

The book is about a group of people who can travel through time, being led by writing that appears on a magic leaf. The lead character is a girl (though it's not entirely clear for quite a while), and she narrates the story through first-person. The group is on a quest to find a green dolphin for a zoo in the future.

Along the way, the lead character falls in love with the servant boy Rodney who can transform into a horse, giving the story some nods to bestiality. There is also a bit of talk about sexuality as well.

Finally, the travelers realize they are heading to Oz and one of them falls in love with a round, fat man. Suddenly, they are all sucked into a pipe, and the assumed identity of one of the "other" writers is made clear: L. Frank Baum. The opening fragment of an unfinished Oz book that has been attributed to Baum is incorporated into the story, and there is a "Royal Historian" who now lives in the Emerald City and says he used to live in Hollywood.

I'll assume Laumer was responsible for the Oz chapters, but his take on Oz is a little odd. While some fans have thought the children who live in Oz have matured mentally, the lead character suggests that Dorothy and the other girls have matured in every way except their body growth.

The entire book flows in a loose way that somehow works as a whole, but readers with short attention spans might not be interested. In any case, I would not recommend that this book be read by or to children. It calls itself "a fairy tale for adults," and it definitely is. On some levels, it could be even more disturbing than Wicked as the Oz it deals with is Baum's Oz. (Or at least, it's meant to be. It suggests that the Royal Historian sanitized his stories.)

The illustrations by Lau Shiu Fan aren't bad, but he's rather minimalistic in design (he might draw the scene, but not a lot of detail), and I don't really care for his style. I do, however, enjoy that the book is printed on a light green paper with dark green ink.

If you want a copy, the text is available online, as it was seemingly declared public domain. (Note: at one time, the site caused an alert from my antivirus software. Just a reminder here to make sure your computer's safe while browsing the internet! There's no error now, so it may have been due to an error from the server.)

A little Google search will, at the time of this writing, turn up places that have it for sale. However, the back of the book says there were 1000 copies printed, and I am not aware of another printing. (My copy lacks a number.)

Thus, the copies I did turn up carry a bit of a price tag, the lowest being $69 and the highest being $79. So, if you want it, be prepared to spend a bit.

If you're wanting a print version of that fragment from an unfinished Oz story, hold on, something else is coming soon.

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