Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated Hisory of the American Classic

So, it was announced that John Fricke's name would appear on a new Oz book this year: The Wonderful World of Oz: An Illustrated History of the American Classic. John Fricke's name has appeared on quite a number of worthwhile Oz books, but when I saw the description of this, I was highly reminded of another book Fricke penned: 100 Years of Oz. After the book arrived, the copyright page confirmed it: "... an expanded, revised, and redesigned republication of the edition titled 100 Years of Oz published in 1999..."

100 Years of Oz paired Fricke's text with some lovely (and collector-drooling) photos of items from the collection of Willard Carroll, a film producer widely considered to have one of the largest collections of Oz memorabilia. The text offered a decade-by-decade look at the beginning of the Oz phenomenon and how it evolved from 1900 to 1999. While Fricke was brief, the book was still quite informative.

100 Years of Oz also holds a very special place in my heart. It was THE FIRST book about Oz I ever got for my collection that wasn't an actual Oz book. And after my first reading of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I needed a reminder of everything that Oz is and can be, and it offered it and then some.

So, how do we treat a new, expanded edition? I mean, since 100 Years, Wicked has become a musical, and we've had Tin Man, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, and Oz the Great and Powerful.

This expanded edition drops the decade by decade focus of 100 Years, and adds a wholly new foreword and a lengthy introduction. In addition, there is a new chapter focusing on the latest 14 years. I noted that it doesn't mention how Oz has caught on with the internet age, ignoring some excellent projects, such as the Heartless: The Story of the Tin Man short film. Also missing are projects such as The Witches of Oz/Dorothy and the Witches of Oz and others, but then, 100 Years also missed quite a number of Oz films, so their exclusion was almost expected. This still isn't a thorough look at the Oz phenomenon, but just a beginning.

Most of the same photographs from 100 Years reappear, supplemented by a number of new photographs, which also feature items from the collection of Tom Wilhite. The expansions of the first 10 chapters feel rather light, the most new material shows up in the new front matter and the new last chapter. The text seems to have been revised, though I haven't fully compared both of them.

So, would I recommend this? Yes, I would. Though 100 Years' layout is still very pleasing to the eye and contains some photos not reproduced here, I did find that the updated material here is worth the price (particularly that with the preorder's price and Amazon Prime free shipping, it was only $18). However, other owners of 100 Years of Oz might understandably not want to shill out for an updated version of a book that is only 14 years old. In my own opinion, the differences between the two editions is enough to justify owning both, but others might differ on this point.

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