Thursday, January 7, 2010

I done read some books here

Despite my overweening excitement for the return of Heroes (she said in her most sarcastic voice), I’ve been reading quite a bit during the holiday hiatus. I don’t really have enough to say to merit separate reviews for each of the following, but here are the most recent items in a nutshell.

The Library kindly delivered up Volumes III, IV and V of The Sandman to me and I plowed through them voraciously. Volume III, Dream Country, is a standalone set of stories wherein Dream features tangentially instead of as the starring role. I liked it the least of the three, partly because of my personal preference for plot-plot-plot and these are just vignettes to flesh out the Endless’s backstories, partly because I had no idea whom the unnamed and rather grotesque character in “Façade” was – who, I learned from the Introduction, is an old comic book character –and thus didn’t really care about her, and partly because I really hated the captivity and abuse of the muse in the first story, “Calliope.” One very interesting thing about Volume III, however, is that Gaiman allowed his script for “Calliope” to be reprinted: he writes his comics like a movie, so the artist knows the images he’s going for; as you might imagine, Gaiman has very specific ideas and instructions on what should be happening in his stories.

Season of Mists is Volume IV in which, while at a family reunion of sorts, Dream is guilted into attempting to rescue his former lover, Nada, whom he had condemned to Hell some 10,000 or so years ago. When he gets to Hell, he discovers that Lucifer has shut things down, sending all Hell’s denizens away and handing the key to the locked gates over to Morpheus. Dream, of course, really does not want to be in charge of Hell, and soon has many offers to take it off his hands. Gaiman pulls in characters from all kinds of world myth, which I found great fun, while subtly insisting that no matter what pantheon you believe in, dreams rule us all.

Volume V is subtitled A Game of You and rejoins a character from The Doll’s House (Vol. II): Barbie, formerly married to Ken and now living in NYC. Barbie’s waking life is populated by colorful folks - a drag queen, a punk lesbian couple, a witch and the still-talking face of a dead guy – who end up attempting to rescue her when she is sucked wholesale into her dream life, where she is a Princess attempting to save her Land from the evil Cuckoo with the help of her talking animal friends. Here we see what happens when it is time for a dream world to end.

The non-Sandman book I read was A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire. This is the third book in the Wicked Years series, which began with Wicked, about the Land of Oz’s misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, which I know I read, and continued with Son of a Witch, which I’m fairly certain I haven’t read. (I have read some of Maguire’s other tomes, like Mirror Mirror which, while a revisit of a fairy tale, is not Oz-ish.) This book, as the title suggests, follows the life of the Cowardly Lion. He did not spring up fully formed when Dorothy skipped by on the Yellow Brick Road but instead had a long and trying life: abandoned as a cub, snubbed by other Talking Animals, and cultivating a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in his dealings with the people of Oz. This is his story, many layered and interweaving with all of the well-known citizens of Oz. However, I think I’m going to stop reading Maguire’s stuff because I always feel just a little bit left out. I am familiar with all the Oz stories – including the ones outside of the iconic movie as I read through my childhood library’s entire catalog of Frank L. Baum Oz books – but Maguire seems smug, like I’m not smart enough to be in on the joke. Maybe I’ll just go read the Baum books again when I get a hankering for over the rainbow.

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