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Month in review

Reviews
Azalea, Unschooled by Liza Kleinman
Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear
Bisbee, Arizona, Then And Now by Boyd Nicholl
Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood
Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew
The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle
CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington
CatStronauts: Race to Mars by Drew Brockington
Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter
The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas
Finding Fortune by Delia Ray
Glimmerglass by Jenna Black
The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg
The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia by Won-Ldy Paye
Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph M. Marshall III
"It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby
Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber
Pantomime by Laura Lam
Pippi Moves In by Astrid Lindgren
Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
The 39-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
The Upper Mississippi: A Wilderness Saga by Walter Havighurst
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

Miscellaneous
Crossing the Cornfield
January inclusivity reading and shortening the gap in reviewing
On reading your own books and moving

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish


Crossing the Cornfield: 01/16/17

Crossing the CornfieldIn my review of "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby, I looked at the roll the cornfield plays. I said it "serves as a barrier, marking a threshold between the safety (perceived or actual) of the town and the outside." Further, I suggested that those who can cross the cornfield and can otherwise control have power over everyone else — even if they don't perceive their power.

And this got me to thinking about Oz. Oz is a kingdom of four countries ruled from a centrally located capital, the Emerald City. The kingdom is encircled by an impassable desert. In later books this desert is then described as being encircled by various seas. The other key factor about Oz is that it's compass is flipped from ours so that east is west and west is east.

map of Oz drawn by yours truly

This flipping of the compass along one axis makes me think of "the upside-down" as described in "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat" episode of Stranger Things. Despite Oz's remoteness and the Ozian subjects being unable to cross out of their kingdom, there are outsiders who can get in (and out) of Oz.

Before Dorothy, there was the Wizard. He came to Oz by way of balloon from Omaha, Nebraska. Dorothy, on her first journey, came via tornado from Kansas. Interestingly, too, the wizard claims he had the Emerald City built — though that explanation is ignored in later volumes, especially with the return to power of Ozma.

Let us suppose perhaps that he found the Emerald City in ruins, inhabited by shepherds and their flocks. Let us suppose he had the city rebuilt, rather that built from whole-cloth.

Now there is Dorothy who rides her house through a tornado to Oz. Her very first act upon landing in Munchkin Country is to crush the Wicked Witch of the East to death. The Munchkins having their long time oppressor suddenly dead assume that the girl who has come from the direction of an impassible desert and infinite sea must be a witch herself. She promptly denies their claim, speaking towards her innate ability to understand the cornfield. Her act of crossing it was one of survival, not of travel with the aim to conquer.

Later in the Road to Oz, Dorothy and a raggedy man travel back to Oz by way of the cornfield. It all begins when the raggedy man arrives at the Gale farmstead and asks for directions to Butterfield. Dorothy's instructions begin with: "You cross the ten-acre lot, follow the lane to highway, go north to the five branches, and—" Essentially the traveler is asking to get to an impossible place from where he is starting. Dorothy, to show him the way, ends up having to show him. Together they get lost at the five branches and after numerous adventures, end up in Oz. Had she taken the long way around — sticking to actually roads — none of this would have happened.

The thing that the travelers have in common is their proximity to cornfields. It's not the cornfield itself, per se, that allows them in, but, I argue, their understanding of cornfields that allow them safe passage.

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