|Was (1992) [Novel]|
by Geoff Ryman
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Was recounts the "real" life and times of Dorothy Gael, an orphan who went in 1875 to live with relatives in a settlement near Manhattan, Kansas. This was still "the West," with an overlay of piety and vivid memories of the bloody days before the Civil War. Numbed by the hardscrabble farm life, abused by aunt (Em) and uncle (Henry) alike, Dorothy can only clutch her dog (Toto) and hope... Until an encounter with a kindly substitute teacher (L. Frank Baum) provides the pivotal moment in both their lives: he goes on to write the life she ought to have had; she runs away, ending up in the asylum where she will live for over half a century.
But Was is also a story of Judy Garland's stunted childhood and unhappy fame, and of her definitive turn as Dorothy in the movie version of Baum's now-classic books. And it is the story of Jonathan, whose attachment to Oz was forever fixed when, growing up in Canada, he saw the first telecast of the movie. It is the story, too, of Bill Davison, who in 1956, working as an orderly in an institution, befriends an old woman named "Dotty," and unwittingly shows her the same broadcast - with a happy ending she never knew in a life that had driven her insane.
By 1989 Dorothy, or course, is dead. Jonathan is an actor in Los Angeles, dying of AIDS. Bill is his psychologist, and together they bridge the gulf of history and return to Kansas, where the story began over a hundred years before, in search of the land of Oz.
Original title: Was
Genre: Fiction→ Gay & Lesbian→ Gay Male