The Emerald City of Las Vegas

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In many ways, THE EMERALD CITY OF LAS VEGAS is a book about taking stock, of coming to terms with old issues, characters, and settings. In addition to Las Vegas, Wakoski revisits familiar terrain: New York, California, Minnesota, Greece, and the desert. Figures that recur in Wakoski’s other poems include George Washington, the Motorcycle Betrayer, the Silver Surfer, Jason, and Medea. The poems in this volume are, like most of her work, autobiographical, rooted in family and relationships, with a touch of self-pity, but also a playfulness and amused resignation about gambling, pretending, and coping with being more than fifty years old.

As the title suggests, this volume is about Las Vegas, a mythic city she associates with fantasy, which is further related to pretending or creating one’s own reality. Wakoski asks in “From Shells to Radishes,” “what/ does it mean to/ control the images/ in your life?” In her book she does control the images, and she ties together pretending, gambling, quantum physics with its “observer-created reality,” and writing or creating “sound tracks”—she writes about characters, but she is also concerned with “book-making,” the reflexive concern with writing itself. As the title also suggests, Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900) provides the structure—all sections relate to Oz—and many of the characters. Wakoski, who sees herself as Medea and as the huntress Diana, also sees herself as Dorothy with the magic shoes, but she acknowledges she may also be the Wicked Witch of the West—all are prophetic, creative forces.

Sources for Further Study

Library Journal. CXX, August, 1995, p. 80.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLII, July 31, 1995, p. 74.