Sunday, September 16, 2007

How I Got Into Oz...

This has been on the L. Frank Baum & Co. Group on MySpace, and the IWOC Forums, but here it is... now for the non-MySpacers and those who prefer not to dig through message boards...

My parents used to try cable services for a month every now and then, and one time, my mom let us watch the MGM movie The Wizard of Oz. I loved it.

Later, my grandfather (who has since died) let my dad bring some things over to our house. Among them was a copy of the book The Wizard of Oz with the pictures by Evelyn Copelman. A few months later, I found it in the garage and brought it in the house and tried to read it. Note that I had just finished kindergarten, so I wasn't too sure of how to read then. Fortunately, during the next school year, I did. (Come to think of it, they also let the whole school see the movie in two parts in the library, and they let us watch Dorothy in the Land of Oz around Thanksgiving.) I also found, in the school library, a copy of the "white" edition of The Wizard of Oz. I thought Denslow's pictures were very strange and goofy at the time, but have since come to appreciate them.

One time we went to the library, and I asked if we could check out the video of the MGM movie. We did, but the wrong tape was inside! (It was something like, Building Kitchen Cupboards And Cabinets!) We tried later, and we got it! I remember I watched it through once, but when I tried to watch it again, the VCR broke! BUT, I decided to do the next best thing. If I could read The House At Pooh Corner all by myself (the first ACTUAL chapter book I read, I went for the real thing!), couldn't I read The Wizard of Oz?

So, I did. I remember finishing reading it on Thanksgiving Day. But, I wondered, was that really the only Oz book? So, later, my mom took me to the library, and I asked her to see if there were any more "books about the Wizard of Oz." She found two books: Ozma of Oz and the (seemingly rare) 1980s edition of Who's Who In Oz by Jack Snow.

That ended my wondering about further Oz books!

Luckily for me, my parents found some more of the Oz books at Wal-Mart. They were published by a company called "Aerie" and sold 2 for $1. These copies had no illustrations, so I often added my own. They gave me Ozma of Oz and The Lost Princess of Oz. Later, that Christmas, they gave me a big box with MANY of the Aerie paperbacks in it. (Let's see if I can recall the ones... Land, Dorothy & The Wizard, Road, Emerald City, Tik-Tok, and Rinkitink.

And for a long time, those were the only Oz books (plus Patchwork Girl, Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman from the library, Del Rey editions) that I had read.

I found other Oz books at yard sales and library book sales, but really nothing new. Adaptations of Return to Oz and copies of the Oz books I already owned were mostly what I found. My dad DID entrust me with his copies of the Return to Oz graphic novel and the Classics Illustrated Junior edition of The Wizard of Oz. I also made my own Oz toys from wooden clothespins.

But tragedy was about to strike my meager but cute Oz collection... a tragedy called "Mom becoming overtly religious." She threw away ALL of my Oz collection, claiming that I "should not read about witches." Today, I respect her concern, but the Oz books are not all about witches, and they do not encourage learning witchcraft, but quite the opposite.

I, myself, thought she meant that Oz, in itself, was evil. Remember I was still very young and impressionable.

Little did she notice that I also eventually stopped reading anything... period. (Afterward, I got through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings over a course of four years.)

Many years later, I was at a used bookstore, when I came across an old Scholastic edition of The Magic of Oz. I looked over it, and began to think, "What is really so 'evil' about this? It basically says that magic equals trouble, which, in my opinion, is true."

A month later, I was at a local youth center, when they put in The Wizard of Oz movie. At first, I didn't show much interest, but then, I looked again, and it had me spellbound.

About a week later, I was looking through audio books at the library (remember that my interest in reading had dropped), when I found Recorded Books' recording of The Land of Oz, performed by Flo Gibson. After some thought, I went ahead and checked it out. I really enjoyed it. I can't say too much for Flo's voice, but I really did like it.

When I returned it, I went to the children's section of the library (I believe I was 15 at the time), though it was another branch, and found several of the Oz books there. I checked them out and read them again. Really read them. I couldn't remember when I'd read a book so fiercely since I'd stopped reading the Oz books before. I later went ahead and put the other Baum books on hold.

Some of the books were nicely-sized hardcovers from a publisher called Books of Wonder. In the back of one of their books, it gave a phone number you could call for a free catalog called The Oz Collector. I went ahead and did it, and when it arrived, I was thrilled to find that their editions were faithful imitations of the original editions! I knew that THAT was the set of Oz books I would want to collect.

In addition to re-reading the Oz books (my mom did find out, but I basically let her know that I was old enough to make my own decisions on what I read, and I wasn't going to join a cult, or get interested in Wicca), I also realized that someone had written them, so I found and read a biography of L. Frank Baum and discovered that Oz was not his only work. The library had some of his non-Oz books (though they were Oz-related), and I also read many through interlibrary loan. Today, I think I may be more likely to re-read one of his pseudonymous works instead of one of his Oz books.

Pretty quickly, my Oz collection began to grow. The first Books of Wonder edition I got was The Little Wizard Stories of Oz, then a used copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. (By the way, I did buy that copy of The Magic of Oz, but because of it's rather cheap printing and paper quality, I no longer have it.) Later, when I got a job, I began buying my own Oz and Baum books and merchandise from the Internet.

Surprisingly, I did not get a VHS copy of the MGM movie of my own until the summer of 2003, when VHS tapes were beginning to go the way of vinyl records. I later switched to DVD, and intended to buy a copy of the MGM movie on that media, and one day in Spring, 2005, I went into Wal-Mart, deciding that I would buy it.

It wasn't there! It was sold out! But later that week, my dad mentioned that he read about a forthcoming 3-disc edition with many special features, including older films. I later bought that edition when it was released later that year.

My Oz collection, which now resides in my bedroom with me in my apartment (at the time of this writing, I have been 21 for three months), is expansive, maybe not very large or notable, and there are not a lot of rare items, but it is MY collection.

There is also a digital extension to my Oz and Baum collection as well, and it is now online in many places. (Look up "Jared Davis" and "Oz" on Google or Dogpile, and it's mostly me!) On April 1 this year, I was interviewed for Aaron Pacentine's "Returning to Oz" (that's a fitting title for my discovery and rediscovery of Oz story as well) episode 21 and the episode was released at the end of the month.

I am also working on several Oz projects. There's "The Wonders of Oz" documentary video series about Baum and Oz for YouTube. I am currently working with Sam Antony Milazzo, an Oz fan in Australia, on a screen adaptation of the first six Oz books. (Want to see it brought to life? Sign the petition!) I also run an Oz blog and an Oz website and have several Oz videos on my YouTube profile. I also post very actively at the International Wizard of Oz Club's message boards, of which I'm now an official member.

Oz seems to be very glad to have me back

No comments: