Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More Baum Bugle Reading

Back in August, I blogged about reading some of the earliest material in The Baum Bugle. Well, despite a gap in my collection (1970-Spring 1971, which seems to be one of the rarest issues), I'm still reading and am up to 1984. (And no, I don't mean the George Orwell novel.)

There is seriously so much amazing information in these old issues. Just today, my respect for Ruth Plumly Thompson skyrocketed when I read her account of attending a party and being told by a librarian that the Oz books were not allowed in the library system. When she asked why, they said they'd explain when she accompanied them to lunch. Thompson demanded to be told right away. When she didn't get an answer when she asked for it, she skipped that lunch.

And in the same article ("Librarians, Editors, Critics, Children and Oz," Autumn 1984), she acknowledged that she and Baum were very different. It is these articles Thompson wrote (it was the third part of a long article she'd done) that finally let me see what kind of a person she was.

Not every article was quite informative. A couple that come to mind are by a Sonia Brown. The first was "Have We Found Oz?" which goes on about how she thought Oz might have been inspired by Australia. Another was about how she thought a famous stage magician was the basis of the Wizard. Speculation about Baum's inspiration is fine and all, but I felt it was too drawn out. I especially thought the one about Australia was a little far-fetched. It doesn't take the Deadly Desert of Oz into account, nor the fact that the borderlands are mostly bordered on ocean. Oz is landlocked, Australia is not.

Sometimes things I thought I knew were looked into more deeply. The fact that the Bugle doesn't do linear biographies helps a lot. For example, Baum's financial troubles about 1910 were pretty badly compounded, moreso than I'd previously summed up. Not only was he broke because of the Fairylogue and Radio Plays, but the company publishing his pre-Reilly & Britton books had rented the plates of his books to a big reprint house. What was bad was the fact that Baum was not making a single cent off of these reprints. He'd turned the royalties over to creditors in an attempt to pay them off (which worked, eventually). Even worse, cheap Baum books in the marketplace would rival with pricier new ones that he would profit from. It was really this that forced him back to Oz.

Also, it seems Reilly & Britton were interested in continuing the Trot books, but Baum just turned out Oz books and made Trot and Cap'n Bill part of Oz.

A lot of fun as I get through the older Bugles is all the names that I know (some of them from meeting them at Winkies) come up more often. Eric Gjovaag, Karyl Carlson, Eric Shanower, David Maxine, Judy Bieber, John Ebinger, Lee Speth and so many others.

A big problem with reading these old Bugles is seeing all the wonderful Oz-related works that have come out over the years. Now I'm itching to get my hands on more of it!


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I remember that article speculating about Oz/Australia and the magician - the magician used an Oz-like giant bald head in his act?

I read a biography of Baum a few years ago - when I looked at the biographer's sources the pages were heavy with Baum Bugle citations.

Jared said...

Nah, the magician had a "decapitation" illusion that would make his head appear to leave his body. It was done with mirrors.

To be honest, I think the magician one actually had some ground to it, but in the end, it was just speculation and "inspiration" doesn't mean this guy WAS the Wizard of Oz. After all, it doesn't say anything about him doing balloons.

Daniel Mannix had a 2-part article about Fred Stone and in his circus days, there's an aside about balloonists and "wizards" who would work for circuses and a note that Baum "confused" the two. I think "combined" would have been more accurate. I just assume the Wizard was with a small circus.

Nathan said...

When did people start using "Oz" as a nickname for Australia?