Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Right here we have Tamawaca Folks. This was a little book Baum wrote tongue-in-cheek about Macatawa Park in Michigan, where he spent some happy summers. Under the pseudonym John Estes Cooke, it was published and sold around the park. (It seems everyone knew who Mr. Cooke really was.)
I'd first read the book through interlibrary loan, and it seems the copy I wound up with was an archival one. It was the pages of the book photocopied onto some sturdy paper and bound into a book. (Each page consisted of two pages, so I had to hold the book sideways.)
The copy in my collection is a small press reprint by the Tamawaca Press, which was the same name of the original publisher. This came out in 2006. The pages are directly from the original edition, and some are quite askew, with tilted text blocks and text being very close to the outer edge of the page with a lot of space at the inner edge. However, I've read it through twice with no complaints. Maybe I like that it seems to be a hand-bound affair...
This is a case where Baum clearly based the story on true events, fictionalizing all the names and only adding some romantic and comical splashes, and for a light read, it works very well.
The story opens with a lawyer named Jarrod (...) finishing up a long, tiring assignment and needing a vacation. A friend suggests he go to Tamawaca by Lake Michigan. Jarrod decides to follow this up.
Tamawaca seems a nice place, but a gifted lawyer like Jarrod smells something fishy: just about everything is owned by a man named Wilder, who has sold what should be public property for private property, yet the public areas are in disrepair. Wilder, a seemingly amiable fellow, claims it's because he only owns one third of the shares, the rest held by a Mr. Easton. Neither Easton or Wilder seem interested in working with each other.
So, there's only one thing to do: Tamawaca needs to be reclaimed for the people of Tamawaca. Thinking that Jarrod is arranging it so each of them could buy out the other one's shares of Tamawaca, Wilder and Easton agree to sell to Jarrod. But Jarrod has a trick up his sleeve: honesty.
Meanwhile, a young friend of Jarrod's named Jim is also at Tamawaca. He went to Cornell University, but refused to join his father's patent medicine business, and was forced to go into a clerking position. However, in Tamawaca, he catches the eyes of the girls, but they are dismayed when they discover he's just a clerk. And in fact, one of the girls happens to be the daughter of his boss, who has him fired. What does it mean for Jim's future? And did any of the girls really love Jim?
In between the plots, Baum writes in humorous scenes and anecdotes about Tamawaca social life, with some hilarious subplots with funny well-defined characters. Many of the characters are inspired by Baum's friends in Macatawa, and he even included himself as Mr. Wright, describing himself as a "distinguished author," who is "stubborn, loud-mouthed and pig-headed, and wanted to carry everything with a high hand, the way they do in novels" and has "about as much diplomacy as a cannon-ball." (Now that is how you do a Gary Stu!)
The book has been adapted into a presumably short play that will be performed at the International Wizard of Oz Club's National Convention this year, and it is one of the reasons why I regret that I can't afford to go to it and Winkies. I certainly hope the Baum Bugle has a nicely done review, or maybe the script will be published. Some photos would be cool, too.
The book is, of course, public domain. There's some cheaply done print-on-demand editions, but Marcus Mebes' Pumpernickel Pickle offers one with a nicely done cover, though it does just reproduce the original pages. It's also only in hardcover, though, admittedly, it is a few dollars cheaper than what I paid for my copy. (I also know from experience that Lulu probably dictated that the price be that high.)
If you're fine with digital-only, Marcus also made his version available as an ebook. Alternately, a scan of an original edition is available from Archive.org.