29 November 2006

Baum's 150th in The Baum Bugle

The latest issue of The Baum Bugle is the Int'l Wizard of Oz Club's tribute to L. Frank Baum, the author who created Oz, during his sesquicentennial year. It contains several articles about different aspects of his life and writing:

  • An essay by Robert A. Baum about his great-grandfather's legacy.
  • Bill Thompson's study of Baum's Castorine Company in its earliest years. This product, a mix of petroleum and castor oil, was an excellent axle lubricant and produced a tidy fortune for the Baum family in the late 1800s. The family wealth let young Frank grow up in comfort and try out several artistic hobbies and professions (printing, stamp-collecting, acting, playwriting) before he joined the family firm as, basically, a marketing manager. Setbacks in the late 1880s led to the sale of the firm and sent Frank, his wife Maud, and their eldest sons out to Aberdeen, South Dakota, where he had to reinvent himself as a shopkeeper and writer-editor.
  • Prof. Fred Erisman's article on the earliest female aviators, and how a couple of well publicized crashes in 1912 probably doomed Baum's Flying Girl series and Margaret Burnham's Girl Aviators series in the market. Baum's two Flying Girl books reflect his faiths in feminism and technology.
  • A short, rare article by Baum himself about his late hobby of gardening, which ends with this verse.
'Tis my retreat my worldly care;
My one desire, indeed,
Is that within my garden fair
I'll some day go to seed.
  • An analysis of one of Baum's three surviving Oz book manuscripts, The Magic of Oz (published 1919) at the University of Texas's Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. This was my own contribution to the issue. So far as I know, it's the first detailed study of Baum's creative process: how he wrote (without a whole lot of solid planning) and revised (rather little, but interestingly). At the end I hypothesize about the order in which Baum wrote his last three books, which recent biographers have disagreed on. I think the evidence suggests he wrote those books in the order in which they were published, and that he accidentally misdated the title page of his manuscript of Glinda of Oz (now at the Library of Congress), causing confusion.
Finally, the Bugle offers its usual reviews of books, DVDs, and other Ozzy offerings; reports on events commemorating Oz; and news roundups, including a mention of Oz and Ends.

Editor Sean P. Duffley, production manager Marcus Mébes, book review editor Joe Bongiorno, and the rest of the volunteer staff did a fine job on this extra-sized issue.


ericshanower said...

Dear J.L.,

I thought your manuscript article was fascinating.

Eric Shanower

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Eric! I also want to acknowledge Atticus Gannaway, who looked at those manuscripts in Texas in 1997 and described them for the Ozzy Digest. Without Atticus, I wouldn't have known about those manuscripts (they're not in the UTexas online catalogue) and wouldn't have gotten interested in studying them further.