17 June 2009

Dorothy and the Wizard at 100

The winter 2008 issue of The Baum Bugle celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. This was L. Frank Baum's fourth Oz book, and the first which few people pick as a favorite. Indeed, the magazine's editorial staff had such difficulty finding someone to write an appreciation for the book that they ended up with...me.

In my essay I tried to note the book's strong points--such as John R. Neill's art, the return of the Wizard, and lots of furious action--without shying away from its weaknesses. The book is one of Baum's darkest; not only does much of the story take place underground, but that tone doesn't change much even after Dorothy and her friends reach the Emerald City.

And then there's the plot issue. Baum literally wrote his characters into a hole, and then got them out by having Princess Ozma wish them to Oz with her immensely powerful Magic Belt--a dea ex machina. She had, after all, promised Dorothy she'd look in on her at the end of the previous Oz book.

In a sidebar to the article, I shared a way (developed independently by many Oz analysts) that Baum could have turned that circumstance into a storytelling asset. I even had the presumption to draft a few paragraphs in an attempt at Baum's style:

“We won’t be down here with the Mangaboos forever,” Dorothy explained. “My friend Ozma looks for me ev’ry Saturday morning in her Magic Picture. This Saturday, I’ll give her my signal, and she’ll wish me out of here, and then I’ll ask her to bring you to the Em’rald City, too.”

Zeb frowned and looked around at the glass city. “It’s only Monday now.”

“And I don’t think these mangelwurzels will keep us around till Saturday,” grumbled Jim.

“Plus, how will you know when it’s the right time to signal?” asked Zeb. “The suns down here don’t work like the real one, up above.”
A clear challenge, a ticking clock--and the plot is rolling.

This issue of The Baum Bugle also includes a historical analysis of the earthquake that sets off the plot of Dorothy and the Wizard, and the usual fine complement of bibliographic reports and reviews. The journal is published three times a year by the International Wizard of Oz Club.


Anonymous said...

I really liked this alternative ending when I read it in the most recent issue of the Baum Bugle. Why couldn't Baum have stuck with his original magic picture schedule and created a little suspense?

Looking forward to meeting you at Winkies. For some reason we never got around to talking at Fayetteville.

Judy (Bieber)

J. L. Bell said...

Fayetteville is just a whirlwind.

See you in a month!