The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Introduction

Tonight's Soundtrack: Heigh Ho (The Dwarfs' Marching Song) - Tom Waits

Moons of Alabama! Has it really been so long? How are you? You're looking well. I assume. Probably. I don't want to drag facts into the picture this early. Look. Point is.

I'll come in again.

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Hiya! Welcome back to that spot on your dial where the intermittent hits are punctuated by the silent thumping chaos of blarghuing. Yes, at last our Illojournal is put to use, and our Tumbls return to brief, modern-style mini-essays, rendered in pixels and hastily-puréed idea goblins by yours truly. Last year, it was daily 250-word pieces on film and television, however this new project is something by way of being more professionally minded, but you'd be forgiven for not realizing that, particularly given the length of this sentence.

In my night job, I do a lot of stuff related to Lyman Frank Baum's Oz books. One thing I haven't done in a while, though, is actually read them. The books. I search, I skim, and I cite,  but it's been literally years since I've sat down and, y'know, engaged with the text. So, what with this new hidden Oz thing I'm doing alongside the old revived Oz thing I'm doing, and the other projects what need procrastinating, and it being 114 years since the first book was written, and the 75th Anniversary of the MGM movie, and the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and what the heck, it's Christmas, we're pulling the trigger on this monster.

THE DEAL: I'm re-reading Oz, starting with Wonderful Wizard, and we'll see how far we get. (The first book is essential, the first six are a ramshackle "series", and 14 is the absolute limit.) You, you lucky person, get chapter by chapter impressions and ramblings on this most American of fairy tales, through a series of short essays released over the coming months.

 (Our text is the gorgeous Centennial Edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with annotations by Michael Patrick Hearn, just so's you know.)

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"Short." Who's he kidding?

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Okay, since we're already way over the limit, how about that Introduction? It's "Shots Fired", innit? Baum sets his electric literary flag out atop the craggy hill of Kiddie Lit and Fairy Tales, declaring a Safe New World for Modern Joy and Wonder. Adios, Euro-relics! No panic. No vomit. Oz loves his children, yeah.

Two Things:

  1. The Grimm and Andersen wonder tales that he calls out by name, the ones he says might as well be in the "History" section of the library? They'd been in print for about 80 years. Baum's been in print for 113 years now and reality still hasn't caught up. Call it a variation on Clarke's Law: Any sufficiently advanced imagination is indistinguishable from a naughty time traveler.
  2. "...and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out." Yeah, Frank. About that...

Powerful stuff from our man in Chicago, 1900. Let's see if he can make it play.

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"Modern education includes morality."