Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Real Wizard of Oz

I have read Rebecca Loncraine's The Real Wizard of Oz -- the first biography of L. Frank Baum I have had the pleasure of taking in. The book offers a great deal of information and some quite valuable and insightful perspective. The difficulty it presents, however, is its occasional imprecise language (some effort seems to have been expended in making passages poetic and evocative), and its lack of footnotes. I am in the position of wanting to cite a book on this subject and am feeling a bit irritated that it is impossible to know where exactly the various facts (or "facts") in the book were found, and whether the insightful perspectives were suggested by other Ozmaticians -- there must be legions -- or were the insights of Loncraine herself.

The book does end with a few pages of general notes on sources. (As did I for the Kornbluth biography, Loncraine spent time in Syracuse for this one. She, however, had grant support.) While the notes she provides are helpful, they still are of almost zero value in establishing where any particular bit of say-so came from.

Several lines toward the end of the book echo with the stated purpose of this "Vines, Wines and Lines" blog: "His writing became inextricably linked to gardening at Ozcot, the process of tending and pruning plants mapped onto the process of telling stories" (p. 266); and "Digging about in the garden, hat on and cigar in mouth, strangely mirrored Baum's writing process, in which he dug about in the turf of his own mind. And for Baum, both writing and gardening were an essentially intuitive process" (p. 267).

I am puzzled at a "process" being "mapped onto" another "process" -- which seems at least fuzzy in its expression; but I am not at all satisfied with "turf" in the second quotation. The garden-pottering Baum would have been digging about in soil or dirt or such. He might have been alarmed to think he had turf in his mind, as a dedicated flower grower.

What a minor quibble -- yet if examples of hazy language were not somewhat common in the book it might have gone unnoticed ... or if yet more questions were not being stimulated within the same passage. Why "strangely" mirrored? And should the second sentence not read, "For Baum, both writing and gardening were essentially intuitive processes" -- ?

Cheers ...

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