Baum to Thompson: The Transition

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Baum to Thompson: The Transition

Joined: 03 Apr 2011, 21:11

11 Aug 2011, 08:16 #1

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - complex situations in my life have prevented it. But I'm now laid up in bed recovering from walking pneumonia so I have a few moments. My ongoing re-reading of the FF continues. The other night I finished "Glinda" and last night started "Royal Book". This is the first time I've made a direct transition from the one to the other, and it was startling, to say the least.
Although "Magic" and "Glinda" are probably two of the best written and best plotted of Baum's later Oz books (I found myself devouring them with glee this time around) there is a pervasive seriousness in their tone. This could be attributed to the fact that Baum was on his deathbed when he wrote them, a very ill man indeed, and knew they would be the last Oz books he would write (indeed, the last  fantasy juveniles he would ever write). Though they have comic and whimsical touches, these elements are subdued. In "Glinda", Ozma's sense of duty shows that she has matured greatly since we first met her as Tip in "Marvelous Land"; the magic in "Glinda" is not haphazard but codified, catagorized, and marked by a heavy dose of "science fantasy" - machines implemented by the use of magic words dominate this world. Even Glinda herself must use a machine, a "skeropythrope" (intricately and beautifully illustrated by Neill) in order to work her wonders. And a book on children's literature I read over twenty years ago (title and author long lost to memory) theorized that "Glinda"'s Red Reera, a yookahoo who wishes only to be left alone and perform transformations for her own amusement, was a self-portrait of Baum, who was tired and wanted to be left alone without having to please his reading public with new marvels. I think this is a bit of a stretch, but there is a true sense of sadness in Baum's last two Oz books, particularly "Glinda".
And then comes "Royal Book"! Thompson's first addition to the canon springs out on to the stage like a hyperactive circus clown - it's opening lines are packed with energy and playfulness. It is hard to imagine what the first readers of this book must have thought -although originally attributed to Baum, could anyone really have believed that it actually came from his pen? Thompson's first Oz book is full of her own, individual, inimitable style: a playfulness with words, a ceaselessly jolly tone, and a particular carelessness with plot that echoes the devil-may-care meanderings of Baum's "Road to Oz". But I must admit that I found the sudden change refreshing, delightful even - I'm enjoying "Royal Book" no end, although it, probably (at least as far as plot and theme are concerned) is not one of Thompson's best efforts. But the spirit of Thompson is there.
Unlike some Oz fans, I enjoy Baum and Thompson equally for their own merits. Although I acknowledge Baum's mastery as the creator of Oz, I have always enjoyed Thompson's Oz books, too, and I'm really relishing the thought of re-reading them all. But I was so surprised, shocked even, when I concluded "Glinda" and then picked up "Royal Book" that the thoughts on the two authors' obvious differences flooded my mind. One would never find a character like Sir Hokus, for instance, in a Baum book, but he seems to fit very well in Thompson's Oz. Oddly enough, there is no jar in trip - the transition, though noticeable, feels seamless to me.
Also started reading Baum's "Dot & Tot" for the first time last night. I feel this book is highly underrated - but that deserves a thread of its own...

Joined: 09 Sep 2003, 03:31

11 Aug 2011, 12:17 #2

I think that a lot of Baum's later serious tone comes from his health issues, but also the horrific war that was raging around the world at the time.  His own son Frank Jr. re-enlisted to go fight in the war.  My feeling is that Frank saw "magic" fading from the world, to be replaced with technological marvels that had little of the warmth and heart of simplicity.
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Joined: 07 Dec 2007, 07:07

12 Aug 2011, 04:30 #3

Another sign he was merely writing, although sometimes subtley, what was happening and being thought of at the time.