The Woggle Bug Book

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The Woggle Bug Book

dittersdorf
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Joined: 03 Apr 2011, 21:11

18 Aug 2011, 16:25 #1

While recovering from pneumonia here at home I decided to finally pick up my copy of Baum's "Woggle Bug Book" and read it. After hearing nothing but scathing things about this work for over twenty years I'd always been reluctant to read it - it appears to be the **** child of the Baum canon, the wayward cousin that is nothing but an embarrassment to the family and of whom everyone is ashamed. I was completely surprised to find myself actually enjoying it to a certain extent.
Yes, the racial and national stereotypes, the feature of the book which is most highly criticized, are regrettable to say the least: particularly the African American washerwoman and the Chinese man. Yet none of these seem to be based in any kind of hatred or ill-will, simply in a kind of ethnic humor which was popular at the time, which even Baum seems to have fallen prey to, but which does not correspond to our modern sensibilities (at least we've evolved as a nation in that respect).
If we overlook this damaging flaw, the rest of the work is somewhat entertaining. I personally enjoyed The Woggle Bug's obsession for his "Wagnerian Plaids" (a concept derived, I assume, from the "Woggle Bug"" musical with which I'm not familiar). Secondly, the entire final section of the book, which takes place in a world of civilized animals, seems to be Baum at his satirical best; and the tale's ending - with the Woggle Bug only retaining enough of the plaid to make a tie, yet somehow being satisfied with it, seemed strangely poignant.
No, "The Woggle Bug Book" is no forgotten masterpiece, but neither is it worthless. Ike Morgan's illustrations are delightful and, if the world is not a better place for its having been written, it's not a particular worse place for its appearance either.
One final question: If we regard the "Woggle Bug Book" and the "Queer Visitors" strips as canonical, where do they fit in the timeline of Oz history? As the Gump is dismantled at the end of "Marvelous Land", it is unlikely that these adventures took place between that book and "Ozma of Oz" (although that would seem to be the most natural place for them - perhaps the Gump was put back together for one last trip?). If these adventures took place during the period when the protagonists of "Marvelous Land" were outside of Oz (i.e. "In The Jackdaw's Nest") and were excluded from Baum's narrative as being irrelevant to the plot (a thought I had last night) there remain important questions - where is Tip? And why have our queer visitors taken such an extravagant side journey, completely ignoring their immediate peril and quest? Ah! These are questions which will keep an Oz scholar awake at nights!
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CowardlyLion
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Joined: 14 May 2009, 07:04

18 Aug 2011, 17:01 #2

I have always read the "Visitors" as newspaper stories. Since I think of newspapers reporting current events rather than things that happened a couple of years earlier, I've always just accepted that the Gump had been reassembled. As I recall, he complained about it along the way, too.

"The Woggle Bug Book" was, indeed a souvenir sort of thing that was sold at performances of the play. I have only a fairly recent B&W reprint of it, myself. I understand that Marcus Mebes has a full-color edition available in his storefront at Lulu.com. If anyone out there hasn't already ordered a copy, yes, it has a lot of racism that was typical of the day. It also has a lot of Ozzy humor and it was written by L. Frank Baum, so I don't see how we can deny its place in the canon.

Several years ago, Hugh Pendexter III approached me about publishing a second edition of "The Third Book of Oz," which included all of the "Visitors" stories as well as "The Woogle Bug Book." At the time, I had not been told that the stories had been altered to take out all of the racial slurs. Had I known that, I'd have probably demanded that they be put back, but I would have included an explanation, as many modern-day reprints of "Huckleberry Finn" have. On the other hand, they had all been re-illustrated by Eric Shanower, which I still consider a definite improvement. Eric was even so kind as to offer to create several new illustrations for my edition, as well as a nice new cover. I no longer have any copies of that available, but I still see them show up on eBay from time to time.
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jaredadavis
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Joined: 20 Apr 2005, 23:03

19 Aug 2011, 01:08 #3

I contributed a lot to Marcus' edition, and it seems that it is the best available at the moment, for the fact that it is in COLOR. And not just a photocopy, Marcus cleaned up all the images so it actually looks new. And Ruth Berman wrote a great afterword. (And some nut wrote the introduction... A nut who wished he had done a better job on it, after he got his copy.)

Here's the press release about Marcus' edition: http://newwwoz.blogspot.c...le-bug-book-is-back.html
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dittersdorf
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Joined: 03 Apr 2011, 21:11

19 Aug 2011, 02:06 #4

It is the Mebes edition that I have and it is, indeed, beautifully reproduced. I also agree with Jared that the afterword is much superior to the forward. The color reproduction is lovely, the slick pages appealing. Also reproduced is a scan of the original cloth cover, as well as the "missing" illustration, showing the Scandinavian widow trying on her Wagnerian Plaids. All-in-all a top rate job, I highly recommend it (I also have previously issued B&W reprints and they have nothing on this).
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CowardlyLion
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Joined: 14 May 2009, 07:04

19 Aug 2011, 02:06 #5

Good work, Jared, and thank you for adding the link.

Looking back at the copy I have: It is  actually SMALLER than my usual 8.5 x 5.5 in hardcover. It was published by Scholar's Facsimiles & Reprints, Delmar, NY, 1978. It claims to be a facsimile reproduction, but that is clearly untrue.I really wish they had made it at least a little bigger around, even if it would still be smaller than a first ed. It has an intro by Douglas G. Greene. I'm not sure he qualifies as a nut, so I probably should get the Marcus Mebes version.

The illustration details are not very clear in this (Scholars F&R) one, and there is no color at all. In fact, the hardback cover is totally plain except for the title on the spine. No picture label; no dustjacket; no nuffin'. The text itself is not consistent. Some parts are too dark, others too light, etc. I can still read it, but it really lost some clarity in the reduction.
I wouldn't call this a photocopy. I believe it is actually printed rather than Publish-On-Demand (which is what Lulu does). However, I don't think that it was very carefully done in whatever medium was used to reproduce and also reduce it. DGG should have known better, but I'm not sure it was his fault. I guess it WAS 1978, and computer scanners were still very much sci-fi at that time. I still suspect that the illos would have been clearer had it been bigger around, even if they were printed from these same originals.

MM would have put a lot more careful thought into it that I believe SF&R did. I've no doubt in my mind that his lulu.com edition is the one to get, unless one is primarily interested in DGG's introduction--which I *THINK* might have also been printed in the Bugle at some point (not sure, though).
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marbpl2
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Joined: 30 Nov 2007, 22:57

19 Aug 2011, 14:55 #6

The Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints editions of the late 70s and early 80s (which along with The Woggle Bug Book, included Maud Baum's In Other Lands than Ours, Policeman Bluejay and By the Candelabra's Glare) were all published for the research library market, hence their high prices and plain (jacketless) reinforced bindings.  They had good introductions, but the black and white reproductions were nothing special (I recall the Bugle review of their Woggle Bug mentioned the muddy looking illustrations).

Image
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magicianofoz
Member
Joined: 11 Mar 2009, 23:27

19 Aug 2011, 20:02 #7

I've always enjoyed this particular image of the Wogglebug from The Magic of Oz (1919).
Image
I believe he's holding a meter stick, as opposed to a yard stick. The Wogglebug is, of course, metric... I hope!
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CowardlyLion
Member
Joined: 14 May 2009, 07:04

19 Aug 2011, 21:43 #8

I have a manuscript in my possession for a new Oz book which has the Woggle-Bug as one of its central figures. Up until fairly recently, I have had the worst luck finding the right illustrator who would draw the character looking right as well as meet the author's rather strict guidelines. Yes, he has to look like Neill's depiction and NOT Morgan's...We had a lot of false starts, but these always ended in disappointment. Recently, through the magic of FaceBook, the ideal illustrator has come into my life. His name is Michael. He can draw the Woggle-Bug not only LOOKING like the Woggle-Bug, but he can also put the character into proper positions and situations from the text. I got an email from him today telling me that he has been in the hospital with a condition that sounds very much like my own Image He went on to say that he is now taking better care of his health and that he intends to catch up with all of the projects that he has taken for the rest of the year. I have the highest expectations that the book really IS going to be illustrated this time. It will. It must. It has come so far already.
And here's hoping that we will see a lot more of Mike's artwork in other Oz publications in future years. Maybe I should write something about that Highly Magnified insect myself...
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