Friday, September 11, 2015

The Oz Reading Continues!

This morning, I finished A bouquet for the Gardener: Martin Gardner Remembered. This is a tribute book to Martin Gardner, who died in 2010. He is a very important figure in Oz circles. He was one of the earliest champions of Baum and Oz in the 1950s, and co-wrote the groundbreaking book about the two, The Wizard of Oz and Who He Was. He was the executor of Jack Snow's estate, which led to him sharing Jack's correspondence with several noted Oz fans, leading to the formation of the Wizard of Oz Fan Club, now known as the International Wizard of Oz Club. He was a charter member of the Club and the first chairman of its board of directors. (Gardner did not find this out until he saw it in the first issue of The Baum Bugle. Since there was no actual board of directors at the time, it was purely an honorary title.) He was responsible for getting Michael Patrick Hearn to write The Annotated Wizard of Oz and getting it published. He wrote a number of introductions for Dover's editions of Baum's books. He wrote many essays and appreciations of Oz and Baum for many publications, including The Baum Bugle. And he wrote the novel The Visitors from Oz. All of these make Gardner a major figure in Oz circles.

And yet he was better known as a scholar and essayist on Lewis Carroll and the Alice books. His The Annotated Alice not only popularized Carroll and Alice and opened the doors for both to be seriously studied, but it also led to other annotated books, and led to children's literature becoming a field for serious research in academia. He was a founding member of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. And like Oz, he wrote extensively on Carroll and Alice.

Gardner was also a popularizer of recreational mathematics. His "Mathematical Games" column ran in Scientific American magazine for twenty-five years, and they were reprinted in over a dozen books. Gardner was also a devotee of puzzles and magic, and was interested in all kinds of other fields as well. Needless to say, he had many friends and fans (many of the former started off as the latter), and this book is filled with many essays about Gardner's life and times by many of them. This book is published by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and the majority of the book is devoted to Gardner's Carrollian pursuits. (Since Carroll was also a mathematician, even the math ties into Alice.) It even includes some more notes, by Gardner himself, for The Annotated Alice. Yet there is plenty of Oz in this as well, and it was really no surprise to find many writers in this book that I know myself.

I never had the chance to meet Mr. Gardner, and I dan't think I ever even wrote to him. (I am proud to say, however, that I somehow managed to acquire his copy of the limited edition book publication of L. Frank Baum's skit, The Uplift of Lucifer.) But as both an Oz fan and a mathematics teacher, I feel I owe him a lot, and that he has had a big influence on my life. Through reading this, I think I've gotten to know the man a little better.

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