Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Latest Oz Reading

It has been a lot longer than I realized since I last read The Patchwork Girl of Oz, for although I remember most of it from my numerous childhood readings, there are a few things that stood out now that didn't before, at least not in the same way. The big one is the name of the fluid that causes Ojo to head off on his quest in the first place. For decades, I thought it was the Liquid of Petrification. But a talk about the 1914 film version at the Winkie Convention in San Diego a few years ago made me realize I may have misread the word this entire time. So while I continued my rereading of the Famous Forty, I paid extra attention here. Sure enough, every time it comes up, it's the Liquid of Petrifaction! D'oh! Still, I know now.

The other big thing that struck me this time around is that the Horners mine and use radium. I'm not sure of the exact timeline, but I know that nobody knew anything about just how dangerous radium was at that time, which is why so many of young women who used to paint glow-in-the-dark watch faces would come down with mysterious cases of cancer well into the 1920s. Yet here are the Horners mining it, decorating their houses with it, and even consuming it as medicine! Why aren't the Horners all keeling over from radiation poisoning? Or maybe the Horners have horns on their foreheads and pink, blue, and green hail because they are mutants. (Hmm, come to think of it, that may also explain the Hoppers and their singular legs as well!) This is my Books of Wonder/William Morrow edition—yes, the one with the altered text and deleted illustration—so I can't help wondering if it might have been a good idea to alse change the radium in this book to some other material. (The magical element gaulau that Baum created for Glinda of Oz might be a good candidate; ironically, in that book, gaulau is said to be more powerful than radium!)

As a bonus read, I also read Baum's treatment for a possible stage verision of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, written not long after the book. Only one was known to exist until it was reprinted by the Pamami Press, but since they do extremely limited edition handcrafted books, it's still something most people don't have access to or have read. Baum the old theater hand can clearly be seen in this, but you can also see the germ of how it would eventually turn out, as the first feature-length Oz movie a year later.

The Oz readings may be scarce and spread out a bit here, as I recently received some magazines I want to catch up on, but never fear, there will be more at some point!

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