Real Fiction

Exploring the nexus of reading and writing


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Wisdom From Oz

Johnny Dooit’s* Song (See footnote):

The only way to do a thing
Is do it when you can,
And do it cheerfully, and sing
And work and think and plan.
The only real unhappy one
Is he who dares to shirk;
The only really happy one
Is he who cares to work.

The Road to OzFrom The Road to Oz, by L. Frank Baum, 1909: In which is related how Dorothy Gale of Kansas, The Shaggy Man, Button Bright, and Polychrome the Rainbow’s Daughter met on an Enchanted Road and followed it all the way to the Marvelous Land of Oz, encountering strange people and interesting adventures along the way.

My father read to me and my sister Diane, and we later read for ourselves, all 14 Oz books written by L. Frank Baum. There were more written by others after Baum died, but they didn’t come up to the standard his books established, according to both Dad and me.

I often think of Johnny Dooit when I am engaged in manual labor; he provides inspiration. I also learned to appreciate the value of tools and a can-do attitude through him, later buttressed by real life experiences.

The first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the unforgettable movie made of it in 1939, are essential parts of my childhood. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” sung by Judy Garland, never fails to evoke tender feelings in me.

But, there is so much more to the full story of Oz. Here are the 14 books, in publication date order:

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904)
  • Ozma of Oz (1907)
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908)
  • The Road to Oz (1909)
  • The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
  • The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)
  • Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)
  • The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)
  • Rinkitink in Oz (1916)
  • The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
  • The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
  • The Magic of Oz (1919, posthumous)
  • Glinda of Oz (1920, posthumous)

You can access the text of all of these books online, here.

RinkitinkIn addition to The Road to Oz another favorite of mine is Rinkitink in Oz, King Rinkitink of Gilgad is a Falstaffian character who rides a surly billy goat who talks, of course, and in a most disrespectful manner to everyone, including especially the king. There is a young man, the Prince of Pingaree, who accompanies the King to Oz, in order to escape his kingdom’s enemies and to seek help from the ruler of Oz. The Prince has three magic pearls that figure in his ability to overcome great dangers on his trip to Oz.

Prince Inga’s father, King Kitticut, had told him, before the King and Queen were captured by enemies: “Each of the three possesses an astonishing power, and whoever is their owner may count himself a fortunate man. This one having the blue tint will give to the person who carries it a strength so great that no power can resist him. The one with the pink glow will protect its owner from all dangers that may threaten him, no matter from what source they may come. The third pearl — this one of pure white — can speak, and its words are always wise and helpful.” To add spice to the story, the Prince has trouble hanging on the the pearls as he, King Rinkitink and Bilbil the goat search for the the safety and the help of the Land of Oz.

woggleA major point in this book is that Dorothy Gale of Kansas is not the main character, as she is in so many others–and he is a boy. There is another book where the main character starts out, from our view, as a boy but is later transformed back into his original condition as Ozma, The Royal Princess of Oz. This occurs in the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz, the only book in which Dorothy Gale does not appear.

One of my favorite characters is introduced in this second book: “H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.” whom you see lecturing the assembled characters in the image on the left. H.M. stands for Highly Magnified (he escaped from a professor’s magnifying apparatus) and T.E. means Thoroughly Educated (after all, he was a living specimen for students and therefore lived at a university). This character exhibits all the pomposity and windiness of the quintessential caricature of a professor. I think Dad and I saw ourselves in him.

Dad started the tradition of collecting, keeping and passing along the Oz books to the generation that follows. Some of the books I held as a young boy (and my sister, as a younger girl) are now in the possession of my youngest daughter Analiese and her nieces, my granddaughters Sydney and Sonya, and my great-granddaughter Quinn.

As you may sense, I could go on and on about the many and surprising array of characters in the Oz books, not all of them nice people, or even people at all.

I urge to read one to see if you can resist reading others, no matter what your age.

36landofozmap_0

  • Johnny Dooit – Johnny Dooit is a fictional “handyman” appearing in The Road to Oz. He is a little old man with a long beard who is friends with the Shaggy Man. His appearance in the novel is less than one chapter, in which he creates a Sand Boat to allow the Shaggy Man and his friends, Dorothy GaleButton-Bright, and Polychrome to cross the Deadly Desert into the Land of Oz.[28] Johnny has a tool chest from which he can pull out nearly any equipment he needs. At Ozma‘s birthday party, he builds an aircraft out of contents of the trunk, puts the trunk inside, and flies away as an entertainment while getting himself to the next place he is needed as he loves to work and keep busy.


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Writing about writing and arguing for God

ScreenHunter_149 Jul. 03 10.35A very difficult book

The book is The Broken Estate, by James Wood.

I have long wanted to learn more about some of the authors and historical figures (often one and the same) whom this author presents: Sir Thomas More, Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, Virginia Woolf and so on. And, I learned about others new to me. I am in debt to the author for educating me.

However, I am also exhausted from the reading of this difficult book. I cannot fully put my finger on the reason or reasons, but the following are thoughts my forebrain reveals.

James Wood is upset by the trivialization of God that most authors offer in their novels. Herman Melville‘s Moby Dick is one of the exceptions. He also likes Jane Austen for introducing the inner dialog of the main character in a new and useful way, but this doesn’t seem to have anything to do about the “God” issue that underlies this collection of essays.

To justify my having said the foregoing, here is an excerpt, regarding the free-will argument, from the final paragraph of the book in the final chapter entitled The Broken Estate: The Legacy of Ernest Renan and Matthew Arnold:

…(A) world of limited freedom and absolute transparency of knowledge, in which not one of us is in any doubt about our creator, would be a limited, useless place. But it would not, presumably, be useless to God. It is what heaven would be like; and why, before heaven, must we live? Why must we move through this unhappy, painful, rehearsal for heaven, this desperate ante-chamber, this foreword written by an anonymous author, this hard prelude in which so few of us can find our way?

The above ends the book.

As an aspiring writer, I am eager to learn from such a master of language and from his criticism of literature. But what is literature as compared with just “writing,” which is what I think I am doing? Answers.com tells us this, in part, about the definition of “literature”:

• Imaginative or creative writing, especially of recognized artistic value: “Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity” (Rebecca West).

• The art or occupation of a literary writer.

I take this to mean that writing has artistic value when it is deemed such by those who consider their own writing to have artistic value such as, presumably, Rebecca West.

Rebecca West

Rebecca West, 1892 – 1983

As for literary writer, I find no direct definition on the Internet. No doubt it exists somewhere, but I will attempt my own here: a literary writer is one who, in his writing, refers, implicitly or explicitly, to other writers and their work. T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land is a solid example of this, in my view. One cannot understand his poem without first having read and understood a great number of other works of other authors and philosophers, including The Bible.

I have a bias, as may be perceived here, against those who hold themselves out as “experts” in telling us how good or bad, and why, a given piece of writing or art may be.

James Wood doesn’t tell us how we should think; he is telling us what he thinks, and he thinks very deeply. I agree that the notion of God or, more to my taste, the notion of a power beyond us and beyond our understanding, a Life Force (or, as I use in my poetry, The Great Everything), does in fact exist. I believe he is arguing that for the last several hundred years man has undertaken to describe the universe in his own terms through the use of the written word and has reduced God or The Life Force to an abstraction, something less relevant than before.

I will keep this book. This means I will read it again, perhaps ten years from now when I am 81 and will have had more life experience. I may find it less daunting reading then, as I recently found with Plato’s Dialogues, despite their being opaque to me when I was 25.

May the Force be with you.

[response] And also with you

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END


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When Does Boyhood End?

Over the years, I have read and re-read these books:

Robert Pirsig (b. 1928) and his son Chris (1956 - 1979)

Robert Pirsig (1928-2017) and his son Chris (1956 – 1979)

There may be a common thread among all these, and there certainly is in the last two. In each of these two, an old Greek teaches a much younger Englishman how to grow up, according to each mentor’s way. In The Magus, the pupil never quite gets there.

I recently was perusing the editor’s introduction to the revised 1978 edition of The Magus where I read that Fowles was influenced in his life, generally, and for the writing of this book, by his childhood love of three books:

This lead me to look for these books on the Internet and this search brought me to an obituary of Fowles, he having died in November 2005. I hadn’t heard of his death and it briefly saddened me. I was fascinated by this obit and a book review of his biography by Eileen Warburton. Then I came upon this 1996 article by John Fowles, himself, on the influences underlying The Magus. What riches the Internet brings us!

John Fowles

John Fowles

I read the three favorite books of Fowles’s youth, the first two being much quicker reads than Great Expectations. As I began this last of the three, I was surprised to see that I had not previously read the book, despite (or perhaps because) my father carried richly-bound Dickens books with us whenever we moved, which was often. How many times have we read in general literature reference to “Miss Havisham”?

I was prepared to hurry through ‘Expectations’ as I had the other two but found myself bound to slow down to closely read the rich dialog and unsurpassed characterizations. And what characters with such names: Mr. Pumblechook, Mr. Wopsle, the heartless Miss Estella, Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt whose name we are never shown, “Old” Orlick who is not much older than Pip the young principal of this story, the hapless Pocket family, the lawyer Mr. Jaggers, and many more.

Through the reading of these books, articles, and obits I am now able to appreciate The Magus even more fully. As a sometimes writer, I find it enlightening to learn how an author’s life experiences affect his writing.