I guess I have been a little haywire lately. I apologize for that–if I have any regular readers. However, I guess I will discuss my art here, in the hopes that it will help somebody else who always wanted to write a book. My favorite kind of book to write is a novel, though I have also written four books of poetry and hope to write some history before I die. Anyway, I will use as an example for the book I am currently writing, or rather will be working on again as soon as I finish writing for a four lecture class, Abraham, Then and Now. The book is called Oz Revisited.
I got the idea reading Wicked. I didn’t really want to read Wicked. A friend of mine dragged me to the play, and afterwards I privately thought it: Why was this play necessary? I even lied to another friend who took me home from it that I enjoyed it. Anyway, I rented the movie The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and found myself in a frenzy of hate. Then I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and my wrath increased. I read Wicked itself, and decided it was one of the worst books ever written about one of the sweetest children stories the United States ever had written in its honor, and so I planned my revenge. I read all fourteen Oz books first (after reading the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Wicked). Then I wrote my seventy-odd chapter outline.
And then I began reading about Kansas themes like the Dustbowl. Because I was going to work on the assumption that Dorothy lived in turn-of-the-century Kansas as a pioneer’s kid while in the twenties after the “Great War” she marries Paul Revere Hughes. And their daughter Rosie hears all growing up about Oz, a wonderful world which Dorothy still believes in, despite the fact that nobody else believes it exists. Yet people listen to Dorothy, wanting to believe. These people include Rosie. Well, Rosie is a child in the thirties, and catches dust pneumonia. And after she lies down to go to sleep, a chicken is at the window, pecking on it.
Rosie goes outside of the house to where the chicken is. The chicken–Billina–asks for help to leave the yard, because she does not want to be eaten. Rosie lets her out of the fence. Then the two of them see a rainbow. And the two of them climb the rainbow, and walk down the other side. Yet once on the other side, the rainbow disappears. On the other side of the rainbow, Rosie meets Miranda, a good witch, playing chess with the Tik-Toc man. Rosie is told that there is a prophecy, and she was brought to Oz to bring down two evil witches–Athaliah (the new Wicked Witch of the West) and Hepzibah (the new Wicked Witch of the East)–before she can return to Kansas where her parents are.
Just like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this book will be about a little girl’s heroism. It will also discuss the “deeper” ideas of L. Frank Baum: his pacifism, his feminism, and his socialism. Of course, and I admit it: in all of these ways he may be more liberal than me. Yet I am going to prove that L. Frank Baum is more than just a children’s book… he is a children’s book that thinks, and he has ideals in his book that matter, even if not all of them are workable in real life. L. Frank Baum believed that eventually capitalism would disappear and socialism would remain. Yet unlike Marx he believed it would be a peaceful evolution. I can’t quite believe him. Yet I like him for believing that it is not just the wealthy who deserve to live well–in this respect, he is the perfect book to be compared to Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and their heirs.
Strangely, though a fierce anti-Communist, Harry Truman believed him without knowing about it. In Where the Buck Stops which Truman dictated to his wife and daughter, Truman says that what Soviet Communism is “is not true Communism” because it is totalitarian. True Communism, he insists, is like what Jesus and the early Christians had, communal living. Truman hoped that it existed in the end of times. That was, though he didn’t say it, what his unsuccessful Fair Deal (he couldn’t get the votes but I believe he influenced LBJ with some of his ideas) was about and also his support of the U.N. He said that he hoped that someday the whole world was like the United States. That though each person still thought of their country (verses state) was the best, they would really see no reason to fight any wars.
I myself have difficulty believing in Harry’s vision, but I believe that maybe America needs to rediscover it in a way. If you have no real goal–and frankly the U.S. after the Cold War seems to have acted as though it doesn’t know what it’s doing on the World Stage–perhaps doing truly stupid things is what a politician could. Maybe America could begin by making sure that COVID-19 shots are given to the citizens of even the poorest countries on the globe (while, of course, taking them themselves). Then perhaps we should look into what makes rich countries rich and poor countries poor so we can really help poorer countries. I know we must save America; but perhaps America is at her best when she wants to save the world. Perhaps it is saving others–not destroying them–that makes America “great.”
There are two fine biographies of Truman out, David McCullough’s and Alonzo Hamby’s. However, I am convinced at some point I want to write a first-class biography of L. Frank Baum. There are several good ones, and I am grateful for their existence because they helped me write Oz Revisited–though it isn’t finished yet. Yet I want people to understand that just as Lewis Carroll and C. S. Lewis deserve serious scholarly attention, so does L. Frank Baum. (Eventually that conservative bookend of 19th Century Children’s Literature, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Though apolitical herself her daughter was a friend Ayn Rand and was the one who convinced her mother to write her books. I don’t like Ayn Rand’s ideas, but if Jefferson and Hamilton were two founding fathers with diametrically opposed views who gave greatly to this country, perhaps Baum and Wilder gave of the fullness of their heart to American children’s literature. Both deserve to be remembered fondly, and by honest scholars and not just well-meaning fans.)
Anyway, I did all the research I could. And here’s my trick: I read 100 pages a day. 50 in the morning and 50 in the evening. After I was through, I started the writing. I was up to page Chapter Twenty Four when I realized I needed to do a bit more research for Chapter Twenty Five and Chapter Twenty Six. However, amidst trying to write it, I agreed to do a four-class lecture series at my synagogue. So I am working on it before I get back to Oz Revisited.