Friday, April 01, 2005

The Oz Scrapbook

from the diary: “July 3, 1981

“Becky and I listened to some music, looked at The Oz Scrapbook (much more because I wanted to than she did), and finally found our way into my bedroom where we played Black Box and Obstruction. She couldn't get the hang of Black Box, but she almost beat me at Obstruction.”

The Oz Scrapbook gave me my first look at the covers of many of the out of print Oz books. That by itself was pretty exciting for someone who for years had only had reference to a mysterious list of titles printed in one of the paperback Baum books. I used to fantasize about those titles, even woke from dreams in which I found a cache of never-before-seen Oz books (actually, this still happens). I remember making my own lists of Oz titles, though I only had the vaguest ideas of what might happen in these imaginary books. I ran onto the list just before I moved out of my mother’s house and it included ungainly titles like The Shaggy Man of Oz in Ix. (Ix is another of Baum’s fairlylands.)

I found The Oz Scrapbook at the library. Finding it was almost as exciting as finding one of the Oz books, for it was my first window into L. Frank Baum’s life. He was a showman! He’d traveled the country performing in plays he’d written. He pitched The Wizard of Oz to Broadway producers and the musical extravaganza that resulted was the biggest thing on Broadway up to that time. (And the MGM movie was slavishly faithful to the original in comparison.) When movie cameras were invented Baum used his Oz fortune to found a studio and direct his own movies (and lost everything, but then he lost everything two or three times). Scrapbook also offered up information about the Oz illustrators W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill and later authors Ruth Plumly Thompson and Jack Snow and Rachel Cosgrove. That book seemed HUGE.

Besides, Scrapbook is a handsome book. It was designed by Dick Martin who illustrated the last book of the 40 and included much from the collection of longtime Oz club member David L. Greene.

Black Box was a puzzle game, sort of a cross between Battleship and Mastermind. Each player would hide his balls on the board’s grid and the other player would try to find the balls by firing imaginary rays across the board. It took too much work to figure out how to play, really. Obstruction (it seems to have other names, as well) is much simpler. You’ve got to get your pieces from home to the goal and there are all these little obstructions that you can move into our opponent’s way. You can come back from what looks like a hopeless situation. That’s what makes the game fun to play.

No comments: