Thursday, January 24, 2008

The stamp that made an impression

Reading “The Super Alkaloid”, one of the short stories collected in Spectral Snow: the dark fantasies of Jack Snow, I found myself experiencing a little flash of déjà vu. I read the following:

“You believe then,” I broke in, “that the theory asserting that the brain retains a history of every sensation, event and scene experienced by the individual, is tenable?”

“Precisely,” Olmsted answered sharply, “nothing, not even the stamp of a foot in childish anger, is left unnoted.”

I knew I’d encountered that stamping foot before. Wasn’t it in a description of the comprehensiveness of Glinda’s Book of Records?

With that amazing new research tool Google I found the passage I was looking for in L. Frank Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz:

In her magnificent castle, which stands far north of the Emerald City where Ozma holds her court, Glinda owns a wonderful magic Record Book, in which is printed every event that takes place anywhere, just as soon as it happens.

The smallest things and the biggest things are all recorded in this book. If a child stamps its foot in anger, Glinda reads about it; if a city burns down, Glinda finds the fact noted in her book.

Jack Snow was a big Oz fan. When he was twelve he wrote to the publishers of the Oz books, offering to take over the series after Baum’s death. They found someone else.

But twenty years later Snow’s childhood dream came true. He wrote and published two Oz books with Reilly & Lee, the publishers who had brought to print all the Oz books since Baum’s Land of Oz.

And there, as well, in Snow’s own Magical Mimics in Oz was the child and the stamping foot:

Glinda's Great Book of Records is a marvelous book in which everything that happens, from the slightest detail to the most important event taking place anywhere in the world, is recorded the same instant it happens. No occurrence is too trivial to appear in the book. If a naughty child stamps its foot in anger or if a powerful ruler plunges his country into war, both events are noted in the book as of equal importance.

Magical Mimics in Oz was published in 1946. “The Super Alkaloid” first saw print in Jack Snow’s collection of short fiction, Dark Music and other spectral tales which was published in 1947. I don’t know whether Jack Snow consciously noted his use of the stamping foot in both places, if so he probably didn’t figure it mattered. Or maybe he thought of it as a tribute to Baum.

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