Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“A screaming comes across the sky.”

I found The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. So much for memory.

I remember buying a copy of the Books of Wonder edition of Wizard for the son of our contractor. The contractor had borrowed a copy of the recent University of Nebraska edition of Baum’s Twinkle Tales, a collection of fantasies starring a girl named Twinkle that were actually set on the prairie, rather than in a separate fantasy land like Oz (or Mo or Ix). The contractor’s son reportedly loved the book, but had never read The Wizard of Oz so when I saw the Books of Wonder edition at the used bookstore I bought it as a gift.

The contractor had had the strange notion I’d be doing him a big boon in his seven-year-old son’s eyes if I found an original edition of The Twinkle Tales. The contractor’s own eyes clearly glazed over when I said the U of NE paperback is the first time all those stories appeared together and tracking down the originals would be very expensive and … And I knew having some dumb collectible wouldn’t be any fun for a small boy.

When I found the copy of Wizard in good condition without a dust jacket I knew it the better choice. A couple weeks later the boy came to the house with his mother and, after parental prodding, thanked me for the book. But what gratified me more than a few mumbled words was the way he hung onto the book and swung it around while he talked about it and talked about how he liked the Wicked Witch.

I liked the Books of Wonder edition and decided I would get one for myself. So I guess it seemed like a lot of time passed between the purchases. Must not have. Because I discovered the copy I bought for myself (also used, but with dust jacket!) at the bottom of the shelves I shoved my Oz books onto, hidden behind cardboard to keep the construction dust from coating them (& to protect from cats peeing). Time elongated over the course of that renovation …

Finding the book after looking for it so long was almost a disappointment. I’d taken to picturing myself paging through other editions in search of the perfect unDenslow Wizard, thus shaking up my settled notion of the classic. Okay, so I was wrong about the book not being purchased “long after things had to be gotten out of the way of the workers and the dust.” My tactile memory was good, even if my chronology was whack. And, having looked over another illustrator at the bookstore I ducked into on my way home from the dentist this morning, I’m good with W.W.

I did buy an Oz book while I was there. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Also a Books of Wonder edition. Nice color plates. I got it for 20% off because I was able to identify the opening sentence the bookseller had written as a challenge on the chalkboard on the sidewalk. “You Googled it!” he said. Oh please.

“A screaming comes across the sky.”


David Lee Ingersoll said...

I had to google it.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

This post appeared on the third page of Google results just now.