Friday, October 22, 2010

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

A photograph of a cloth book cover. The text reads "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz By Frank L. Baum Pictures by W. W. Denslow" in red and green. The backdrop is beige and shows a bespectacled cartoon lion with a small bow in its mane, also in red and green.
One of the most well known American stories, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Chicago; New York: G. M. Hill Co., 1900) was first published in 1900 and has spawned many companion books and adaptations, including the classic 1939 film.  It chronicles the adventures of Dorothy and her famous companions - the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion - through the land of Oz where they encounter Munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, and other bizarre creatures.

According to the introduction, Baum intended the book to be a departure from the "historical" tales of old.  He wrote "the time has come for a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf, and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incident," adding "It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out."

An illustration mostly in blue on a green backdrop, of a girl perched on a fence and looking at a scarecrow. A small dog also leans against the fence and there is a basket on the ground.
Dorthy Meets the Scarecrow
More recently, author Gregory Maguire has revisited the land of Oz in his book Wicked (New York: ReganBooks, 1995).  This revisionist adaptation returns to a darker, more Grimm-like context, where the morality of the characters and their actions is explored and certainly contrasts with Baum's attempt to "dispense with all disagreeable incident."  To learn more, come hear a talk by Maguire this Sunday, October 24, in Alumni Hall in the Hopkins Center at 3:00 PM, co-sponsored by the Friends of the Dartmouth College Library.

Ask for Rare Book PS 3503 .A923 W59 1900 to see the first edition from 1900.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Sleepy Lagoon Case

A title page for "The Sleepy Lagoon Case."One of the critical events that led up to the infamous Zoot Suit Riots in L.A. was the Sleepy Lagoon murder case. In 1942, a group of young Latino men were charged with the murder of Jose Diaz. 17 were convicted of first degree murder. The case brought to light the deep racial tensions that flared up two years later with rioting in Los Angeles and other cities across the country.

In 1942, the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee was formed. It consisted of civic leaders, intellectuals and Hollywood luminaries such as Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth and Joseph Cotten. They first issued this pamphlet in 1943 before the riots. This third printing from 1944 recounts the Sleepy Lagoon Case and reflects on the riots in a new introduction. The pamphlet tied the tactics of the prosecutors to those of Germany, Japan, and Italy, making the case a microcosm for the war effort. What was at stake was American liberty:

We are at war. We are at war not only with the armies of the Axis powers, but with the poison-gas of their doctrine, with the "biological basis" of Hitler and with his theories of race supremacy....
     We are at war with the premise on which seventeen boys were tried and convicted in Los Angeles, sentenced to long prison terms on January 13th of this year. We are at war with the Nazi logic so clearly and unmistakably set fourth by Mr. Ed. Duran Ayres, the logic which guided the judge and jury and dictated the verdict and the sentence.
     And because this global war is everywhere a people's war, all of us are in it together, all of us together take up the challenge of Sleepy Lagoon.

Ask for Rare KF224.S495S54 to see this remarkable pamphlet.