Grabbing the Brass Ring
The Creation of Merry Go Round in Oz - Part II
Rieckhoff’s biggest criticism was that the chapter where Robin discovers Roundabout and is made its King did “not flow spontaneously and naturally. I found it confusing and the action somewhat contrived. I think it needs complete reworking. Some indication is needed that the new king will restore their prosperity and make it possible to stay at home.”
After that point in the manuscript Rieckhoff thought “the pace [was] good and the action expertly coordinated. It slows in the final wrap-up, but maybe the children will like the lingering farewell.”
On April 19, 1963, McGraw responded positively that she was cutting the lengthy introduction to all the Oz celebrities in chapter ten, but wondered if she should pare down all of Howzatagin’s talk of celebrities, too. McGraw was much more concerned with the chapter detailing Robin’s arrival at Roundabout, saying that while the chapter never really suited her either she was greatly concerned that it had confused Rieckhoff:
“I’ve decided the confusing part must be (1) the fact that Robin and Merry (therefore, the reader) are in the dark for a long time as to why the Roundheads welcome them so enthusiastically, and (2) the lack of clarity as to just what this king is going to do to help the country. Laurie and I talked the chapter over a day or so ago, and have this proposal to make: Suppose in the rewrite, Robin and Merry encounter one of the Roundheads—possibly Polkadots, possibly Roundelay—on one of the roads leading toward the city, ask the way to the Yellow Brick Road, and are invited into the city to look at a map or something. There are two choices here: (1) this invitation could be a trick, a means of luring them into the city for the purpose of capturing Robin to be king, in which case it would probably be Roundelay . . . or (2) the invitation could be an innocent, helpful invitation, after which, once they were inside the city, Roundelay could pounce on them and keep them there. In either case, a lot of the exposition about how they wanted a king and had a prophecy saying they were going to get one, and just exactly what this king would do for them, could be brought out in dialogue as they walk toward the city. . . . In other words, attack the thing in straight-forward style, with no mysterious excitement or secrets about it.”
McGraw added that she would try to make the individual Roundheads a little more entertaining, more distinct characters. “I don’t know why all my inventiveness suddenly deserted me during this chapter. The Fox-Hunters turned out to be individual and good for a laugh here and there—why not the roundheads? I suppose I simply wasn’t quite as interested in them.”
McGraw also asked if Reilly & Lee would like the chapters titled. “And if I remember rightly, most Oz books do have chapter titles. Let me know—I can easily figure out some exciting-sounding come-on names for them.”
There was also some discussion about the title of the book. Rieckhoff had mis-typed the working title of the book as Merry-Go-Round of Oz. “This is,” McGraw responds, “I’m afraid, how everybody will read it and think of it. Actually we intended it to be Merry Go Round of Oz—and to mean Merry, the horse. At one point . . . she is called “Merry Go Round” as if that were her name—like Eloise Jarvis McGraw. I thought of spelling it “Merry Goround” or “Merry Go-Round” but neither seemed right—the first, especially, would be pronounced every which way. . . . Or would Merry Go Round in Oz do it? Or we could forget all that and call it The Golden Circlets of Oz or something.”
Rieckhoff wrote back on April 24: “I want to tell you a comment on your story that I received yesterday from the most rabid Ozophile I know, [Dick Martin].
On editorial matters Rieckhoff said, “I am blushing for my thick-headedness [concerning the title]. Perhaps if we gave Merry the full name early in the book, there would be no confusion.” And regarding the rewrite of the Roundabout chapter Rieckhoff explained her real issue wasn’t being confused, but that, “it might be difficult to make the children believe the prophecy fits well enough. If on page 130 [of the ms.] you could have Merry identified as a Thing. . . . The people could then take up the cry of The Thing and close their ears to Robin’s explanation. . . . Just a little clarification here and rearrangement of dialogue should do it so that the reader will sense before Robin realizes it that Robin is [the king].”
With this letter Rieckhoff included a short list of suggestions that Dick Martin had submitted—even though he had yet to be selected as illustrator of the book. Most were polite “corrections,” such as pointing out that the Unicorn was not in fact the only unicorn in Oz. He mentions Loo in The Magic of Oz and Unicorners from Ojo in Oz. He also corrects McGraw’s east/west Oz map directions; she had been using Thompson’s view of Oz with the Munchkins in the west, and he explained there was no Yellow Brick Road dividing the Quadling and Munchkin Countries. But a few comments were more “editorial” as when he suggested that Ozma’s “positively impish grin” seemed out of character.
McGraw was delighted to learn of the Oz Club and impressed by Dick Martin’s knowledge of Oz lore. “I have followed most of Mr. Martin’s suggestions, because they seemed good ones, to me. All his geography suggestions are taken care of now, and Ozma now smiles bewitchingly instead of having an impish grin.” But the unicorn dilemma was more difficult. McGraw said she was ashamed of herself for having forgotten Loo, and that alas, she had never read Ojo in Oz and didn’t know about Unicorners. “At first I thought it would be easy, even add an amusing touch, if I had somebody call my Unicorn on her statement that she was unique, point out to her all these other unicorns, and then have her say defensively, that anyway she was the most unique of any of them.” But McGraw found it very difficult to find anyone to challenge the Unicorn’s statement. “None of the Halidom people would know about Loo or Unicorners, and if Ozma or Dorothy challenged her late in the book, it would seem as if they were simply being mean, and would make the Unicorn seem stuck up and silly.” McGraw decided to let the contradiction stand.
With this letter McGraw also included two revised chapters, the list of chapter titles, and several pages of revisions, including many changes to Prince Gules’s dialogue.[i] “I would appreciate it if you paid close attention to this, and here’s why. Before the Prince becomes smart, I had him pictured as a certain sort of character, and had no trouble keeping him exactly as I had conceived him. But this notion of having the Circlet change him instantaneously from vague and stupid to quick and bright threw me for a loop; and when I read over the first draft of the few chapters after the change, I found I’d lost my character. He talked just the same as Robin or anybody else, and had ceased to be the Prince. This was not at all what I wanted, naturally, and the result of my cogitations on the matter convinced me that the only thing that had gone wrong was his manner of talking. No reason he still shouldn’t sound a bit formal and antique, even though he had quit being naive and slow-witted. . . . lately, I’ve found myself still dissatisfied with a lot of his dialogue. . . . Sometimes it’s too racy and modern, sometimes it’s altogether too antique.”
McGraw was eager to see how Dick Martin would interpret her characters. “I’m sure, fundamentalist that he is, he will see them much as I do. My only slight doubt is about Flitter, whom I hope he will not see as anything the least bit Disneyish. To me, Flitter is much more sprite than baby-animal.”
In mid-May McGraw sent Reilly & Lee a finished drawing of the map for the book’s endpapers. “As it turned out, I drew it myself; Laurie lives twenty miles or so away from here, doesn’t drive, and has an extremely active seven-month-old son to take care of. I could see the new version of the map wasn’t going to get done in time for publication if she had to do it. Anyway, it was my idea to revamp it and submit it for possible use as endpapers, so it was really my responsibility.”[ii]
McGraw was a trained artist and had begun a career as a portrait painter before she decided to switch over to writing children’s books. “I had a wonderful time [working on the map] for a couple days and evenings, doing it—nearly blinding myself but enjoying every minute of it. I’ve corrected the location of various places, in line with the ‘official’ Oz map you sent, and of course added all the places mentioned in Merry Go Round in Oz. . . . if possible, I’d like to have the original back when everybody’s finished with it there. I got rather fond of it . . . and think it would be fun to have on my study wall. By the way, see what you think of the Halidom coat-of-arms I invented. Upper left hand corner of the map. Those things in the left half are a trefoil (fleur de lys), a quatrefoil, and a cinquefoil.”
Illustrator Dick Martin contacted McGraw June 12, 1963, after he had completed his illustrations for Merry Go Round in Oz:
Your book is a honey! Reading it was a delight, and doing the illustrations for it was more like fun than a job of work. I enclose some of my pencil layouts, and I hope you'll approve of Flitter in particular. Being neither bat nor mouse, Maxine and I felt that he would probably look like this. (I too was anxious to avoid the "Disney look.")
Lauren's map is a great addition—the Oz fans will be especially pleased with it, I copied the section covered in the story, and the travelers routes, labeling it "Diagram of a Journey —drawn by Robin Brown and helped by Dorothy and Fess." It will be in the front of the book.
|Martin's redrawn version of the Wagner/McGraw map.
By the way, I'd like to include Lauren's drawing in the "Oziana Exhibit" at the Oz convention next week, as it will be of great interest. You can read more about this map here.
McGraw replied June 30, 1963: "Laurie and I were both more than satisfied, I assure you, with the illustrations—or rather the pencil roughs for the illustrations to be."
|Pencil sketch for illustration on Page 7
There is a gap in the editorial correspondence from May 18 until July 12, 1963, when McGraw, taking a suggestion from Dick Martin, sent along a footnote to solve the non-uniqueness of the Unicorn. She also sent a more complicated series of footnotes to serve as a running gag throughout the book. Part of this time Maxine Rieckhoff seems to have been hospitalized.
On July 22, 1963, Rieckhoff wrote that she will only be allowed to insert the one footnote about the Unicorn and that Reilly & Lee’s production department was mailing out galleys. She also asked how McGraw liked Dick Martin’s illustrations and reported on her visit to the Ozmapolitan Convention in Bass Lake, Indiana, that June:
|Dick Martin at the Bass Lake Oz Convention early 1960s
“It was quite a revelation to me to see such a heterogenous group of people bound together by what seems to be complete dedication to the land of Oz. In age they varied from a very knowledgeable twelve-year old to some adherents who appeared to be upwards of sixty.” She added that publication was scheduled for October 21, 1963.[iii]
McGraw sent back galley corrections on July 31. They were primarily simple corrections, word changes to make things clearer, changes in italicization, as well as a note to insert the asterisk for the Unicorn footnote, and “. . . an ‘east’ where there should be a ‘west’! The only one Dick Martin didn’t catch for me. What would the Ozophiles say? I hastened to correct it!”
McGraw had one big quibble with an editorial change Rieckhoff had made: “I don’t really like this change of ‘a thousand years’ to ‘ever so long’ but I’m sure you must have had a very sound reason for the substitution. You think the children won’t like the idea of Ozma being a thousand years old? My idea was to surprise and amaze them, make Ozma even more mysteriously wonderful, and underscore the idea of a fairy’s immortality—and the unicorn’s, too.
|Martin's Ozma without her impish grin and undisclosed age.
It seems to me the hint of great antiquity here does this, but maybe it would seem unpleasant to somebody else. [If you] agree with me, do reinstate the original wording.”
Rieckhoff wrote back on August 2, 1963, regarding this unwanted revision: “Frankly, I’m with you in liking the original better than the change. I was persuaded to make the change by Dick Martin who pointed out in all the Oz books there has never been any specific reference to age and time—where there has been any mention of it at all, it has been handled vaguely. He felt rather strongly that to saddle Ozma with a specific number of years might produce an unpleasant reaction in the children. I am not sure that he is right, but it did seem wise to give weight to the opinions of those people who spend half their lives completely submerged in Ozmania. . . . I discussed it with him again this morning and presented your objection to the change. He still felt that it would be a mistake to tag her, that if the children were to see in print that great age it would detract from the warm human quality she has along with her fairy nature. . . . I have decided to go along with him because he and his fellow club members discuss the fine point of these characters ad infinitum.” In the P.S. to the letter Rieckhoff said she would hold the galleys until Monday. And that if McGraw still wanted “a thousand years ago” restored, that she would do so. No reply from McGraw is in the correspondence file, but the published line retained Martin’s requested rewrite.
One plot point that was never addressed by Rieckhoff or Martin was that of the mysterious carousel operator at the carnival in Oregon. When asked about him in 1980, McGraw responded: “I originally intended to explain him somehow or other as an exile or refugee or some such thing from the kingdom of Halidom, but I simply forgot to work it in until the book was so tightly set in its present form that I couldn’t find a crack to wedge it into. So I let it remain a dangling end—something I usually would not dream of.”[iv]
Merry Go Round in Oz was published a day or so
late. Dick Martin wrote McGraw on October 24, 1963, saying: “Hooray! Completed
copies of Merry Go Round finally
arrived from the bindery, and I dashed down to Reilly & Lee’s warehouse to
pick up mine. (Yours are already on their way to you.)”
[i] The two pages of these dialogue corrections
are not preserved in McGraw’s correspondence files.
[ii] The map
was not used as the endpapers in the published book, though a portion of it
appeared in the forematter of the book.
today’s publishing standards it is pretty phenomenal that the book was written,
illustrated, and published in a little over fifteen months.
Jarvis McGraw in letter to the author, February 2, 1980.