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Tamawaca Folks

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Tamawaca Folks: A Summer Comedy is a 1907 novel by L. Frank Baum, published privately under the pseudonym John Estes Cooke. The novel is an autobiographical account of the summer community at Macatawa Park, Michigan.

Baum acquired a summer house in the Michigan resort town in 1900, with the proceeds from his first literary hit, Father Goose. Baum nicknamed the house "the Sign of the Goose" in honor of the book, and decorated the place with goose motifs.

The novel tells the story of Jarrod, a Kansas City lawyer who comes to town for the summer. He finds it a beautiful place (Baum refers to it as a "fairyland"), but soon learns that its organizers and developers are corrupt frauds. Wilder is an extroverted businessman, while his partner Easton is elderly and pious. Jarrod learns that the partners have double-sold some lots, and built cottages in the middle of the public streets. They charge the residents for all the services they can, from grocery delivery to transport on the only ferry to Chicago, as they let the electrical and sewer systems and the boardwalk fall to ruin.

Jarrod organizes the town's cottage owners into an effective resistance. Wilder and Easton each believe that he can manipulate Jarrod and end up the sole proprietor of the resort; each is unprepared to deal with an opponent who is both honest and capable. The residents win control of the town; Easton and Wilder are reduced to private citizens.

The novel also has a romantic subplot, in which a young man finds his way to personal happiness.

WIlder and Easton were based on the chief stockholders in the town, men named Fred K. Colby and E. C. Westervelde. Jarrod was based on Basil P. Finley, an actual Kansas City lawyer who arrived in town and led the clean-up in 1906.

Baum also included a parody of himself, as the "distinguished author" Mr. Wright, who "was stubborn, loud-mouthed and pig-headed, and wanted to carry everything with a high hand, the way they do in novels. He had about as much diplomacy as a cannon-ball." (Chapter 9) Baum may have derived his pen name for the book from the name of John Esten Cooke, a Virginia historian of Baum's era. His authorship of the book, concealed at first, was soon guessed at by the people involved, though even Colby accepted it with good grace.

References

  • Martin Gardner. The Night is Large: Collected Essays, 1938–1995. New York, Macmillan, 1997.
  • Katharine M. Rogers. L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography. New York, St. Martin's Press, 2002.

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