A groundbreaking new look at an American icon, The Wizard of Oz
. Finding Oz
tells the remarkable tale behind one of the world's most enduring and best loved stories. Offering profound new insights into the true origins and meaning of L. Frank Baum's 1900 masterwork, it delves into the personal turmoil and spiritual transformation that fueled Baum's fantastical parable of the American Dream. Prior to becoming an impresario of children's adventure tales--the J. K. Rowling of his age--Baum failed at a series of careers and nearly lost his soul before setting out on a journey of discovery that would lead to the Land of Oz. Drawing on original research, Evan Schwartz debunks popular misconceptions and shows how the people, places, and events in Baum's life gave birth to his unforgettable images and characters. The Yellow Brick Road was real, the Emerald City evoked the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, and Baum's mother-in-law, the radical women's rights leader Matilda Joslyn Gage, inspired his dual view of witches--as good and wicked. A narrative that sweeps across late nineteenth-century America, Finding Oz
ultimately reveals how failure and heartbreak can sometimes lead to redemption and bliss, and how one individual can ignite the imagination of the entire world.
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From Publishers Weekly
Author and former business journalist Schwartz (The Last Lone Inventor) presents the life story of L. Frank Baum, focusing on the invention and development of his classic 1900 children's tale, The Wizard of Oz. Schwartz reveals how Baum's early interest in theatre, tall tales, and entertaining an audience led the restless young man through a string of doomed careers, including actor, playwright, castor oil salesman, and shop owner (trading in knickknacks and toys). In spite of pressure to support his family (his mother-in-law was the radical women's rights activist Matilda Gage), Baum maintained a passion for the fantastical, and sought pleasure in every venture he undertook, often by way of his talent for yarn-spinning (famously embellishing the properties and popularity of his dismal castor oil). Falling on hard times again and again, Baum had little to keep him going besides love for his growing family and for storytelling; fortunately, those were just the ingredients necessary to find his place as an author (he published the first Oz title when he was 44) and, ultimately, as a children's lit icon. A dad himself, Schwartz tells Baum's story with understanding and wit, perfect for anyone with fond memories from over the rainbow.
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