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L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz: A Biography Hardcover – October 25, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Frank Baum is recognized chiefly as the author whose characters inspired the hit movie, The Wizard of Oz, but as Rogers aptly shows in this insightful biography/analysis, Baum (the L stood for Lyman) was far more than a one-hit wonder. Industrious, determined and prolific, he turned out more than 70 books, an especially impressive achievement given the relative brevity of his career: he was 41 when his first book, Mother Goose in Prose, was published, and he died at 63 in 1919. Rogers provides a condensed but comprehensive explanation for his slow start: energetic and entrepreneurial, Baum spent the first two-thirds of his life trying to find the right outlet for his talents. He threw himself into a variety of seemingly unconnected pursuits, from theater, which remained a lifelong love, to breeding fancy poultry (he helped found the Empire State Poultry Association in 1878); he was a shopkeeper and then newspaper editor in South Dakota, where he moved his young family from 1888 to 1891. Rogers, who has edited anthologies of 18th- and 19th-century literature, devotes more than a third of her book to summarizing Baum's stories, critiquing his shortcomings as an author and praising his many successes, particularly his commitment to creating strong, independent female characters. Her analyses are enlightening and engaging-she quite possibly could spark renewed interest in his work. B&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

It is not unknown for young readers enchanted by the tales of L. Frank Baum's Oz to carry with them throughout their lives the desire to move to that magical country. Baum authored not only The Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) but 13 more Oz books and numerous other children's tales while also launching several theatrical productions and a string of other business ventures. Rogers (The Cat and the Human Imagination) effectively correlates the events of Baum's life to his literary output, showing readers how his belief in feminism, concern for animal rights, and interest in technology produced a fairyland where all the heroes are women and girls, animals talk, and machinelike creations such as Tik-Tok and the Tin Woodman hold their own with the brightest and best humans. Although Rogers argues that Baum's main concern was his readers, for years most schools, critics, and libraries disdained his work. Yet Baum's Oz books were so popular that his publisher engaged a devoted young Oz enthusiast, Ruth Plumly Thompson, to continue the series after Baum's death in 1919. Thompson wrote 19 more Oz titles, after which the books' illustrator, John R. Neill, and several more Royal Historians of Oz composed a total of some 40 Oz books. Rogers's straightforward narrative, well documented with notes and a lengthy bibliography, lacks only one ingredient a touch of the enchantment that pervades the Oz books themselves. Readers interested in Baum will also enjoy The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Recommended for literature collections and all who love the marvelous land of Oz. Edward Cone, New York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (October 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031230174X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312301743
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,305,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katharine M. Rogers, a Professor of English Emerita at the City University of New York, moved to Maryland after her retirement and pursued her life-long interest in natural history. When she volunteered at the National Zoo, she was assigned to the Invertebrate Exhibit. There it first occurred to her that invertebrates might be displayed and studied for themselves, rather than taken for granted as pests (cockroaches) or food sources (lobsters). After spending many hours observing the creatures in the Invertebrate Exhibit, she began to see them more from their own point of view, as animals that exist for themselves, perceiving the world in their various ways and dealing with the problems of living as all animals must. She learned that the flower-like anemones were purposefully wafting their tentacles in order to find and secure prey, that the lobster's nineteen pairs of appendages were diverse tools that it manages with great skill, that the octopus's jointless arms, covered with suckers that feel and taste, give it capacities for sensation and manipulation that we can only imagine. Then she began to wonder how these alien animals "worked," both physiologically and, in the case of higher invertebrates, psychologically. This led her to serious research and, ultimately, to an ebook - "Meet the Invertebrates." This introduces readers to thirteen invertebrates, from a sponge, which is as simple as an animal can be, to an active, efficient ant.
During her teaching career and first years of retirement, Rogers wrote on literature, especially on issues relating to women. She started research on her first book, "The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature," when she was forced onto unpaid leave after becoming pregnant. This was followed by:
"William Wycherley" (author of the Restoration comedy "The Country Wife"),
"Feminism in Eighteenth-Century England,"
"Frances Burney: The World of Female Difficulties,"
"The Cat and the Human Imagination,"
"L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz,"
"First Friend: A History of Dogs and Humans,"
and "Pork: A Global History."
She lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with her husband, our dog, and our cat.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By The Wingchair Critic on December 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Katherine M. Rogers' 'L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz' is an excellent biography of the American writer, one that should generate new interest and encourage further scholarly research on this neglected and still underrated American author.

A decent, hardworking, and ambitious gentleman, Baum (1856-1919), who all thought "exceptionally sweet-natured and easy-going," lived a full and adventurous life, even in his later years, when most of his adventuring took place in his colorful and far-reaching imagination. The confident, plainspoken Baum, an epitome of civility, was a modest Renaissance man, almost something of a wizard himself.

Before discovering his talent for writing children's books and creating Oz, the young Baum worked as a an actor, a playwright, an oil salesman, a "frontier" storekeeper, a newspaper editor and a publisher. Later, he was also the producer of `radio plays' and, in the very early days of cinema, films based on his Oz creations. Happily chasing rainbows, Baum moved from one part of the country to another as the spirit and his intuition moved him.

Married to the daughter of suffragist leader Matilda Gage, Baum was an active and life-long supporter of women's rights. As Rogers clearly shows, the free-thinking Baum never ruled the roost in his own home; domineering, no-nonsense, feet-on-the-ground wife Maud consistently provided the necessary ballast that kept their home, finances, and Baum's career afloat.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Since his death in 1919, Baum's life story has been told in at least one movie, a documentary, multiple children's biographies, articles, and several books. Comparing most of these to Katherine Rogers' new biography on the creator of the great American fairy tale, her's boldly stands out. While the book does have an uneven amount of insight into Baum's connection to the Women's Suffrage Movement and his practicing of Theosophy, this may the most complete look at Baum ever printed up to now.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When I was little, Oz lust made a thief of me. My grandfather ordered a dozen books in the series at a time, doling them out to me on birthdays or when I had tonsillitis. I found out in which cabinet he hid them and temptation took control of me. Although I was caught practically in the act, I went unpunished. Who can spank a child for wanting to read?
There were a total of 40 Oz books on my shelf (only the first third --- THE WIZARD OF OZ (1900) and 13 others --- by L. Frank Baum) and an Emerald City built of green glass and construction paper in our basement. Oz was a world intensely real to me; the boundary between its wonders and ordinary existence was noticeably porous. If Dorothy could be blown by a tornado into fairyland, why (to paraphrase the song) couldn't I?
Katharine M. Rogers understands my passion. In L. FRANK BAUM: CREATOR OF OZ, Rogers, an early Oz aficionado herself, combines a scholar's detachment with a child's delight. She is also a revisionist critic, bemoaning the Oz books' exclusion from the haughty scholarly canon of "good" kids' literature. In this book, the first full-length adult treatment of Baum's life (although there is a lengthy biographical essay in the centennial edition of Michael Patrick Hearn's THE ANNOTATED WIZARD OF OZ), Rogers undertakes to follow the Yellow Brick Road to the origins of Baum's imaginative universe and establish his works as genuine classics.
Baum didn't immediately become a full-time writer. For years he was the very model of a self-reliant, entrepreneurial American. He was involved in a number of different businesses, including poultry breeding, china selling and newspaper editing.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By F. Orion Pozo on January 1, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Katherine Rogers, like myself and thousands of others, is a fan of L. Frank Baum and his books about Oz. She is also a scholar and has written a truly detailed and well-documented biography of this interesting and influential man. It is a valuable addition to the body of literature, both fiction and nonfiction, about Oz.
For those who have never read an Oz book, this is still an important book. L. Frank Baum was an intriguingly different man for his times and reading about his life gives wonderful insight into America of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His feminism and respect for children and animals become some of the endearing features of his fiction and what make his Oz series classics of American literature.
He married Maud Gage, the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, one of the leading women suffragists. So the information that Katherine Rogers provides on his relationship to his mother-in-law and his home life with Maud is invaluable to students of the women's movement. Gage's own 1893 book, WOMAN, CHURCH AND STATE, has just been brought back into print by Humanity Books in their Classics In Women's Studies series. Her belief that christianity and the Western state are the very basis of the oppression of women, which is detailed in this work, was radical at the time. Her own spirituality found a home in Theosophy which became the religious practice of Baum and was influential in his writings.
Baum took his family to the Dakota territory where three of Maud's siblings had settled. The book's account of their life on the northern prairie will be of interest to those who study the history of 19th century Dakota. As first a merchant and then a newspaperman, Baum's views on life in the Dakotas are well represented. It is in this section where we first encounter Baum's racism.
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