L. FRANK BAUM: Creator of Oz

Katharine M. Rogers, Author . St. Martin's $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-312-30174-3

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. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4299-7984-9
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-306-81297-2
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