The Real Wizard of Oz by Rebecca Loncraine
The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum

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In the first major literary biography of L. Frank Baum, Rebecca Loncraine tells the story of Oz as you've never heard it, with a look behind the curtain at the vivid life and eccentric imagination of its creator.

L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1899 and it was first published in 1900. A runaway hit, it was soon recognized as America's first modern fairy tale. Baum's life story, like the fictional world he created, is uniquely American, rooted in the transforming historical changes of his times. Baum was a complex and eccentric man who could never stay put for long; his restless creative spirit and voracious appetite for new projects led him across the U.S. during his lifetime, and he drew energy and inspiration from each new dramatic landscape he encountered,. Born in 1856, Baum spent his youth in the Finger Lakes region of New York as amputee soldiers returned from the Civil War; childhood mortality was also commonplace, blurring the lines between the living and the dead, and making room in Baum's young imagination for vividly real ghosts. When Baum was growing up, P. T. Barnum ruled the minds of small towns and his traveling circus was the most famous act around. Baum married a headstrong young woman named Maud Gage and they ventured out west to Dakota Territory, where they faced violent tornadoes, Ghost Dancing tribes and desperate droughts, before trading the hardships on the Great Plains for the excitement of Chicago and the fantastical White City of the World's Fair.

Baum's writing tapped into an inner world that blurred his own sense of reality and fantasy. The Land of Oz, which Baum believed he had "discovered" rather than invented, grew into something far bigger and more popular than he'd ever imagined. After the roaring success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, he became a kind of slave to his creation, trapped inside Oz as his army of demanding child fans kept sending him back there to create new adventures for Dorothy, Toto and the humbug wizard. He went on to write thirteen sequels to his first Oz book. He also wrote the first Broadway adaptations of his Oz tales, and turned his Oz books into some of the first motion pictures in a small and undiscovered rural settlement called "Hollywood". Baum co-founded the Oz Film Manufacturing Company, even as critics warned that no one would pay to see a children's story. And they were right- his early ventures were box office flops and the world was not ready for Oz on screen until 1939, when MGM released "The Wizard of Oz" in brilliant Technicolor. Baum was not around to see it-he'd died in bed in 1919 just weeks after completing his final Oz book. But the book and film alike have become classics, just as well-loved today as they were when they first appeared.

The Real Wizard of Oz is an imaginatively written work that stretches the genre of biography and enriches our understanding of modern fairytales. L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its thirteen sequels, lived during eventful times in American history-- from 1856 to 1919-- that influenced nearly every aspect of his writing, from the Civil War to Hollywood, which was emerging as a modern Emerald City full of broken dreams and humbug wizards, to the gulf between America's prairie heartland, with its wild tornadoes, and its cities teeming with "Tin Man" factory workers. This is a colorful portrait of one man's vivid and eccentric imagination and the world that shaped it. Baum's famous fairytale is filled with the pain of the economic uncertainties of the Gilded Age and with a yearning for real change, ideas which many contemporary Americans will recognize. The Wizard of Oz continues to fascinate and influence us because it explores universal themes of longing for a better world, homesickness and finding inner strength amid the storms.

About Rebecca Loncraine

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Born in England and raised on a hill farm in Wales, Rebecca Loncraine holds a doctorate in literature from Oxford University and writes regularly for the British press, including the Independent, the Guardian, and the Times Literary Supplement.
Published August 20, 2009 by Gotham Books. 348 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Children's Books, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Real Wizard of Oz

Publishers Weekly

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In this literary biography of a too-often overlooked pioneer of 20th century children's fiction, first-time author Loncraine examines the life and prolific career of Oz series creator L. Frank Ba

Aug 17 2009 | Read Full Review of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Li...

The New York Times

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Rebecca Loncraine means to apply a Freudian logic to the stimuli that shaped the storytelling of L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Aug 24 2009 | Read Full Review of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Li...

Los Angeles Times

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L. Frank Baum's magical land was located at the end of a long road of hard knocks and lessons.

Aug 23 2009 | Read Full Review of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Li...

Bookmarks Magazine

By jonSun, 08/23/2009 - 20:16.

Aug 23 2009 | Read Full Review of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Li...

This biography of The Wizard of Oz author Baum, meticulously researched through primary sources by Loncraine, sheds light on some of the real-life incidents that inspired his famous work (and its less-well-known sequels). Baum, a native of New York State, was an actor in his early adulthood. A bi...

Oct 15 2014 | Read Full Review of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Li...

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