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L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz: 08/31/18
L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers is a biography and analysis of Baum's novels. For a little over a year now I have been re-reading the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson. The journey began with the graphic novel adaptations by Eric Shanower and fed back into the original books (including a personal journey to own physical copies of the entire set).
One thing that has struck me about canon Oz are the sheer number of women in important roles. In more recent pastiches, dystopian Oz is always shown as being ruined by a woman as ruler and yet that is the exact opposite of what happens in the originals, beyond Jinjur's ineffective brief rule between the Scarecrow and Ozma.
So I wanted to dig a little deeper and research authors to see if I was just applying a modern reading to texts that would have been interpreted differently a hundred years ago. There is absolutely nothing wrong with reinterpreting a text. The ones that last are the ones that can grow and change as society changes. Shakespeare's plays, for instance, work well because they are so open-ended.
Rogers's biography was enlightening and thankfully very focused on his writing. Sometimes biographies end up straying into the lengthy histories of grandparents and parents before finally getting to the main subject. This is especially frustrating when one is trying to gain insight into their creative process.
I have taken copious notes for the project which will probably come into play as I continue to work through the Oz books. This book probably won't be for everyone and Rogers is clearly a fan, meaning her biography might not be as evenhanded as it should be. For instance, there is limited discussion of his racism (and the biggest fault of the Oz books is the lack of diversity).
I also don't know if I will be seeking out biographical information of other authors featuring prominently in my road narrative books. Part of that indecision stems from newer authors not having biographies written about them. Part of it to is my film studies background where the text has to stand alone unless specific records of intent can be found. Roger's biography while extensive is still her interpretation of Baum's life and works. It's a context but not canon.