Monday, February 8, 2016

Spending part of last year reading a lot of Baum

Last year, I decided to read all fourteen of L. Frank Baum's 'official' Oz books. When I was younger, I had read the first nine or so but I never actually finished reading the entire series. So, since I will probably be reading them to my son when he gets a little older, I decided that it was time to actually read them all.

As it turns out, Baum's estate and his publishers get the books coming out after his death. There are actually 40 books that are considered canon in Oz, nicknamed the Famous Forty. 

I decided that I don't need to read the other twenty-six, at least not yet. However, as I started into reading Baum's work, I found that there were other works that he had written that part of the larger Oz picture.

He wrote the queerer visitors from awes and the humbug book in order to drum up interest in the second Oz stage play, which is pretty much only remember today for being a total flop. While he was never big and continuity, the writing in these works are so different that no one considers them to be part of the actual Oz universe.

He also wrote Little Wizard Stories of Oz, a little collection of Oz short stories when he started the series back up again. On the other hand, these actually do fit in (and are much better)

I also was reminded that two of the later heroes, Trot and Captain Bill, had been into previous, unrelated to Oz books. I figured I should read those two. And then I discovered that a lot of characters from his other fantasy stories would make cameos in the books.

In the end, I ended up reading every fantasy book he wrote, including some that really had nothing to do with Oz, including the Enchanted Isle of Yew and American Fairytales

Spending a year with L. Frank Baum was an interesting experience. On the one hand, his books generally hold up despite their age. He wrote some very fun children's books. He also was a staunch feminist, I had at this time it is attitudes there. On the other hand, he wrote at least once about how the government should wipe the American Indians out wholesale. Staunch feminist, actively encouraging genocide, it feels like a weird combination.

He was also appallingly bad businessman. In fact, we have eight of the Oz books because he had to keep writing them in order to keep out of bankruptcy. He was an interesting man, all right.

Since I spent 2015 reading his books, I figure I will spend 2016 writing about them. Yeah, for the most part I'll be writing about other stuff but I'd like to write about each of the books before the end of the year.

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