How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547055107, 400pp.
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
A groundbreaking new look at an American icon, The Wizard of Oz.
Finding Oz tells the remarkable tale behind one of the world’s most enduring and best loved stories. Offering profound new insights into the true origins and meaning of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 masterwork, it delves into the personal turmoil and spiritual transformation that fueled Baum’s fantastical parable of the American Dream.
Prior to becoming an impresario of children’s adventure tales—the J. K. Rowling of his age—Baum failed at a series of careers and nearly lost his soul before setting out on a journey of discovery that would lead to the Land of Oz. Drawing on original research, Evan Schwartz debunks popular misconceptions and shows how the people, places, and events in Baum’s life gave birth to his unforgettable images and characters. The Yellow Brick Road was real, the Emerald City evoked the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and Baum’s mother-in-law, the radical women’s rights leader Matilda Joslyn Gage, inspired his dual view of witches—as good and wicked.
A narrative that sweeps across late nineteenth-century America, Finding Oz ultimately reveals how failure and heartbreak can sometimes lead to redemption and bliss, and how one individual can ignite the imagination of the entire world.
“Finding Oz is underpinned by solid research…Schwartz does a fine job of unearthing the origins of Oz, and of portraying Baum as very much a man of his times -- the era of the vanishing frontier and the uneasy transition from Victorianism into modernity….As Schwartz informs us, Baum’s strange and essential gift was to see the outlines of myth within the machinery of the modern world.”
--The Washington Post
“An entertaining page turner…Mr. Schwartz’s spadework has produced some interesting theories…It's hard not to warm to Mr. Schwartz and easy indeed to join his quirky search for whatever it was that went into Frank Baum that could make "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" come out of him.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“Great fun….surprise findings….Schwartz uses his book as a lens to view the people and events at the turn of the 19th century, showing how Baum captured the wonder of the age he lived in.”
--The New York Post
“An appropriately speculative, wide-eyed biography…Schwartz has meticulously researched the spiritual and cultural influences on Baum.”
--The Los Angeles Times
“Fascinating…In Finding Oz, Evan Schwartz undertakes to explain Oz through the life of its creator L. Frank Baum.”
--The Seattle Times
In Finding Oz, Evan Schwartz reaches back into the social life of late-19th century America to write a failure-to-fame tale as rich as anything out of Horatio Alger…Readers who like a good tale of American pluck will enjoy this book….Schwartz’s book reminds us that Baum was an inventor—not a maker of machines or an engineer of instruments, but a creator of a landscape and a lore.”
--The San Francisco Chronicle (Seth Lerer, May 3, 2009)
"Finding Oz is a guided tour to the invention—or is it the discovery?—of that quintessentially American dreamscape, the Land of Oz, written with heart, brains, nerve—and a touch of magic."—Gregory Maguire, author of Wickedand A Lion Among Men
"Wow, imagine learning about American history through the prism of America’s greatest fairytale. If you love amazing but true stories, you’ve got to read Finding Oz."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals
"The Wizard of Oz has been a formative influence in my own life’s journey, so Finding Oz comes as an absolute revelation to me. Read this book!" --Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness