Oz and Beyond
The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum
Michael O. Riley
Long before Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow," the denizens of Oz had already captivated the American reading public. The quintessential American fairy tale, L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has had a singular influence on our culture since it first appeared in 1900. Yet, as Michael Riley shows, Baum's achievement went far beyond this one book, or even the thirteen others he wrote about that magic kingdom.
The Land of Oz was just one in a whole continent of fantasy countries whose histories, geographies, and citizens Baum developed in detail over the course of his writing career. In this Other-world, Baum created a full-scale mythology that foreshadowed Tolkien's Middle Earth in its imaginative detail.
“A most readable guide to that land over the rainbow, firmly establishing Baum’s importance to the history of American children's literature and to the fantasy/folklore tradition. Will inspire renewed appreciation for a great writer's magical vision.”
“Sure to be of interest to both ‘old timers’ in the Oz field and to those who are just discovering L. Frank Baum and the fantastic products of his imagination.”
—Yellowback LibrarySee all reviews...
“Oz fans will feel vindicated as Riley accords Baum proper literary recognition and celebrates his most important achievement.”
—The Baum Bugle
“An excellent introduction to the work of America’s greatest writer of children’s fantasy, Oz and Beyond is also a remarkable achievement in the criticism of Baum and American popular culture. It breaks new ground and opens up, really for the first time, all sorts of entrancing possibilities for critical dialogue.”
—Douglass Parker, professor of classics, University of Texas
“This is not, I hope, the last work that places Baum’s Oz books into an account of his entire career, but it is a most welcome first one. Queen Xixi of Ix and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, marvelous books almost lost to us, are here given the attention they deserve.”
—Roger Sale, author of Fairy Tales and After: From Snow White to E. B. White
“The best critical analysis of Baum and his contributions to American children’s literature since the publication in 1929 of Edward Wagenknecht’s Utopia Americana. Given that Baum still has a huge readership, the book should also have a large commercial market.”
—Douglas G. Greene, director, Institute of Humanities, Old Dominion University
“Written with honest respect and great affection for Baum and his achievement. This book is refreshingly free of the humbuggery of much current literary criticism, for Riley has no hidden agenda to promote. He lets the stories speak for themselves. A rewarding guide to Baum and Oz.”
—Michael Patrick Hearn in the Washington Post Book WorldSee fewer reviews...
Taking us on an entertaining tour of this endearing and unforgettable Other-world, Riley illuminates Baum's richly creative imagination in the Oz books and other works of fantasy, like the much neglected Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. He restores for millions of readers Baum's original conception of Oz as it existed long before other writers were hired to continue the immensely popular series following Baum's death in 1919. Equally important, he shows us how Oz and its companion countries evolved over time, as Baum repeatedly responded to a loyal readership clamoring for an endless supply of Oz stories.
While there have been other studies of Baum, this is the first to examine his Other-world in its entirety. Oz and Beyond provides the first comprehensive analysis of all of Baum's fantasy creations and his evolution as a fantasy writer, demonstrating that Baum had a more consistent and disciplined imagination than is generally recognized. It also explains the influence of Baum's childhood and adult experiences on his writing and illuminates his philosophy concerning nature, civilization, and industrialization.
Oz's enduring influence on American culture is indisputable—witness its endless replication in books, films, musicals, and theme parks. In returning to the original source of that influence, Riley serves as our guide to that land over the rainbow and inspires renewed appreciation for a great writer's magical vision.