The Real Man Behind the Curtain

After I finished reading all the Oz novels, I decided I wanted to learn more about the man who had written such fanciful tales. It was harder than I thought it would be to find a decent biography about L. Frank Baum, but eventually I found Finding Oz by Evan I. Schwartz.

 It follows Baum through his life, from childhood through to his death, through myriad failed careers, through the birth of this children, and moves back and forth across the country. He failed at a lot of things before he finally struck a home run with the Oz series, and he never did manage his money all that well, but no one could accuse him of not trying. This man lived a very full life.

Schwartz does a wonderful job painting a full and robust picture of this man behind the pages, but it also draws some conclusions, which, if accurate, are quite fun, but I’m not entirely sure there is the research to support them: conclusions about the inspiration for things like the yellow brick road, the Wizard, and the various other figures in his books. Like I said, if he’s right about the conclusions, its quite fun to see where the inspiration is coming from, but I’m not sure how entirely valid they are. And this comes from an author who isn’t sure where in heck some of the stories she writes come from.

But one other thing the biography talked about was the spiritual life of Mr. and Mrs. Baum. It introduced me to two very interesting characters from that time of American history: Madame Blavatsky with her Theosophy and Swami Vivekananda. Both of these religious figures espoused a certain unity to religion and make for fascinating reading in their own right. Who knows, maybe they’ll inspire characters of my own…