Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.

My current read is The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum by Rebecca Loncraine. You can catch up by reading my first post and my second post about this book.

Synopsis from publisher:

In the first major literary biography of L. Frank Baum, Rebecca Loncraine tells the story of Oz as you've never heard it, with a look behind the curtain at the vivid life and eccentric imagination of its creator.

The Real Wizard of Oz is an imaginatively written work that stretches the genre of biography and enriches our understanding of modern fairytales. L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its thirteen sequels, lived during eventful times in American history-- from 1856 to 1919-- that influenced nearly every aspect of his writing, from the Civil War to Hollywood, which was emerging as a modern Emerald City full of broken dreams and humbug wizards, to the gulf between America's prairie heartland, with its wild tornadoes, and its cities teeming with "Tin Man" factory workers. This is a colorful portrait of one man's vivid and eccentric imagination and the world that shaped it. Baum's famous fairytale is filled with the pain of the economic uncertainties of the Gilded Age and with a yearning for real change, ideas which many contemporary Americans will recognize. The Wizard of Oz continues to fascinate and influence us because it explores universal themes of longing for a better world, homesickness and finding inner strength amid the storms.

My final thoughts:

Well, I really hate to say this, but I felt like the book lost a little bit of steam at the end. I had been SO SO enjoying it, and the last sections didn't quite live up to my expectations. Perhaps because they dealt with Baum's life after he had written The Wizard of Oz, when he was feeling increasingly trapped and frustrated, but I feel like I lost a little bit of the fun and imagination that had been present in the first part - ironic, as this was the part that told the story of Baum's period of greatest literary output.

It was interesting to read about Baum's growing frustration with being trapped in the land of Oz, so to speak - the books were SO popular that he couldn't find any real sucess writing anything else. The idea of the creator being controlled by his creation is a popular theme in fiction, and seeing it play out in real life was fascinating, and must have been terrifying for Baum. In what seems to be a common phenomenon, fame did not bring Baum a greater degree of happiness, or even a great deal of wealth. Mostly, it just seemed to bring stress and a feeling of futility.

While I didn't love this book all the way to the end, I did think it was consistently well written and researched. The author does a fantastic job of analyzing Baum's work, and I feel like I have a much better understanding of his stories - in fact, I now really want to read them, which I hadn't really considered before. I highly recommend this book for Oz fans, as well as readers who enjoy a good biography. It's a great read!

Finished: 10/08/09
Source: the publisher - thanks Anne!
Rating: 8/10

Make sure you visit Jehara and see what she's reading in The Nonfiction Files this week. And if you'd like to join us, let me know - we'd love to have some more nonfiction lovers posting along with us!


A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Yea for nonfiction! Not many posts on NF books around here sometimes. Thanks! And I love Baum.

Caitie F said...

This sounds like a great read, I will have to add it to my to-read list!

"the books were SO popular that he couldn't find any real success writing anything else."

I am very interested in this concept. I wonder if the same thing will happen with J K Rowling. It is always an interesting challenge!

Errant Knave said...

I was also wondering if the same thing would happen with Rowling. I never considered reading about Baum until now. Thanks for the recommendation.

jehara said...

that is too bad that the ending lost steam for you. the book still sounds worth picking up, though.

Kailana said...

This book looks interesting! Thanks for a great overview of it!

Zibilee said...

Oh, I am so sorry that the book wound down so much over the last section, but after reading your other reviews, I still really want to read this. I am glad that you enjoyed it, and I am really looking forward to it.