I have been traveling this past week and thus the lower number of posts the past few days. When I returned home, I discovered an unexpected package of review books from McFarland Publishers. That is always fun! Some of the books were more pertinent to SurLaLune's usual topics, but I plan to post about all of them in the next few weeks.
Two of the books I received are about Frank L. Baum's Oz series. The first one I am featuring today is Oz in Perspective: Magic and Myth in the L. Frank Baum Books by Richard Tuerk.
This one was also a Finalist for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Myth and Fantasy Studies by The Mythopoeic Society.
Book description from the publisher:
When moviegoers accompany Dorothy through the gates of the Emerald City, they may think they have discovered all there is to see of Oz--but as real friends of the Wizard know, more lies behind the curtain. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, on which the 1939 film was based, was only the first of 14 Oz books. Together these works constitute a series rich in allusions to a broad range of literary traditions, including fairy tale, myth, epic, the picaresque novel, and visions of utopia.
Reflecting on L. Frank Baum’s entire series of full-length Oz books, this study introduces readers to the great folklorist who created not only Dorothy and friends, but countless wonderful characters who still await discovery. Close analysis of each book invites readers to search Baum’s fascinating stories for meaning and mythical quality. Progressing chronologically through the canon, the author discusses literary devices and important thematic implications in each book, arguing that Baum wrote for the pleasure of both children and adults, both to provide entertainment and to teach moral lessons. Of particular significance is the argument, sustained over several chapters, that Baum modeled his Oz books on classic mythical patterns, rewriting Oz history in nearly every book to produce a different set of backgrounds and a different conception of utopia for his imaginary kingdom. This variety of backgrounds and archetypes gives Baum’s books a truly universal appeal. Examinations of his non-Oz books and his other Oz works, such as Little Wizard Stories of Oz and The Woggle-Bug Book, illuminate the discussion of the Oz novels.
About the Author
Richard Tuerk is a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce. Formerly a president of the Society for the Study of Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS), the American Studies Association of Texas and the Southwest Regional Popular Culture Asociation, he has written numerous journal articles on literature.
The table of contents:
Acknowledgments viiDespite Oz's continuing popularity--primarily thanks to the movie, of course--there aren't too many books devoted to literary criticism of the series. I have to admit to not being a big Oz fan myself and thus I am not well-versed in the series itself. (I thoroughly blame the movie actually which terrified me when I saw it at too young an age, I think, very young and very terrified of the witch and her flying monkeys. And then the continuing classification of Wizard of Oz as a fairy tale which in my world it isn't--it's a great fantasy novel that drew extensively from folklore, but not a traditional fairy tale despite all of the marketing otherwise.)
L. Frank Baum’s Fourteen Full-Length Oz Books xi
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
DOROTHY’S TIMELESS ADVENTURE 21
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
THE WIZARD HIMSELF 35
3. The Marvelous Land of Oz
TIP’S PROGRESS 45
4. Ozma of Oz
THE FIRST UNDERGROUND JOURNEY 59
5. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
BAUM’S INFERNO 76
6. The Road to Oz
BAUM’S PICARESQUE 91
7. The Emerald City of Oz
GOODBYE TO KANSAS, GOODBYE TO OZ 101
8. The Patchwork Girl of Oz
SAVING UNC NUNKIE 113
9. Tik-Tok of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, Rinkitink in Oz
“EXCITING ADVENTURES,” “UNEXPECTED
DIFFICULTIES,” “MARVELOUS ESCAPES” 121
10. The Lost Princess of Oz
RESCUING PERSEPHONE 137
11. The Tin Woodman of Oz
BAUM’S ODYSSEY 147
12. The Magic of Oz
MAGIC AND POLITICS IN OZ 156
13. Glinda of Oz
BAUM’S TALE OF DEMETER AND PERSEPHONE 171
OZ AS SACRED SPACE 179
15. Baum’s Oz
That said, Oz is important in the history of fantasy literature and is so very American, too. All of this makes it fascinating on many levels. And Tuerk's analysis of the Oz series is interesting and reminded me of just how much Baum drew on mythology and other sources to inspire his worlds. It also reminded me of the continuity issues of the series which have frustrated me personally over the years when I tried to embrace Oz myself.
And so, if you are interested in the Oz series--or Baum's body of work since some non Oz books are analyzed--this is a great book to bring some critical analysis to the series, especially for the mythological perspectives.
So how many readers here are Oz fans? In the real world, I have rarely met anyone who has read even Wizard of Oz let alone the entire series. Almost everyone knows the movie and nothing else--true for fairy tales, but to a much lesser degree when they are compared.