15 June 2009

The Creativity of L. Frank Baum

Tonight, while I'm at one of my writing groups, Evan I. Schwartz will be speaking at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Massachusetts, about his new book, Finding Oz. There will then be a screening of the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie.

Here's an extract from Schwartz's interview with the Boston Globe this weekend:

A. He [Baum] had this dream when he was a kid of being a great writer, and life got in the way. The amazing thing is that he got back to it. He followed his path to his true self. That's what gives the yellow brick road its true magic, that Baum really lived that journey.

[reporter Dan Aucoin:] Your last book was about Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, another pioneer who faced a lot of travail in his life. Are you drawn to those kinds of stories?

A. I'm fascinated by stories of great creativity and the struggle to get there, and where do these ideas come from, and also how one person with one idea can change the world.
I've written about how I fear Finding Oz finds too many connections, with evidence too tenuous. But I think the central thesis is sound. Baum was an American visionary interested in finding a new mix of magical and modern in stories, and also in different ways societies might govern themselves. His later Oz books reflect the Gilded Age's interest in utopias, as in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backwards. His Chicago was the city of the first skyscrapers, the Columbian Exposition, and George Pullman's company town.

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