Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Literary History of Oz

Lit Reactor goes down the yellow brick road.

From the piece...

The story most of us are familiar with is based on L. Frank Baum's first Oz book, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. Illustrated by W.W. Denslow, who shared the copyright, it was the nation's best-selling children's book for two years and sold more than five million copies before its copyright expired in 1956. (All of Baum's Oz books are in the public domain now, so go nuts writing a stage version featuring turtles and hand puppets or fan fiction that replaces Dorothy with a sluttier version of Agent Scully.) Those might seem like meager sales numbers in today's 100-million-plus-sold world of Twilight and Fifty Shades, but Oz's sales figures were nothing to scoff at in the early 1900s. It was, essentially, the Harry Potter of its time. 

As an inspirational aside to struggling writers who don't happen to be 22-year-old wunderkind: Note that Baum—who ultimately gave us one of the most beloved stories of all time—wrote his first book (let's not count the instructional volume on chicken rearing he put out when he was 30), at the age of forty-one. This after years spent raising fancy chickens, starting a poultry journal, running a variety store, selling fireworks, and editing a magazine about department store window displays. The first of his fourteen Oz books was published when he was 44. Baum wrote a total of fifty-five novels (fourteen Oz-related and the rest less-successful fantasy and fairy tales), more than eighty short stories (including six Little Wizard Stories Of Oz for younger readers), and an untold number of stage plays, poems, and odd tomes about stamp dealing, poultry, and decorating windows. It's never too late to chase the dream.

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