Far from Kansas

L. Frank Baum’s machinations as the man behind the curtain of America’s best-loved fairy tale have been extensively documented, but Rebecca Loncraine makes an entertaining attempt to track the origins of his boundless imagination through the wild world of late-19th-century America. While Baum’s perambulations from his birthplace in New York to the Dakota plains, back to Chicago, then on to Hollywood are well-documented here, there’s not much of his prolific work. In addition to the 14 best-selling Oz books, Baum was an active journalist and wrote dozens of novels under pseudonyms, largely to stave off creditors. Ultimately, Loncraine paints a tragic portrait of an artist chained to his typewriter by debt, working to exhaustion for the nation’s children and dreaming of respite somewhere over the rainbow.