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Boom in all things Oz is wizard

07 Feb 2013

Experts are to shine a light on the remarkable longevity of a series of classic children’s stories told over a century ago, at a special event tomorrow.

Publicity photo for the Wizard of Oz
Publicity photo for the Wizard of Oz

Organiser Hannah Priest, from The University of Manchester, says the 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' has spawned hundreds of spin offs ever since it was first written by L Frank Baum in 1900.

The self publishing boom has resulted in, among other things, a risqué 50 shades of Oz, a gothic ‘undead world of Oz’ and Ruby Slippers – inspired by the US series Sex in the City.

But Baum’s series of books, she says, are also deeply radical – and were effectively banned from many public libraries in the United States until the 1960s.

Priest , who is also a poet, says Baum’s classics were not widely available in the Soviet Union, where the authorities sanctioned a  ‘socialist’ version by Alexander Volkov called 'The Wizard of the City of Emeralds'.

But different versions of the story continue unabated, the latest of which will be a new Disney film called The Great and Powerful Oz, inspired by the books, this spring.

The event is the latest organised by her company Hic Dragones, which brings together creative writing professionals and academics.

She said: “It’s difficult to put your finger on why The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has endured for so long-  but it’s a huge sprawling world which is easy to fire the imagination.

“Phrases such as ‘no place like home  and ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ have been popularised by the most famous film version.

“It’s also been to a certain extent adopted by gay communities the world over.”

“The film is also notorious for the way in which it micro-managed its star, Judy Garland.”

Delivering the keynote lecture at the event is Geoff Ryman, University of Manchester lecturer and author of the best selling Was-  also inspired by Baum’s tales.

Gregory McGuire, who wrote the best-selling book on which the hit West End musical is based will be speaking to the gathering via Skype. The musical will be touring the UK for the first time this year.

Ryman, who is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Was this year, said: “No-one knew what to do with Baum’s books because they are genuinely child-centred.

“But they are deeply original a deeply subversive to America life.

“The MGM film is a Quasi religious epic about a trip to the land of the dead.”

Notes for editors

Returning to Oz: The Afterlife of Dorothy is at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester on Thursday 7 February.

For full details of the program visit: http://www.hic-dragones.co.uk/#/dorothy-conference-programme/4571186723 or http://www.hic-dragones.co.uk/events.

Geoff Ryman and Hannah Priest are available for comment

Visit http://www.hic-dragones.co.uk/

For media enquires contact:

Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567
Michael.addelman@manchester.ac.uk