EXCERPT: Foreword: Oz and Ourselves — Gregory Maguire

When I try to settle upon some approach to the notion of Oz that might suit many different readers, and not just myself, I stumble upon a problem. The unit of measure that works for me might not work for you. Standards and definitions vary from person to person. Oz is nonsense; Oz is musical; Oz is satire; Oz is fantasy; Oz is brilliant; Oz is vaudeville; Oz is obvious. Oz is secret.

Look: imagine waiting at a bus stop with a friend. We’re both trying to convey something to each other about childhood. When you say childhood, do you mean “childhood as the species lives it”? Do I mean “my childhood upstate in the mid-twentieth-century, my house on the north edge of town, my grouchy father, my lost duckie with the red wheels”?

Oz comes to us early in our lives, I think—maybe even in our dreams. It has no name way back then, just “the other place.” It’s the unspecified site of adventures of the fledgling hero, the battleground for the working out of early dilemmas, and the garden of future delights yet unnamed.

Foreign and familiar at the same time.

Dream space.

Lewis Carroll called it Wonderland, Shakespeare called it the Forest of Arden, the Breton troubadours called it Broceliande, and the Freudians called it Traum. The Greeks called it Theater, except for Plato, who called it Reality. Before we study history, though, before we learn ideas, we know childhood through our living of it. And for a century or so, we Americans have called that zone of mystery by the name of Oz.

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Read the entire foreword for free at the Huffington Post.