What I have learned from Wicked by Gregory Maguire

So, I haven’t blogged lately because I haven’t read a lot lately. I know, no one really cares, but I care, especially since my last mark on the web was a loving rant about periods.  Hey, that’s what you get when you discuss challenged books: taboo subjects. The other book I picked for that Challenged Book week and didn’t finish was On my Honor.  I couldn’t get past the first chapter.  Can I read about death? Yep, usually.  Can I read about the death of a kid who’s kinda asking for it? Nope.  (Don’t go… don’t go!)

I haven’t read any YA books recently because I’ve been busy working on Halloween costumes, as many of my “group” is getting together and dressing as HP characters.  I took a brief break to see Wicked  in Richmond with my family. And (to quote the little boy at the end of  The Incredibles) it was totally wicked! And BN.com had the ebook for a mere $3. Who am I to resist?

I’ve never read any of the original Oz books, although I am a huge fan of  the movie Wizard of Oz  and will occasionally sing, “Ease on down, ease on down the road” from The Wiz  (yes, while fighting road rage).  I loved the production of Wicked, although my sister (her sixth time seeing it) thought she had seen better. Well, yeah, if you want to go to London… hmm, not a bad idea… but ANYWAY.   I had been familiar with the book for a long time, and had been vaguely familiar with the music due to my younger sister’s obsession with it.  (I’m not knocking it… but I didn’t understand it. Musicals out of context are weird unless the songs are meant to stand alone.)

Instead of my normal format, summarize, comment, classify, I just want to talk it out: the book, the musical, the inspiration for both. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Wicked is The Wizard of Oz from the view of the Wicked Witch of the West, “Elphaba.”  She was born of two worlds, as (spoiler alert!) the Wizard flew in from Kansas and seduced her mother. He happened to have some elixir that caused Elphie’s skin condition.  So, that’s what you need to know about that.

What I love about Maguire’s work is that he reminds us to walk in the other person’s shoes for a while. No one wakes up and goes, “Huh, I think I’m going to be evil.”  He gives Elphaba a rich back story: a college education (with the crazy popular Ga-linda as her roommate), becoming an activist for animal/Animal rights, she gets to have a love life and a job.  The people who adapted it for a musical did a wonderful job of emphasizing Elphie’s inner beauty.  She embodies power. Try to listen to “Defying Gravity” without wanting to kick tail.

Each of the elements of the story was true enough to the original in its re-imagining: the original Oz lends to Wicked the novel as novel lends to the musical. Wicked is geared for adults. It has adult situations sprinkled with social and political commentary. The musical skips the seriousness and throws in more movie references (which were hilarious), but the book definitely has some dark stuff to say about prejudice and power.

I’ve implied it, but I’ll say directly: what appeals to me most about the story (and in general Maguire’s other work, barring Lost) is that it tells the other side of the story. We can’t all be the lucky one who travels by bubble. 🙂 And yeah, while traveling by bubble sounds really cool (heck yeah),  bubbles are popped by too much substance.  Wicked is endearing because Elphaba has this substance and we can relate to her. How many books have I read that covered the subject of the outcast? Even relatively popular kids feel more Elphaba than Glinda.

If anything, I think Wicked  has done a lot of good over the past decade that it’s been out.  The “alternative point of view” has grown popular and has been fantastic to read. It opens your mind and makes vilified characters  more human. If we can do this to our real-life enemies, we’d be on to something.  Nobody mourns the wicked, it is true. But do we have to paint with such a broad brush when we decide who’s wicked and who’s good?

So, the musical= really good. My nephew (16) loves it and this was his second time seeing it.  My niece (9) did not get to go due to the fact they had an 8 ticket maximum, but we saw a few kids around that age at the theatre.
The book= really good, but way more scandalous and serious than the musical/originals.  I read it when I was in college, and I don’t know if  high school me would have “gotten it.” I think I barely got it in college.  Lots of people who are exposed to the musical first don’t like the book. Just something to keep in mind.


And nobody, in all of Oz, no Wizard that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down…


1 Comment

Filed under Not for the classroom, Uncategorized

One response to “What I have learned from Wicked by Gregory Maguire

  1. Pingback: 2011: Reflections and Favorite Readings | Class Bookworm

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