Friday, March 4, 2011
CBRIII: Book#12: Wicked:The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
I've made a huge mistake.
I expected Wicked to be about the Wicked Witch of the West, as the title implies. Sadly, the book is more about the faux politics of Oz and Animal rights and less about the title character. At least that's how it felt to me. Maguire started out well enough with the Witch's parents and little Elphaba's (the Witch) eventful birth night. Born green, Elphaba was a bane to her mother and seen as a punishment by her evangelical father. This is a promising beginning for the character we see as evil in The Wizard of Oz. Sadly, we are then thrown into Elphaba's schooling and her meeting of Galinda, soon to be Glinda the Good Witch.
From this point on the religious questions touched upon in the opening become the forefront of a story about destiny, politics, and the rights of Oz's Animals (beasts with the power of speech and intelligence). I was dumbfounded by the seriousness of the novel and annoyed that in attempting to avoid modern politics I was smacked in the face with even more political discussion and blathering. Though it wasn't about our politics, it was about our politics, as all politics sound the same even as the terms are changed. I hated this.
Elphaba does have a sort of journey where she attempts to understand where her outcast-forming green skin comes from and her place in the world. Mostly she is ill-tempered, surrounded by friends that love her anyway, and makes poor decisions in the name of politics and half-formed ideas. There is an affair, a stint in a convent-like place in Oz, a visit to a royal family that comes after a long trip via wagon train, loss of her family and some friends, and the possibility of finding her true parentage. Maguire brings everything back around to itself, reuniting characters when it seems there is information needed or revelations to be had. Truly it was mostly boring.
I was expecting some humor. If there isn't humor to be found in the upbringing of a woman that lives with flying monkeys and frightens little people for a living, where is humor to be found? As Joanna Robinson, someone who shares my disdain and disappointment for the novel, said, "I like the concept. I think the concept is creative. I think the execution is lacking. Th[e] sequels and his other takes? Blech."