Gregory Maguire’s Oz Novels
I read Gregory Maguire’s Wicked some time ago, and I thought it not great, but inventive. Maguire has built his career out of imagining alternate histories for iconic characters such as ugly stepsisters or, in the case of Wicked, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. In Maguire’s hands, the Wicked Witch was not so much wicked as she was misunderstood. Born of a tryst between her munchkin mother and the Wizard, her green skin and foul temper kept her apart from others. Then, like many young people, she goes to school, learns about injustice, and vows to fight it. When her radicalism contributes to the death of the man she loves, she retreats, and the rest of the novel follows her as she attempts—and fails—to atone for his death. Her life is a tension between action and fate, and fate ultimately wins.
Last night, I finished Wicked‘s sequel Son of a Witch, and my response to it was remarkably similar: not a great book, but alright. Its protagonist is self-confessedly useless, but he nevertheless acts to alter the political and martial reality of Oz, often in spite of himself. (In spite of Maguire’s atrocious dialogue, too, which clangs like a fork in a garbage disposal.) It’s at heart a bildungsroman, complete with journeys and discoveries about living a moral and ethical life. And there’s gay sex.
As a series, Maguire’s books are more or less a political history of the land of Oz, including its tyrannical leaders and the individual or democratic resistances arising in response to them. I don’t know that I have much more to say about either book than that. Perhaps I will after I finish A Lion Among Men.