Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book review: Wicked (fantasy) by Gregory Maguire

back of the book blurb: When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?
Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens. Muchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

from  the Reader's Group Guide:  One of the Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil 
Evil exists, I know that, and its name is Boredom (p. 79)
When goodness removes itself, the space it occupies corrodes and becomes evil, and maybe splits apart and multiplies. So every evil thing is a sign of the absence of deity. (p. 80)
[S]ome invisible pocket of corruption was floating around the neighborhood... A perfectly agreeable soul might march through it and become infected, and then go and kill a neighbor. 
Evil isn't doing bad things, it's feeling bad about them afterward. (p. 370)
[E]vil is an absence of the inclination of matter to be at peace. (p. 370)
Evil is an early or primitive stage of moral development. (p. 370)
Evil's an incarnated character, an incubus or a succubus. It's an other. It's not us. (p. 370)
Evil isn't a thing, it's not a person, it's an attribute like beauty...
It's a power, like wind...
It's an infection...
It's metaphysical, essentially:  the corruptibility of creation (p. 370)
It's not of air and eternity, evil isn't; it's of earth; it's physical, a disjointedness between our bodies and our souls. Evil is inanely corporeal, humans causing one another pain, no more no less. (p. 371)
Evil is moral at its heart -- the collection of vice over virtue. (p. 371)
Evil is an act, not an appetite... Everyone has the appetite. If you give in to it, it, that act is evil. The appetite is normal. (p. 371)
Is religion itself -- that tired and ironic phrase -- the necessary evil. (p. 387)
The real disaster of this inquiry is that it is the nature of evil to be secret. (p. 372)
It isn't hard to find evil in this world... Evil is always more easily imagined than good, somehow. (p. 388) 
  People who claim that they're evil are usually no worse than the rest of us... It's people who claim that they're good, or in anyway better than the rest of us, that you have to be wary of.(p. 357)
Is the Witch evil?

I don't judge her; I feel sorry for her.

At her birth, her father makes a pronouncement:  

"Heaven is not improved by it... and heaven does not approve." (p. 23) 

Those who attend the birth consider killing her, but they quickly change their minds when the baby bites the finger off one of them.

The midwives... dropped the thing at its mother's breast, afraid to consider mercy murder for fear of what else the baby might bite. (p. 21)
The baby is untouched by the parents and tries to avoid contact. She is called horrid and demon, by those who should love her.

The mother describes her one and half year old as taking 'no delight in the world' (p. 33). Yet, how can she? How can she when her mother tells her things like..."Shall we go walk by the edge of the lake today and maybe you'll drown?" (p. 33) Has the child been treated with love? Does the child know love?

The minute the child begins to speak her family asks her to be quite.

And later, the adult daughter has this exchange with her father...

Frex (father):  You hated your skin, your sharp features, your strange eyes.
Elphaba (daughter):  Where did I learn that hate?
Frex:  You were born knowing it. (p. 339)

And yet, despite the emotional abuse she suffers and because of the love she finds...

in the liquid glare of sunlight on old boards she held up her hands... she had at last understood that she was beautiful. In her way. (p. 206)
The story concludes with...

In the life of a Witch, there is no after, in the ever after of a Witch there is no happily. (p. 406)
The only fault I can find with this book is the weak transitions between one chapter and the next. This left me guessing as to which character I was following. But on the whole it is an intriguing story, cleverly told.

More:  The author (Gregory Macguire) talks about his book (Wicked) (a YouTube video)

Next post:  To celebrate Halloween, I've studied its origins. I'll share that post next week.

Sharing my author journey...

What do you do if the words just aren't coming?

That was the case this week. As a introvert, I find social obligations draining. Lately, I've been feeling exhausted. After some analysis, I decided to rearranging things so that I can spend more time with my computer. Simply deciding to do this allowed me to breath. I engaged in some free writing and...
 The result:  a brand new picture book manuscript. 


Teresa Karlinski said...

Hi Leanne. I haven't visited in ages. I've been exhausted too.

Love this review. I've had the book for a couple years, but haven't read it yet. Maybe now I'll move it up closer to the top of my TBR list.

Leanne Dyck said...

Thank you for your kind comment, Tess. I hope you enjoy Wicked as much as I did.

It's so important to check in with yourself from time to time. And, if possible, make changes--if necessary.

Laurie Buchanan said...

Leanne — Not only have I read the book, we saw the play — TWICE — in Chicago. So I can say with tremendous authority (smile) that you're Spot On!

Leanne Dyck said...

Actually, I had to hunt to find my copy. When a friend got privy to my search, she said, "Oh, go to the play, instead. It's much better than the book."
And so I much say that you are one lucky gal, my friend, Laurie. : )