Today, a book review/rant. I finally read the book Wicked, by Gary Maguire. [I might have his name wrong, because I am typing this in a hurry, and don’t have the book handy.] What a disappointment! Maguire took a thrilling, menacing figure of children’s lit and turned her into a flat, neurotic mess, the product of a broken family and personal disfigurement. Elphaba–his name for the Witch–is powerless, defanged (literally losing her dangerous baby teeth and growing only standard-issue chompers), and merely reactionary.
All the critics said this was such a fantastic portrait of evil and wickedness. I felt completely let down. Elphaba was no more evil than my shoe, stinking after a long walk. If Maguire had written a story about a truly cruel and dangerous woman, and not the passive, flopping green thing he created, he could have made a really great book.
Oh! I almost forgot! Maguire also ruins Oz. All its creepy, wonderful enchantment is smoothed over into an unhappy America/Kafka realm. I liked it, actually. It was a dark and dangerous place to visit–and it was the right realm for Elphaba. It’s the sort of place that encourages re-acting and not acting, paranoia, not proactivity.
So I guess my problem isn’t that "Wicked" sucked or was crappy. It’s that it’s a fine tale on its own, a fine tale that didn’t need to stand on the shoulders of any other book. There was no need to lift Glinda, Oz or the lamely applied "Wicked Witch" labels–his characters would have been fine on their own. Better off, really. It all comes off as a lame marketing attempt that waters down the real story, which is neither wicked nor witchy, but simply sad.