Book Review: _Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West_ by Gregory Maguire

I just finished Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. Remember the Wizard of Oz? And the green Witch with the flying monkeys? Well, this book is supposed to tell her story.

I confess I didn’t really have high expectations for this book when my book club chose it. It was a popular book and had even been made into a Broadway musical—two things that made me dismiss it as intellectually shallow.

I could not have been more wrong. What a page-turner! I couldn’t put it down.

Maguire creates a full and detailed world. At his hands, Oz has climate, people groups, competing religions and mythology. Politics create rifts and alliances.

As for the heroine herself, he begins early with her. He starts with her conception and early life, but she becomes a real person to the reader when she arrives at the university. She is a hotheaded activist and sincerely believes in doing what’s right even at personal cost.

She is a powerful woman. The ties and interpersonal tensions that guide her choices are utterly familiar to modern readers. Her loves and insecurities are poignant and universal.

What exactly about her is wicked? What does wicked mean in her world–or ours?

With the title he has chosen, Maguire is not being subtle. He quotes Tolstoy, Defoe and Frank Baum (the originator of Oz) before the book starts. He wants to analyze wickedness in this book.

The story itself, though, doesn’t seem to address wickedness conceptually. What it does address is the person of the Wicked Witch. If she is taken to embody wickedness, then the filling out of her character and personality in this story makes wickedness extremely ordinary and normal.

She herself seems to live leaning over the edge of despair, feeling herself and the mercy of forces outside her control. With this position, Maguire would imply that evil itself is merely a misunderstanding.

And this makes me understand that I definitely underestimated this book.

I’m going to go find all the other books this guy wrote.

Every woman has a mirror

Every woman has a magic mirror in her heart. In it, she can see foggy images that others don’t see. She can see her family her friends, and the wider world in that mirror.

She will share her visions with the man in her life. For him, to believe what she sees takes faith.

If he doubts, it infects her and the mirror gets even foggier. And she may need to fight him to find her mirror again.

But if he can find that faith, her vision grows stronger. She can believe and be strong and wise. Both of them will be blessed.

Things I must do this weekend

* Vaccuum
* get my car’s oil changed
* backup my computer hard drive
* lose 20 pounds

okay, the last one is just being hopeful. There is no way I can lose 20 pounds in one weekend. But if I were to lose 20 pounds, or at least start on it, maybe my list should include:

* spend 4 hours at the gym both saturday and sunday
* clean cupboards of all food and replace with liquid meal replacement supplements

Is that likely to happen? Absolutely not. In fact, maybe I should include another thing

* make a pot of healthy vegetable soup to snack on throughout the week
* buy new sports bras, since the last ones are losing their spring

Let me tell you, sport bras with elasticity of steel are vital for a good workout regimen. I wear two, because I want no bounce whatsoever and the least amount of jiggle I can manage. That takes two very snappy sport bras. Which are hard to find, because the bottom part that goes around the chest is a tourniquet and the part that goes around the actual shelf is not tight enough. You’d think that BRA makers of all people would want to protect my assets. It’s tough.

But actually, which of these will get done? maybe I should be realistic about my list of things to do this weekend. What will I actually do?

* eat bag of salt and pepper potato chips
* watch psych and rockford files on Tivo
* take hot bath
* Stay in bed late and giggle with Chris about silly things

That sounds pretty good. I’m sure I’ll be able to do that.

Maybe if I substitute the potato chips for a bowl of airpopped popcorn, that would be perfect.

Weekends seem to be so full of promise, and yet so little gets accomplished in the end.