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Old 08-01-2011, 08:57 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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Wicked discussion thread.

Hello, everyone who has read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire! Let's get some action going. What did you think of the book, and what aspect (if any) captured your attention the most?
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Old 08-01-2011, 09:09 AM   #2
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I attempted to read Wicked after having seen the musical adaptation. I say attempted because I only got a fourth of the way into the book before tossing it in frustration. It wasn't due to its grammatical quality or any such other common complaints, but rather it was the characters. I had yet to meet one I liked and cared about 1/4 into the book, and could not justify spending more time on it. I assume I was showing some great bias due to my love of the musical and its characters.

I will follow this thread to see if anyone can convince me to pick it back up.
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Old 08-01-2011, 09:33 AM   #3
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I liked Elphaba as a young lady. Her activism and her social conscience showed to me that, had events not unfolded as they did, she might have had a lot to offer the world. I was surprised that she never really developed into much of a witch, wicked or otherwise. Perhaps at the end she should have been called the bat-patty bonkers Bitch of the West.

The wizard is the one I really despised. He was a tyrant and a user.

And oh, yes. Dorothy is still a charming young lady. Perhaps even more so than in the movie.
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Old 08-01-2011, 10:49 AM   #4
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I had planned to read Wicked, but earlier this year I had an extremely hard time getting through Maguire's Confessions of a Wicked Stepsister, and now I'm hesitant to read anything else by Maguire. Confessions seemed remote--I couldn't get into any of the characters--and way too long--the added layers of plot seemed too weighty for the simple Cinderella story. I wanted to love it, and I didn't.

If anyone's read both Confessions and Wicked, how do they compare?
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Old 08-01-2011, 11:02 AM   #5
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I felt Wicked could have benefited from a Reader's Digest type of condensation, but toward the end, I felt the pacing improved considerably.

@astrangerhere: I haven't seen the musical (yet—but it's returning to Norfolk in mid-March), but I can see where it would do well in that format.
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Old 08-01-2011, 11:21 AM   #6
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I had planned to read Wicked, but earlier this year I had an extremely hard time getting through Maguire's Confessions of a Wicked Stepsister, and now I'm hesitant to read anything else by Maguire. Confessions seemed remote--I couldn't get into any of the characters--and way too long--the added layers of plot seemed too weighty for the simple Cinderella story. I wanted to love it, and I didn't.

If anyone's read both Confessions and Wicked, how do they compare?
I've read both (Wicked first and then Confessions) and I didn't like Confessions as much. If I had read that one first, I don't think I would have read Wicked either.

I've read both Wicked and Son of a Witch and I liked them both much better than Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, which I had a hard time finishing. (It's been several years so I can't give you a better review than that -- just that I liked the Oz books and not the other one.)

I recently bought A Lion Among Men -- about the Cowardly Lion -- but I have not read it yet.
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Old 08-01-2011, 11:56 AM   #7
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FWIW, after reading Wicked, I also bought Son of a Witch and have it on my TBR list.
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Old 08-01-2011, 12:17 PM   #8
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I mentioned this earlier, but I was charmed at how Maguire managed to synthesize the book and movie versions, even down to reconciling the silver/ruby slippers.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a politcal allegory and it seems appropriate that the sequel carried on in that tradition. That said, I thought Oz/Animal as metaphor for Nazi Germany/Jew was a little tired. What I thought worked better was the analogy between the Tiktoks and what can be seen as an increasingly mechanized/depersonalized laboring class today. I'd have liked to have seen a little less of the first and more of the second. I also thought the disquisition on the nature of evil was too explicit. Much of that exposition would have been better left implied.

Carping done, Wicked was fantastic in the way that it showed that POV is everything. In a tour de force, Maguire managed to make Elphaba's actions, if not entirely benign, understandable and well-intentioned. On the flip side, in both the movie and the film, the wizard gets to claim that while he's a bad wizard, he's a good man if a humbug, and that goes unchallenged. Yet we see, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, how evil can be banal.

I loved how Maguire fleshed out the characters and provided backstories, even down to Dorothy's arrival in Oz not being entirely happenstance. Chance was a factor in everything that happened, but destiny also was in play. Also notable was how he transformed the two-dimensional characters of children's fantasy into economic, sexual beings.

This was a terrific read. Entertaining, thought-provoking and shows that there can be plenty of life in a well-worn myth, in the right hands. Highly recommended.
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Old 08-01-2011, 12:37 PM   #9
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...On the flip side, in both the movie and the film, the wizard gets to claim that while he's a bad wizard, he's a good man if a humbug, and that goes unchallenged. Yet we see, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, how evil can be banal....
In the movie, Dorothy was told to bring back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West, knowing full well that doing so could have spelled Dorothy's doom ("But to do that, we'd have to kill her."). The original book is even more explicit. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy and her three companions were all told in separate audiences that if they wanted their requests fulfilled they must kill the witch.

A bad wizard but a good man? I don't think so. In both the original book and the movie, a charlatan and huckster who played loose and fast with people's lives. Wicked was an improvement in that respect; for while he could still make a public pretense of goodness, you weren't expected to believe it.
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Old 08-01-2011, 12:45 PM   #10
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In the movie, Dorothy was told to bring back the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West, knowing full well that doing so could have spelled Dorothy's doom ("But to do that, we'd have to kill her."). The original book is even more explicit. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy and her three companions were all told in separate audiences that if they wanted their requests fulfilled they must kill the witch.

A bad wizard but a good man? I don't think so. In both the original book and the movie, a charlatan and huckster who played loose and fast with people's lives. Wicked was an improvement in that respect; for while he could still make a public pretense of goodness, you weren't expected to believe it.
I think we're saying the same thing. In both book and movie, once Dorothy and her friends return, mission accomplished, the wizard makes his claim of being a good man, just a bad wizard. He convinces Dorothy's friends that he's endowing them with the qualities that they've had all along and they seem willing to accept him at his estimation. Everyone makes nice and prepares for Dorothy to leave with him.

In Wicked, it's made explicit. There's no way he can be seen as a good man albeit a weak one--his wickedness extends back to well before his arrival in Oz. A case where evil is absolute, intead of relative as is argued about Elphaba.
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Old 08-01-2011, 01:01 PM   #11
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I think we're saying the same thing....
I believe we are at that!
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Old 08-01-2011, 01:31 PM   #12
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I had planned to read Wicked, but earlier this year I had an extremely hard time getting through Maguire's Confessions of a Wicked Stepsister, and now I'm hesitant to read anything else by Maguire. Confessions seemed remote--I couldn't get into any of the characters--and way too long--the added layers of plot seemed too weighty for the simple Cinderella story. I wanted to love it, and I didn't.

If anyone's read both Confessions and Wicked, how do they compare?
I have read both plus others of his. To me, Wicked is by far the best. All the rest are only so-so, including Wicked's sequels. Wicked was his first novel of this sort I think, and I think it was his one big "A-ha!" moment of creativity, deciding to write a book from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch. The others after that are pale imitations on a theme. Also, Wicked is edgier than the rest and deals with more issues.

Now, who wants to talk about that night club scene?
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Old 08-01-2011, 02:26 PM   #13
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I pretty much agree with everything that has been said. I actually nearly abandoned the effort before reaching Part II. Such squalid uninteresting characters. I am glad I continued though, as once Elpha and the other characters are introduced as students at Shiz the story really picked up.

Actually most of the story does not involve Dorothy at all. It is just a complex fantasy tale using names (creatures and places) from the original book and the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West (Elpha) is not really wicked at all, just a complex character capable of both sorts of actions. The only truly wicked character is the Wizard. The worst sort of evil. Orwell's 1984 sort of evil, no personal feelings involved just totally ruthless in obtaining and protecting power. If there were any characters that could be called good it was the Animals, and of these only Dr. Dillamond was at all fleshed out. I also would have liked to have more included about Tik-toks, the remark about their organizing for better labor rights was just tossed in at the end. I would also have liked more depth given to the character of the Dwarf of the Clock of the Time Dragon. Especially since much of what happened was said to be orchestrated by him to protect the Grimmerie.

Dorothy was dropped into the story for the sole purpose of killing Elpha, the only clear merging of this book and the original book and movie. In both the movie and original book it was all about Dorothy, her magical transport to Oz and her quest to get home. That was a side story here, how she takes up with the lion, tin-man, and scarecrow is never revealed, and even their meeting with the Wizard is told second hand and after the fact.
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Old 08-01-2011, 03:14 PM   #14
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I really liked Wicked but could not get into Son of a Witch. I think he did a nice job showing the various manifestations of the nature/nurture debate, both with Elphaba and her mixed parentage, with the animal/Animals and with Galinda, who seems to overcome her privilege at times, and seems to not at other times. Toward the end, the plot got a bit cumbersome and circular (the whole Nessarose-as-Prophetess thing completely went over my head) but overall, I enjoyed the book a lot. Could not get into the sequel though.
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Old 08-01-2011, 03:54 PM   #15
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The only truly wicked character is the Wizard. The worst sort of evil. Orwell's 1984 sort of evil, no personal feelings involved just totally ruthless in obtaining and protecting power.
BTW, perhaps you guys will find this related and amusing:

http://www.recombinantrecords.net/do...-to-Death.html
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