Occasionally, here and there, passions boil over regarding Wicked--specifically the book. I've often wanted to comment, but wasn't 100% sure how my memories of the book measured up to my original feelings on reading it. My memories skew positive--and reading The Wizard of Oz around the same time made me realize how vastly superior a product Maguire's book is. He took a crap book and a crap movie and made something worth reading.
But it was by no means all love between me and the book, but my specific complaints were lost to memory. Until now.
I recently unpacked my Utah-era notebooks, and amongst them I have found this [please note that I am transcribing my handwriting without checking spelling of character names, etc]:
a few thoughts after finishing Gregory
Maguire's Wicked, May 12, 2004 ~6pm
First, yes, I feel for Elphaba. But I feel more for Dorothy. Elphaba was lost to her misery and had abandoned happiness. Dorothy still had hopes of atonement , and melting Elphaba must have been unbelievably devastating, something that will haunt her forever. For though equally an accident as Nessarose's demise, the action that led to Elphaba's death was an action, a purposeful action.
Second, I now see The Wizard of Oz as a piece of propaganda. Nothing more, nothing less. I arrived at this view by struggling with the obvious differences between the two books. I wanted Maguire to create history by filling in the holes in Baum's outline of a story--to treat TWofOz as history, gospel, and make his tale w/o altering the original a bit. He did not do this, and I struggled in deciding how to feel about it. Finally I came down on Maguire's side, which required declaring Baum a propagandist. Anything which does not fit in this view, eg, emerald glasses, is signs of latent sedition. Q: Why then the trip to Glinda? A: Get Dorothy home; elevate Glinda. Q. Why? Is Glinda high up or symbolic in the new gov't?
Third, speaking of Glinda, she is very hard to read. She doesn't seem at all revolutionary, but has retained the peasanty pronunciation of her name still, after all the intervening years. There is much to her, but it's all deep, deep inside.
Fourth. I hated one line, and still do. With a passion. It's excision would improve the book noticeable. It is the line that expresses an absurd, false belief that there was too much history between Elphaba & Glinda for a pair of shoes to come between them. That's ludicrous. And, as events show, patently false.
Fifth, did you notice the homoerotic underflow? Between the two silly Shiz boys? Between Glinda and Elphaba? Just wondering if you'd noticed, and what you had thought.
Sixth, there are a few things I want to go back to Baum and check. 1) Boq's appearance. 2) Did the WWoftheEast set the spell on the axe? And I'ld like to know how many details in Wicked come from other Oz books--geography, tiktok men, etc.
Seventh, I don't know that Elphaba's supposedly desperate need for forgiveness was developed at all well. It did not seem to bother her as much as the story required.
Eighth, what was with that beast under the dock? And Yackle? And the dwarf?
Ninth, do you feel Maguire normalized Oz too much? Or that he oversimplified the geography?
Tenth, the clock lies, we know this. So why do I hope, weirdly, that the wizard is her father?--the point of believing it? And does she at all feel that way herself?
Eleventh, and last, what just are the connections between our worlds?