Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire

October 18, 2010 at 19:43 (Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Fiction, Poorly Rated Books) (, , , )


Gregory Maguire has a wonderful imagination. He has some very clearly thought-out ideas of what life is, and what it is for. The premise of this book is not new, but it is interesting, and the storyline that he fancies could very well have been an enthralling one. Whether through laziness or ineptness, Wicked fails in its self-confessed attempt to whittle out a spot on the classic literature shelf. Maguire might have a fine imagination – he might even be a passable storyteller – but he is a bad writer.

This books starts out as Hogwarts and ends up as Lord of the Flies, and while even that sounds like a good (or at least tolerable) premise for a story, Maguire is simply not good enough to pull it off. He begins to describe his scene, whether a character or a place or a concept, and then becomes distracted. Invariably it turns to sex. What do missionaries spend their time doing? Having sex. With anything that moves. Assassination? That sort of subject leads invariably to sex. Robots? They’re about sex. See that cliff over there? Makes you think of sex, eh?

This sort of writing is not daring or enticing. It is not even good enough to be offensive. It is simply sloppy. His children are not childlike enough, his adults are more petulant and irrational than his infants, and when he finds a situation that he cannot write his way out of, he avoids the problem by skipping ahead a few decades. Presumably whatever the crisis was, they sorted it out.

All this might make a very plain third-rate novel, but the accolades attached to this book and printed brazenly across its jacket turn the whole thing into somewhat of a farce. Maguire may well have confused his already clumsy storytelling with some half-baked philosophising, but his most monumental failure is his utter inability to capture the essence and the magic of the Yellow Brick Road, the vivid colour in the characters of Dorothy and the Wizard, the detail given to the fantastic country. Maguire has attempted to fill in a line drawing with colour, and found to his chagrin that the original licks his childish smudgings hollow.

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