I’ve finished reading Out of Oz. Reluctantly. I loved it so much that I stretched it out for as long as I could. Gregory Maguire is a genius. Without a doubt.

Odd to be saying that, considering the way I barely made it through the first third or so of Wicked. It read like a text book, or several of them, covering everything from genealogy, geography, history, to socio political interactions and the lack thereof…of all of Oz. A bit heavy on the sexual appetites of the little green baby’s mother, starting long before Elphaba was born…in a phrase, it put me off. Bigtime. Somehow, I kept reading.

Then it started getting good. Then great. Eventually, I could not put it down. It was Elphaba. Once she appeared it didn’t take me long to realize I’d stumbled across one of the great characters of contemporary literature. I didn’t like her. I didn’t not like her. I liked her. Eventually, I just loved her. Hoping for some glimmer of her greenness over the course of the next three books was one of the major things to keep tugging me toward the ends, even as I dreaded leaving Oz behind.

Son of a Witch was good, but perhaps my least favorite of the four novels in The Wicked Years series. I never quite latched onto Liir as a character I was desperate to read about, nor Candle as his consort. I suppose you could say that my obsession skipped a generation, because their daughter became another favorite. In the meantime, I fell in love with The Cowardly Lion, who became Sir Brrr. A Lion Among Men, Book Three, was a treasure. Crushing on a talking Lion. Who knew?

Now, fresh off Out of Oz, I can’t get it out of my head. I hated to leave Oz myself. I swear, it’s a place I’d love to go for an extended holiday, and explore the various cities, lands, counties, and the far reaches that ring the entire place with mystery and awe-filled suspense. The ending was very beautiful, but not quite perfect because it left me feeling set for the next novel in the series, which Maguire has said won’t come.

The Wicked Years novels were a thrilling, dangerous, quirkily romantic ride, and will linger in my mind for decades, I think, just as the movie The Wizard of Oz tends to take up residence in that corner of watchers’ brains reserved for Technicolor musical fantasy.

I am in awe of Gregory Maguire’s talent. The author himself is a word wizard, weaving spells with phrases so beautiful that I have to go back and reread them, often more than once, to savor the rhythm and wordplay. His way of turning familiar words and phrases on their heads is enchanting, beyond anything else I’ve encountered elsewhere. Imagery of moons with tattered clouds drifting across their faces, otherworldly beings and settings that are yet somehow familiar, real people with real feelings and emotional depths, whether they be Human, Animal, animal, or magical beings just beyond our ken.

I got a bonus in addition to the reading experience. I saw Idina Menzel singing on a PBS special for the First Family, and was blown away by Defying Gravity. So I had to get the Wicked Soundtrack with the Original Cast. After that I had to start collecting Idina Menzel’s albums. She has become one of my favorite singers, and I think she possesses one of the great voices of our time.

I also now own The Grimmerie, a big green book patterned on the one in the novels. This one is full of all kinds of information about the Broadway musical adaptation of Wicked, and a wonderful addition to my collection.

While never having had the opportunity to see the musical itself, I’m content in a way, because I would only want to see the original cast, and that train seems to have long left the station.

Fortunately, that’s what YouTube is for. Idina Menzel singing Defying Gravity from Wicked.

Advertisements