I really wanted to see the musical Wicked when it was at the Paramount last month. But I didn’t want it enough to ante up the massive ticket price so instead I figured that for free, I could get an enjoyable experience from reading the book. Sadly, I was very much mistaken.
The concept of the novel, by Gregory Maguire, is excellent. It follows the infamous Wicked Witch of the West (of the land of Oz, if you’re living under a rock) through her life, from her birth to horrified parents to her memorable death scene. Everything you might have wondered about Oz is explained here, such as the back-story of the flying monkeys and the true meaning of Dorothy’s slippers. Often the explanations for events from the original story have a dark overtone, and a shadow of political corruption and doom hangs over the entirety of the witch Elphaba’s tale.
However, the actual writing does not live up to its promise. The writing style is unbearably wordy, as if the author is trying to prove that to the readers that he has a perfect SAT vocabulary. Full of quasi-psychological ideas, the storyline is frequently bogged down and agonizing to read. And the 400-page length is unbearable; after about 200 pages of her travels, the story starts to feel meaningless and defeating. There are many great characters and ideas here, but the main character cancels them out. Elphaba is usually self-important, dogmatic, and self-pitying, which in turn made her impossible to care for.
I’ve heard that the musical is amazing, and maybe one day I’ll get the chance to see it and compare it to this dreadful book. But in the mean time, to get my Oz fix, I’ll rewatch the classic movie. I also highly recommend the original book to remedy the bad taste Wicked left in my mouth.