Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, December 11, 2003

On CLA's recommendation I am reading Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It is excellent, The Wizard of Oz from the Witch's point of view, told as a tale of political struggle, in a style that reminds me of nothing so much as Margaret Atwood. I have read more of Baum's Oz books than I should admit, I think-- they are mostly pretty bad, and often weirdly so. I can't imagine what children are supposed to make, for example, out of Tip, the protagonist of The Marvelous Land of Oz, a plucky lad who, it turns out is actually Ozma, the most beautiful fairy princess in the world. It is the most twisted ending to a children's book I have ever encountered-- the hero is a boy right up until the very end, a sort of reverse Crying Game for the kiddies. I don't know very many people who have actually read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-- I think most of us know the book through the movie. There is precious little Judy Garland in the original, let me tell you; it is a dark book, full of grotesque, malformed characters. Tod Browning had nothing on L. Frank Baum. In one of the Baum books it is revealed that people never die in Oz, and that even if they are chopped up into tiny bits they remain alive and conscious, like sentient gravel, I suppose. In the end, Baum's invention was, I think, overrun by his desire to please his juvenile audience, and he ended up creating a far more horrible world than he intended. Magure picks and chooses what he likes from Baum, working in a more or less magical realism sort of way, so that what fantastic bits remain are more or less as realistic as the flying carpet in Macando. If it were just a well done stunt, I wouldn't recommend it, but I think he is out to accomplish more, and from what I can see so far-- about 2/3rds through-- he mostly gets what he is out for.

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