This week’s Flipped is unusual in that it’s an interview. I hope to work more of these into the schedule, and I’m very, very, very grateful to Bryan Lee O’Malley for being interesting, articulate, and funny enough to make up for my shortcomings.
Now, this is a day off. There’s a steady rain falling. We have absolutely no place that we need to go. It’s chilly enough for a fire. And we found a big slab of leftover lasagna in the freezer.
It’s also a perfect day to plow through some of the books I got as Christmas presents. And if my first pick wasn’t all that great, it was at least reasonably good company.
I like Gregory Maguire’s revisionist fairy tales (Wicked, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), and Son of a Witch is one of his better recent efforts. (I couldn’t make it through Mirror Mirror. All of the narrative voices sounded the same.)
It’s a sequel to Wicked, Maguire’s retelling of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the Witch’s point of view. The riveting Elphaba has been dispatched by Dorothy, and Maguire’s focus turns to Liir, a mysterious boy who may or may not be the Witch’s son. It feels less like a sequel than the second part of a trilogy, to be honest. It’s a place-holder, building up Elphaba’s legend and using Liir’s wanderings to study the continuing political and cultural evolution of Oz and its environs.
Really, Maguire describes the book best through one of Liir’s reflective moments:
“Everything else that had happened in his short adult life had been frothy and meaningless, ultimately. Passionate, yes – yes, that, indeed. Passionately felt, but without shapeliness or worthy outcome.”
In other words, Son of a Witch is diverting but not particularly memorable. As fascinating and contrary a character as Elphaba was, it’s considerably less exciting to watch people talk about her for 300-plus pages. There are some nice set pieces, though, and Maguire is very handy in developing his sprawling supporting cast.
And now there’s P.D. James’s The Lighthouse waiting with the promise of a smart British locked-room mystery. Now that should be rainy-day reading.