My Five Things: Wicked Novelist Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and the new Out of Oz, picks the five things he's really enjoying right now.

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Courtesy of Andy Newman

In 1995, author Gregory Maguire published Wicked, a dark revisionist look at the Wizard of Oz mythology. (In 2003, a musical version of the novel debuted on Broadway.) Three novels later,  Maguire is bringing the Wicked Years saga to a close with Out of Oz, which stars the granddaughter of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. We reached out to him to ask, “What are the five things you’re really digging on right now.” He responded…

1.  With my three children already in or skittering toward middle school, I am finally taking measure of other graphic novels beyond the influential Maus and, more recently, Persepolis. Friends have steered me toward the Renaissance-perspective-denying Chris Ware and the nouveau German expressionist Dave McKean. Isn’t Gary Trudeau also a graphic novelist, writing in installments in the popular press, as Dickens did? Lately I’m poring over works by P. Craig Russell, for his humor, elegant line, and regard for the intentions of those authors whose work he interprets.

2.  It’s no secret that I admire the fine work Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman and associates have done turning my book into Broadway gold. That makes me able to laugh out loud, without a twinge of regret or guilt, at parodies of Wicked: the Musical. References, rip-offs, homages, in the last year occurring on The Simpsons and South Park, make me realize that my private exercise in character rehabilitation tweaked some gene of popular culture. I’m not sick with power, just sick with laughter.

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3.  I have been working for a few years with the Board of Associates of the Boston Public Library as we raise money for the preservation and digitization of the BPL’s special collections. The BPL is a magnificent dense granite treasure trove in the heart of Boston’s Copley Square, and its holdings rival those of the best American libraries. But time and grit have a way of working on us all, and the task to save deteriorating rare books and documents is a race against time. We raise money to save our heritage. On your mark, get set: Give.

4.  Now I’ve cleared away the timelines, the maps, the genealogies that papered the walls of my study during the writing of Out of Oz, I uncover the paintings of Andy Newman. These quiet European and American landscapes and keen figure studies helped inspire my novel Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I have five or six of the paintings in my study and others at home, and if I eventually adopted three children with the painter and then married him — well, it hasn’t made me pull the paintings off the wall. They continue to fascinate, console, and challenge me daily and nightly.

5. My tastes in music tend to favor anything my kids don’t like, out of natural antipathy amplified by a sort of malicious glee. I don’t play Chopin nocturnes to educate their ear but to annoy them, and they retaliate by playing artists I won’t name here. Yet yesterday I caught a snippet of an interview with and some excerpts by M C Frontalot. “First World Problem” particularly caught my attention. I don’t know how long I might be able to stick with Mr. Frontalot, but I intend to try him on the kids, too, and see how we all get on.

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