Getting Wicked With Gregory Maguire
by Tif Sweeney
On Tuesday, November 15, I ventured to the Saint Louis County Library Headquarters for an event that I have been looking forward to for weeks. It is not every day that you get to attend an event featuring one of your all-time favorite authors! Though I have met this brilliant man before, it has been many years since I had the pleasure of hearing him speak. I arrived early, purchased my books from our local Left Bank Books, and opened one of my new treasures to tide my time with giggles until the event began.
Who is this man that I tend to go all “fangirl” over? The one and only Gregory Maguire, author of the acclaimed novel and Broadway musical, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. He was traveling through town to promote his latest novel and the final installment of his imaginative adventures, Out of Oz. Oddly enough, St. Louis was his 15th city in 15 days, and 15 years after the original release of the novel that started it all.
Maguire began the evening with four brief readings, one from Wicked, one from the sequel Son of a Witch, and two from the fourth and final installment, Out of Oz. I had no idea that I would be entertained with more than just a reading, but one that was choreographed all by him, complete with a few moments of the musical coming to life by the ultimate creator himself! It was a night filled with drama, awe, and lots of laughter.
Following the readings, Maguire then opened the mic for questions from the audience. The most intriguing question and answer to me was one asked about the differences between the novel and the musical. Surprisingly, Maguire said that there were more similarities than I had realized after viewing the latter for myself. The novel was written to be a tragedy (and it very much was!). The musical, though different from the novel, delivered the same meaning, but in a different form. In Maguire’s words, “Life is brief. Friends and lovers need cherished. What you do matters.” Other questions posed dealt with Maguire’s own interests in reading (he likes prose more than plot and tends to prefer English over American authors), his interest in interpreting fairy tales from the villian’s point of view (how much the tales mirror his own life and how the tales can serve as a common language among many different audiences), and even his age (Maguire honestly answered 57 when the question was posed by a 9 year old boy).
After the presentation, I then had the opportunity to speak to him personally as well as have him sign my books. The short interaction was friendly and I only wish it had lasted longer. This charismatic man that is full of wit and some may say sarcasm, only affirmed his spot on the top of my favorites list. His writing is brilliant; his performance is entertaining; his humor is hilarious. I cannot wait to dive back into the Land of Oz and I recommend that you do so, too!
For more information on the author and his work, you can visit his website, Welcome to the World of Gregory Maguire. When you do, you may discover that he has a book devoted to Maurice Sendak, whom the County Library Headquarters currently has an exhibit featuring. Click on over to our coverage of this exhibit and be sure to stop by before its closure on December 14th!