Archive for December 2nd, 2008

Today’s review is of a fantasy novel, yes, but an insanely popular one. Barnes and Noble even sent me an entire email themed with Wicked products. Gregory Maguire is at all times a fantasy novelist, as far as I can tell, for both children and adults. He admits it, too. However, he also has a Ph.D in English literature, and his novels are widely read by people who wouldn’t possibly read, say, anything by Anne McCaffrey. (They are also widely read by people who do read Anne McCaffrey, but my point is still made.) Guess what? A novel about the Wicked Witch of the West is still a fantasy novel. Even if it was made into a musical by Stephen Schwartz and starring that chick from Rent and that chick who was on the last season of “The West Wing.”

The novel is considered a revisionist novel about Oz, but covering the, well, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, as the subtitle says. Elphaba Thropp, who was born green for reasons unknown, had an interesting childhood; her sister, Nessarose, was the favored of the two daughters, as she was intensely devout and their father was a minister. They both were friends with Galinda (later Glinda) at school; surprisingly, only Glinda actually studied sorcery. From there, they all become involved in politics, one way or another. The last section of the book covers the story that the majority of readers will already know: the actual plot of “The Wizard of Oz,” but obviously from Elphaba’s point of view, and it ends as expected. (more…)

Hello, gentle readers! This week, I’m treating you to reviews of five books that, well, may or may not be speculative fiction books. More importantly, these are books and authors who have received a good deal of attention from the mainstream literary fiction critics and readers. Yesterday’s book and author, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, won many awards and is commonly read by people who don’t read science fiction. Today’s review, to be posted shortly, is a book in a similar situation.

Later this week, we’ll hear about a Nobel Prize laureate, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and another genre-straddling book that manages to include all genres and yet be classified in none.

Obviously I like genre literature; I don’t assume that a book is light fare just because of where it’s shelved. However, I do like poking gentle fun at people who swear they’d never consider reading science fiction and yet have read The Handmaid’s Tale, or people who think fantasy is pointless but not only have read Wicked but own the soundtrack and have seen the Broadway musical more than once. Sure, there’s trivial fantasy and bad science fiction, but just because a book is shelved in General Fiction doesn’t mean that it’s contemporary (or maybe historical) realistic fiction, and we should admit this and celebrate it.