Saturday, March 11, 2006


Today’s Topic: It Ain’t Easy Being Green

I saw on a BBC News website that when some crabbers noticed a three-clawed crab in one of their pots, she was spared the tortures of the Miracle Bamboo Steamer and put in a display tank in a Welsh tourist trap of some sort. As a sideshow attraction she is making contacts all over the place. This is a LONG-DISUSED RECRUITING IDEA. Could it improve our outreach efforts? Call in and let me know what you think.


I just finished reading Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West, by some feller named Gregory Maguire. It was published in 1995 by ReganBooks, which is an imprint of HarperPerennial, which is a division of HarperCollins. The Monkey People publishing business is a tangled web indeed.

OK, this may not seem to you like an appropriate subject for Cliffie’s Notes, but wait until you read it. THIS IS THE MOST PISCATORIAL NOVEL TO COME OUT IN DECADES! There is something fishy going on everywhere you look in this story, and I mean that in all possible senses of the word. The Wicked Witch of the West herself often does not know what to believe or which end is up.

>> Maguire makes the familiar children’s fantasy into, well, A CONSPIRACY NOVEL. With fish. Lots of them. All kinds. One of them is a landfish who is RECRUITING YOUNG WOMEN TO HELP HER CHANGE THE WORLD.

>> And what a world! – to quote the the Witch herself. I never thought of Oz as having a history, let alone politics, racial persecution, religious conflicts or military dictators. It’s all right there in the book, though.

>> There are fish in wells, frying pans, underground caverns, swamps and buckets throughout the story – some silently witnessing the proceedings, some taking action. The landfish, working as a house mother at a women’s college dormitory, is a role model for every one of you. You couldn’t possibly tell whose side she was on UNLESS YOU WERE IN ON THE CONSPIRACY. Maguire takes it a step further and sees to it that several people who ARE in on the conspiracy can’t tell whose side she, or they, are on. That is pretty slick. It’s clear to me she is hiding in plain sight and subverting the Wizard’s goals to further OUR OWN – like a Jewish guy passing as an SS officer and secretly rescuing Jews in the process.

>> At the center of the story, of course, is a green-skinned woman who’s DEATHLY AFRAID OF WATER. And her relationship with water is paramount in this story. But there’s a lot more to her than that, believe me. The Witch has had a far more complicated life than we ever supposed. And she’s not even a bad person, if you can believe that. NOBODY in this story is who you thought they were. I never expected the Witch and Glinda the Good to be college roomates, for example.

>> I love the imbedded piscatorial symbolism in this story. Here’s just one example: late in the book, the title character is looking into her magic mirror and sees the Wizard of Oz trying miserably, again and again, to fling himself into the sea, only to be flung back. THERE IS A RIGHT WAY AND A WRONG WAY TO JOIN OUR RANKS!

>> The Witch gradually realizes in the course of the story that she is a perennial failure. What she doesn’t realize is that her failure comes from always isolating herself from supporters, which (believe it or not) she always had in large numbers. Compare her to the landfish house mother, who lived a long life of finagling and died peacefully in her bed. The Witch ends, of course, with a bucket of mopwater dumped over her head. Talk about facing your worst fear.

Well, I don’t want to tell you too much and ruin the book for you, but this is a swell story, very hard to put down, and it has FLYING MONKEYS!

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