What a World
As I've noted a couple times before, Gregory Maguire's Wicked is my favorite book. In my opinion, it should have remained a stand-alone work, but it spawned a series of sequels, and the fourth and final book, Out of Oz, was released today.
To launch the book and kick off his subsequent tour, Maguire appeared at the Brooline Booksmith this evening to read a couple of excerpts from the new book, answer some questions, and sign books.
I attended the event, and found myself quivering happily the entire time. Wicked doesn't make me turn into Kathy Bates from Misery or anything, but it does mean an awful lot to me.
I loved when Maguire read the excerpts from Out of Oz because he was so animated and he "did all the voices." He fielded questions about the writing process, and about the musical, and about what he thinks he might do next. I found that I didn't have any questions beyond "So how does this book give us closure about Elphaba?" but at the time I didn't think I could ask that question without asking for spoilers. In hindsight, I wish had asked a slightly different version: "Do we get any closure regarding Elphaba?"
Based on how much Maguire seems to have invested in his own characters and in the details of Oz as he imagines it, I am very hopeful that the answer is yes.
When, after the presentation, it was time to line up and offer our copies of the new book for the author to sign, he and I had a brief, somewhat awkward exchange. I was wearing this shirt, and he said that he liked it before he got a proper look at it. Then it seemed to puzzle him, so I said "The Wicked Witch of the West Coast!" but he still didn't quite seem to get it, so I let it go. He probably doesn't listen to much Tupac. (Or perhaps he was just trying to figure out whether the shirt is offensive or not, which is fair enough. I'm also unsure about that.)
Alongside my new copy of Out of Oz, I also handed him the disintegrating copy of Wicked that I first bought on a whim almost 10 years ago. I'd never been to a book signing before, but I knew that I didn't want my name, or a particular message, or anything like that. The author doesn't know me of course, and for me the signature is a gesture to the book's sentimental value, not a way to communicate to anyone else that this copy has some kind of objective worth. So I asked Gregory Maguire if he would please write a line or two in my old, battered, scotch-taped-together copy that he felt was meaningful. He thought for a moment, and then wrote out the very final lines of Wicked. I smiled and thanked him, and said that was perfect and wished him a good night, and then dashed out to catch a train home.
He didn't remember the lines exactly right, but that's just fine. In the book, the actual lines go:
"And there the wicked old witch stayed for a good long time."
"And did she ever come out?"
"Not yet. Not yet."
Of course I think those lines are perfect closure in themselves, which somewhat abates my anxiety about reading the final book. But quoting them in my book, Maguire wrote:
"And there the wicked old witch lived for a good long time."
"And did she ever come out?"
Somehow, there's something just right about the change to "lived."