Friend of Dorothy 

Wicked writer Gregory Maguire talks to about his love of all things Oz, gay innuendo and his latest installment in the series, A Lion Among Men.



Ever since
Gregory Maguire published the novel Wicked: The Life and
Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
millions of fans have enjoyed his skewed vision of the world
of Oz. The hugely successful Broadway musical and two
successive novels -- Son of a Witch and
A Lion Among Men -- have only
cemented the dedication of his fans. Here, he e-mailed
with about gay characters, friends of
Dorothy, and the veil he draws over some of his
characters’ hookups. do you think the Wicked books have drawn such
an enthusiastic readership?
Gregory Maguire: I confess that I write the
kind of books I like to read. On the potentially risky side,
that means the books are dense and sometimes obscure.
On the plus side, I think that I put my richest
interest in politics and personality into stories that
have some degree of familiarity already (The Wizard
of Oz
). In addition, of course, Baum's original
characters and their famous evocations by 1939's MGM
film are so beloved and usefully complex that, as
fleshed out in Wicked, they can become just
that much more prickly, tender, and surprising.

Do you have a series of books plotted out based on
the many hints you drop throughout the books -- or are
they just part of the general mystique of the series?
Both Wicked and its sequel, Son of a
, were meant to be stand-alone novels, but
with A Lion Among Men I could see that there
needed to be one (I think only one) more novel to complete
the arc of the story. Some of my hints and cues
suggest narrative twists in the future, but others are
useful in order to continue to make sure that Oz seems
just as rich, contradictory, and obscure as the complicated
world in which we live. In other words, Oz is a place with
hundreds of thousands of histories and
interpretations, not just the novelist's privileged

You mentioned in an interview that you know a lot
more about the story than ever makes it onto the pages.
Can you give me an example?
I hate to be coy, but I hate to be prurient,
too. I believe in leaving some characters their veils
of privacy. I will say that I know some characters who
had romances or relations with each other about which I
either only hinted or bypassed entirely, because to linger
on such a subject would have given a false importance
to the relationship.

What impact does your own sexual orientation have
on the books and the world you’ve created?
I think being gay is a useful precondition for
turning into an artist, in that one has to learn
through childhood to pay attention to other people's
cues and behavior, because one's own system of references --
of affections, of interests, of interpretations
-- seems to be awry compared to the norm. I think
the practice of studying life for the purpose of
self-protection makes a gay or lesbian person more curious
and perhaps, if one is lucky, more astute. And that
helps any artist.

Beyond that,
though, gay people love the physical texture and resonance
of the world, the social complexity of arcane relationships,
and I have tried to bring my love of the physical
world and my interest in social complexity to Oz. I
have enjoyed choosing to write my magnum opus, as it
were, in a magic land that, while famous, while popular, is
not stuck in something that resembles the 13th century
as tricked out by damsels in distress, swords and
sorcery, cone-hatted magicians, and avaricious
dragons. I like a magic world in which courage and affection
and loyalty are just as strong as the powers of green
and blonde witches and conniving wizards.

Tags: Books