Friday, May 27, 2011

Wicked Cool: I've Gotten Over My Literary Snobbery (A Little)

At one point in my life, I was a ridiculously voracious reader. I'd read two or three books a day, often more, never less. When you suffer from insomnia beginning as a toddler, I guess you're bound to be either a hard-core reader or a television addict.

As I've gotten older and found that free time is at a premium between my daughters, my students, and the never-ending cycle of grading, planning, keeping on top of professional development and such, I just don't have the time to read that I once did.

It's kind of funny, though ... I always fancied myself something of a literary snob that took pride in avoiding the "book of the moment". I was late to the party in terms of excellent works including Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, and even the dreaded Twilight books (which I couldn't stop reading until I was finished and realized how poorly written and unoriginal they were).

Perhaps the greatest proof of what an idiot I was? I received a copy of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird from my eighth grade English teacher as a prize for a writing contest. Totally refused to read it because it was "supposed to be so great and all the books that have that reputation totally SUCK." Well, it didn't suck (it is, in fact, my favorite book of all time)

I even eschewed Dan Brown for months even when everyone on the planet was reading The Da Vinci Code.

So I guess it's no surprise, really, that I somehow missed this one.


Published in 1995, Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West tells the backstory of Elphaba (sound out the initials of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum for the pronunciation) ... including her run-ins with Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion.

Can I just say that this book is blowing my mind?

I'm a huge fan of Baum's Oz books, and this book is making me question motivations and points of view and bias and bottom lines and so on to the point where I'm probably going to be rereading Baum's canon as soon as possible (which will probably be next Christmas vacation at this point).

The intent of this post is not to be a scene spoiler (plus, I'm only halfway done the book ... I plan on finishing it tonight), but just to contemplate why I am so reluctant to read "popular" books despite the fact that I am almost never disappointed once I give in ... and to see if anyone else has this tendency.

Also, I've got another conundrum ... I have very strong feelings about movie adaptations of books I've enjoyed. Since Wicked has been made into a very popular musical, should I make an effort to see it, or would it be the same kind of limiting, unsatisfactory experience movie adaptations usually are?

If you've ever turned up your nose at a book, eventually changed your mind, and ultimately loved it, please share titles in the comments (and of course any other thoughts this post might inspire ;-))