One of the wonderful thngs about being from a small city is that the folks love to own you. Jamestown, NY loves Lucille Ball, a native daughter. Binghamton loves Rod Serling, where he grew up, even though he was born in Syracuse.
Albany touts award-winning writer William Kennedy, who wrote Ironweed, among many other works. Not quite at his stature (yet) is Gregory Maguire, pictured above, who has written a number of books, some for children, others for the general reader. The most famous of these is Wicked, which was turned into a Tony-award winning musical. Wicked is the story of the Wizard of Oz from the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view, and fairly sympathetic at that.
Gregory Maguire spoke at the Albany Public Library a couple months ago. He was very funny, engaging, witty. One of the things he discussed was the inspiration for Wicked, which was the first Gulf war in the early 1990s. He was living in Britain at the time and was reading the press reports that Saddam was as bad as Hitler. Hitler: that brought him short. For Hitler is the touchstone by which all others can be measured. (Recall, if you will, the suggestion by some that W’s policies, and the public reaction, or lack, was like Hitler in 1933 – most responses were viscerally intense.)
Well, Maguire didn’t want to write about Hitler anyway. He’s not a historian. Besides, lots of people had already documented him. Well, who else epitomized evil nearly as well?
Why, the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz! As performed by Margaret Hamilton, she embodied intimidation – “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” – and threats of torture – “How about a little fire, Scarecrow?” – all with that hideous laugh, and of course, green makeup. [Your Kermit the Frog reference here.]