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I recently read Wicked, the novel by Gregory Macguire upon which the Broadway show was based. It's the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from her birth until the ending we all know. It is an amazing book -- it's about what we mean by "evil," and how easy it is to misunderstand the motives, the needs and the emotions of others. I have spoken to a number of people who saw the show, and have discovered that the Broadway version is both sanitized and provided with a happy ending. They shouldn't have, for this is not a children's book, and this is not a children's theme. The book is funny and maddening and gut-wrenchingly sad, and I highly recommend it.

Yesterday, I finished Lost, by the same author. It's a modern ghost story (or is it?), about a middle-aged female writer who travels from Boston to London in search of the character and plot she intends for her next novel. She finds more than she had come for, and the book is ripe with mysteries for you (and her) to solve. It's a story of loss, and how we cope with the agony of inevitable tragedies in our lives, and about the ways in which fantasy may serve as a temporary coping mechanism.

Macguire is a quite astonishing writer, I'm finding, and next on my list is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, which is set in the Netherlands during its artistic peak, and, from what I can gather from the book jacket, has much to do with the relationship between beauty and virtue/ugliness and vice. If I know Macguire -- and I now think I do -- the book will lead me to look at these generalities in ways I hadn't before considered. He entertains, but he provokes, as well. I'm very taken with his work, I find, because it's layered with meanings one must sometimes work to discover.

He can make me cry for reasons I'm not entirely clear about when the tears come. That's good writing.

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