In December, I received the book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West for my birthday. I had just seen the play and had heard the book upon which it was based was excellent.
It’s now March and I’m on page 28. At this rate, I’ll do well to finish the book before my next birthday.
This isn’t because I’m not enjoying Wicked. On the contrary, it’s because I am.
I like to read, but I don’t finish more than about two or three books a year. The better the book, the longer it takes me. Sure, I can polish off a Nora Roberts trilogy in one beach vacation. That’s like slurping up a triple scoop hot fudge sundae—no chewing involved, except for the crunchy sprinkles of guilty indulgence.
Newspapers, magazines and online news and opinion consume a healthy share of my reading.
Books are different. For me, a really good read isn’t always a page-turner. It’s not always a sundae. It’s a protracted dinner composed of superbly seasoned courses, savored slowly to appreciate each nuance. Like a good dish, a well-written sentence might hit the cranial taste buds with a burst of garlic, and leave a hint of smoked poblano on the back side.
The reason it’s taking me so long to read Wicked is that I am re-reading—and re-re-reading—each sentence. I enjoy each one so much that it pains me to move on.
To say author Gregory Maguire has a way with words is akin to saying Julia Child made a decent bowl of onion soup.
Let me feed you a few bites, just to whet your appetite:
“In the kitchen yard Malena floated gently, not with the normal gravity of pregnancy but as if inflated, a huge balloon trailing its strings through the dirt. She carried a skillet in one hand and a few eggs and the whiskery tips of autumn chives in the other.”
“In the minister’s lodge, Malena struggled with consciousness as a pair of midwives went in and out of focus before her. One was a fishwife, the other a palsied crone.”
“’Look, a rainbow,’ said the senior, bobbing her head. A sickly scarf of colored light hung on the sky.”
“After the double blow of the birth and his public embarrassment, he was not yet up to professional engagements and sat whittling praying beads out of oak, scoring and inscribing them with emblems of the Namelessness of God.”
“Malena, groggy from pinlobble leaves as usual, arched an eyebrow in confusion.”
Watch for a full review, likely around year’s end.