"The word is the making of the world." - Wallace Stevens

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mirror, Mirror - Gregory Maguire

"The thing about a mirror is this:  The one who stares into it is condemned to consider the world from her own perspective", page 52.  Nothing like a clever mind narrowed by vanity to create evil, and evil is what you find in the mind of Lucrezia Borgia, the wicked witch of this tale.  Bianca de Nevada, "of the snowy slopes," is our Snow White.

Are you a fan of twice told tales? I've come around to them mostly after reading Maguire's writing; the Wicked books are absolutely wonderful!  You get into this story the same way, already aware of certain fairy tale events to take place, but the world itself is completely Mr. Maguire's.  You just can't NOT get into it!

Part historical fiction and part retold fantasy, this story begins in the year 1502, in Italy. Our heroine is Bianca, seven years old when we meet her and because of her father's extreme protectiveness she never leaves the farm (Montefiore).  She remains innocent to the outside world of war and power struggles until Lucrezia and her brother (a powerful, pious, and dangerous bull of a man and also Lucrezia's lover) sweep into their quiet lives like a natural disaster and bring the problems of the outside world with them.  Bianca's father, haplessly caught in a religious and political scheme, is sent on a quest that deprives her of his protection and leaves her at the mercy of La Borgia.  As the story of Snow White goes, Bianca survives numerous attempts on her life through the grace of her own innocence and the help of those who've been inspired by her purity.

I think my favorite part of this story is the dwarves and their part in narrating.  In this telling of the tale, the dwarves are something very old and elemental.  They live in time a different way than human beings.  Decades of human time are a blink of an eye to them.  They can take shape, but sometimes they have no shape.  As I read, I imagined them to be something like the claymation of the Gnome King in Return to Oz, slowly morphing into something more homo sapient.

(*Photo found at http://www.waltdisneysreturntooz.com/Will.htm)

I love Maguire's writing for its raw edge...what's the word I'm looking for?  Nothing is sugarcoated; whether it's emotions or natural bodily functions, he serves it to you with spicy adjectives.  I thought it was brilliant of him to connect the poison apple of the age-old fairy tale to the real life Borgia family's infamous use of poison to dispose of their enemies.  And I learned a new word: cenobite.  Never came across it before.  A cenobite is a member of a monastic community.