BY HOPE KATZ GIBBS
ARE YOU among the millions whisked away to
the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy each Christmas
by the ballet inspired by E. T. A. Hoffmann’s classic novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King?
If so, prepare to take a ride this fall to Hiddensee
to explore the Nutcracker’s backstory.
Your guide on this bookish journey is best-selling fantasy author Gregory Maguire, the
man who gave us a new perspective on the
Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked, redrew
Wonderland in After Alice and introduced us to
a distant relation of Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer
Scrooge in Lost.
Here, Maguire takes readers to the Black
Forest of Bavaria, circa ;;;;, to
meet Dirk, the lad who grows up to
become the mysterious one-eyed
toymaker, Herr Drosselmeier.
Readers will be swept away by
this beautifully crafted page-turner rooted in ;;th-century
German Romanticism. While it
teaches readers how the entrancing Nutcracker came to be carved,
and how it magically guided an
ailing little girl named Klara
through a dreamy paradise on a
snowy Christmas Eve, Hiddensee
is not just the reimaging of a classic story, Maguire tells The Costco
Connection from his home in
“The story ponders the profound question about how a person who is abused
by life, shortchanged and challenged, can access
secrets that benefit the disadvantaged and powerless,” says the author, who has faced personal
challenges of his own.
Maguire’s mother died from complications
she suffered giving birth to him in ;;;;, landing
him in an orphanage before his father remarried
two years later and brought his four children
home. While Maguire was close to the woman he
called his second mom, his relationship with his
father remained strained for decades.
The Albany, New York, public library was his
salvation. “Reading is a great way to operate the
safety valves and pressures in one’s own charac-
ter,” he says. “In the library,
I was able to escape myself
and become more myself.
That’s why I’m a writer, so I
can perform that therapeu-
tic and missionary function
for others that was so bene-
ficial for me as a child.”
Like Wicked—Maguire’s first breakout book
for adults—Hiddensee taps into the common
language of the ;;st century: fairy tales.
“If you start talking to adults about signifi-
cant books in their childhoods, you find a lingua
franca to which everyone responds,” says the
former professor at Simmons
College’s Center for the Study of
Children’s Literature, who spent
the first ;; years of his career
writing children’s stories. “One
hundred years ago you’d have
expected most people in the U.S.
to have a passing familiarity with
the Old Testament; ;;; years ago,
even those with a limited educa-
tion had knowledge of Greek
myths. Because I want to talk to
everybody, and everybody has the
Grimm fairy tales in their back-
ground, tapping into those mem-
ories is my strategy.”
The father of three, who had
one of the first gay marriages per-
formed in the state of Massachu-
setts (he and painter Andy Newman married in
;;;;), admits that being trapped in one genre
frustrates him—despite how lucrative it has
been for him.
“I have actually written a lot of original stories over the last ;; years, and I would like to try
my hand at theater and write a screenplay,” he
says. But the self-deprecating dramatist recommends: “Don’t hold your breath for those things.
They’ll come if they come, and if they don’t,
I think the world will be none the poorer.” C
Hope Katz Gibbs is a freelance writer whose
bookshelves are ;lled with fairy tales, many by
her literary hero Gregory Maguire.
GREGORY MAGUIRE IMAGINES THE STORY
BEHIND A CLASSIC CHRISTMAS TALE
AR TS & ENTERTAINMEN T
Hiddensee (Item #1193205,
10/31) is available in most
Reading is a
great way to
in one’s own
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