chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing by Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones: The Fantastic Tradition and Children's Literature by Farah Mendelsohn

When I was in high school and even when I was at university, I could never figure out why anyone would want to discuss the structure, symbolism, etc. of the books they liked. Surely that would kill your pleasure dead, like picking apart a joke to see why it was funny?

I'm really not sure when this changed, but it was probably fannish reading that did it, and I'm guessing perhaps it was the various online analyses of the Sandman and Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.

In the past few months, with the help of my perceptive daughter, who knew what Mom really wanted the most off her Amazon wish list, I was able to immerse myself in the inner workings of one of my favorite writers, British fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones (1934–2011). Mendlesohn's book, which generally rambles through various overarching themes of Jones' work rather than marching along by publication date, offers a number of great insights into what's going on in the books and in some of DWJ's short stories. The book by Jones herself is a collection of articles, essays, and talks, and would be worth the price of purchase (for me, at any rate) simply because it contains the famous essay "The Heroic Ideal—A Personal Odyssey," which explores DWJ's fascinating and mystifying YA novel Fire and Hemlock from her own point of view. Actually, the other items in the book are enjoyable and useful as well.

cut for more )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Gojyo  - King of Hearts)

The way this meme works is that you ask to do it, and then I give you four fandoms so you can tell us all about your favorite characters .

theskywasblue gave me: "... Saiyuki ... Bleach .. Lord of the Rings and ... Have you read Good Omens? (I don't know if you have, sorry! If not then your favourite character from any work by Diana Wynne Jones.)"

Actually, I have read Good Omens and I am fond of Pepper, but I don't think I can find any pictures of her. So ...

Cut for the four I actually did )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (calcifer-DWJ)

I wrote a brief but impassioned e-mail note to the Washington Post about the fact that there did not seem to be any coverage of DWJ's death this weekend. And ... I got a response, with a link in it. It turns out that critic Michael Dirda, who has been fond of her books in the past, was caught out of town on family business.

Anyway, here is his brief blog post, where he explains this, and he is asking for input. (You need to click "All Posts" to see the other responses ... their software seems to be set for a much higher volume of comments than they are getting on this.)

chomiji: Kyoshirou from Samurai Deeper Kyo, weeping.  Caption: Nor all your tears wash out a word of it o (Kyoushirou-tears)

What should I re-read right now, to remember her? She is the author of so many of my favorite books:

  • The Homeward Bounders
  • The Time of the Ghost
  • Fire and Hemlock
  • Witch Week
  • Deep Secret
  • Archer's Goon

And then there's always The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

A bit of light has gone out of the world.

ETA: Obits by Other Authors

ETA: Mainstream Media Obits

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Cho-vatar w/ kaede mon)

Cross-posted from the DWJ LJ Comm:

Diana Wynne Jones, after much consultation with her husband and specialists, has decided to abandon chemotherapy (which is serving only to make her feel very ill indeed) and resign herself to whatever may follow. Her senior oncologist fears she has 'months rather than years', but we all hope that – as once or twice before – Diana can still surprise the medical profession. May the good luck return.

- Ansible, June 2010

Thanks to james_nicoll for the Ansible cite ... I was kind of holding my breath until I saw it.

For those not familiar with Ansible: "Ansible is David Langford's infamous British SF/fan newsletter, published since 1979."

I have also read this same news via the DWJ mailing list, where it was actually posted a couple of weeks ago.

According to this blog, you can send letters to:

Diana Wynne Jones
c/o Greenwillow Books
10 E. 53rd St.
New York, NY 10022

The publisher says (again, see link) the company will forward them.

chomiji: Yukimura from Samurai Deeper Kyo, smiling and clapping his hands. Caption: Happiness (Yuki-happy)

Not only did I find Diana Wynne Jones' latest, House of Many Ways, on sale unexpectedly at the B. Dalton in Union Station, but I randomly ran into smillaraaq on the way back to the office! And of course we babbled about books and manga and fanfic, while the travelers milled about us.


chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (shigure-book)

These are mostly for smillaraaq. Somewhere deep in the guts of the Meta Thread from Heck (f-locked, I am afraid), which started out innocently as a notice of a fic posting on my other account and now exceeds 300 posts, she mentioned that she had not read much (or did not recall much) Cherryh, and as CJC is about my favorite SF writer, I felt this needed to be remedied. And when I said so, she said she'd also appreciate recs for DWJ - who is one of my favorite fantasy authors. So, without further ado ... .

Cut to lists of recs for both )
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Default)

I'm going to play scholarly now, like the English major I was many years ago.

I doubt I'm really going to break any new ground here, especially given that a couple of different scholarly studies of DWJ's works have been released in the past few years. I'm also guessing that this same structure might well apply to other young adult fantasy novels. Finally, I have a nagging feeling that I once read about ideas like this in something called, I think, "The Hero's Journey." But thinking this through was useful for me when I was writing my review of her recent book The Game, because it let me pinpoint where I felt that things had gone wrong.

Most of the examples that I'm going to use are from the novels I've reread most often. They are:

  • Fire and Hemlock (F&H)
  • The Lives of Christopher Chant (LoCC)
  • Charmed Life (CL)
  • The Homeward Bounders (HB)
  • Archer's Goon (AG)

These books focus on a single protagonist. Although that person may have siblings or friends as sidekicks, the story is told only from his or her POV. I'm going to add a few examples from Witch Week (WW), but that one features two alternating protagonists (Nan and Charles), which makes the arguments a little less clear in some cases.

read on ... includes some spoilers for the books mentioned )

No music, because it's the middle of the night, and we have house guests (sis-in-law and nephew). And the Young Lady is off at her "Pirates of Penzance" cast party, because this was the closing night. The party runs all night, but she hasn't socialized on this level much yet, usually it's been just one-on-one with a best friend, she's an introvert like everyone else in the family (INTJ, probably) ... I'll be picking her up soon.

chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Default)

The Game began promisingly, introducing a young orphan named Hayley Foss who has recently left her grandparents' quiet home to join a boisterous gathering of cousins she has never met. As the story explored Hayley's strange home life and her interactions with the cousins, hints of otherwordliness gave way to full-blown fantasy, comfortingly reminscent of Diana Wynne Jones's earlier books. I quickly became engrossed and was thoroughly enjoying myself - until the story slammed shut abruptly, leaving me surprised and annoyed.

This is only half of a DWJ book. No, it doesn't end in the middle. Instead the first three-eighths are grafted directly onto the final eighth. I can't say it's not worth reading, but I was disappointed.

Read on for more, including some spoilers )

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