The DWJ Project: Reflections
A belated entry to this series, on account of it not being out yet when I finished my re-read of all of Diana Wynne Jones’ books.
Reflections: On the Magic of Writing is a collection of various essays and lectures she gave, on various subjects related to writing (her own and that of others). A couple of these I had read before; “The Origins of Changeover” was the foreword to the edition I read, and I tracked down scans of “The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey” after seeing it referenced by rushthatspeaks. (Very glad to now have a proper reprint, as the essay does wonders for my ability to understand certain parts of Fire and Hemlock.) Most of this, though, was new.
It makes for interesting reading, though certainly a few details get repetitive — these pieces span decades, and there are certain things, particularly biographical incidents, that she brought up more than once. The two things that fascinated me most were her knowledge of pre-modern English literature (much of which I haven’t personally read), and her comments on her own books. The former made me feel in places like I was reading pameladean‘s Tam Lin, because it threatened to leave me with a reading list of rather obscure works. The latter . . . I don’t know. Sometimes it strips the magic away to know how the magic got made, but I think that here it just turns into a different sort of magic for me, because I can think about her books as a writer as well as a fan. When she talks about similarities between her characters, I nod at some and blink at others, and wonder if she didn’t see the similarities elsewhere, or simply didn’t bring them up. (Upon reflection, I see what she means about the commonality of Torquil and Tacroy, and also, after much more reflection, Thomas Lynn and the Goon. But what about Tacroy and Thomas, and also Howl? Or for that matter, Mark and Herrel, who are a straight-up deployment of her habit of “splitting” a character type and using different facets?)
I wish we had more of that stuff. I would love to know what sparked the ideas for all of her books, because Diana Wynne Jones wrote books that are nothing like mine, and knowing where they came from helps me understand the result. I also, quite selfishly, want to read all the unrevised first drafts and unfinished beginnings she had stuffed into drawers, because I crave more, and I’m (probably) never going to get it. I know it wouldn’t be the same, and it very well might not be good, but I crave it anyway. This book made me sad all over again that Diana Wynne Jones is dead, and that I never had the chance to meet her. I would have liked to thank her in person, and having read this book, I feel certain she would have understood.
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