Sunday, March 27, 2011


I have noted the passage of many public figures here, and of one non-public but very personal figure. Today's public figure is probably the one who had the most significant impact on my own life and development.

Diana Wynne Jones died yesterday of lung cancer. She recently became somewhat famous in this country when her young adult novel Howl's Moving Castle was made into an anime and then dubbed over into English and released here. I can't remember when I first read Howl's Moving Castle, but it was probably the book I checked out of the public library more than any other. It was on the grown-up floor of the library! Okay, in the young adult section, but still: downstairs! My fingers can still remember where the clear covering on the dust jacket was torn—and where I tore it even more. Perhaps this early obsession presaged my eventual Golden Girls fandom, as the protagonist is a cranky old lady.

The Wikipedia article linked above has a complete list of her books, but here is my own personal annotated catalog of Diana Wynne Jones masterpieces:

Castle in the Air, the sequel to Howl's, gave me a much better attitude toward British depictions of Arabs than C. S. Lewis' The Horse and His Boy.

The Lives of Christopher Chant confirmed to me that the secret world I could always sense outside of our own, the one I visited in the best dreams, was really there.

Witch Week taught me that even the awful people at school, the ones you hate or who hate you, just might have the same secrets you have. And it taught me what rice pudding was.

The Magicians of Caprona made me love alternative history.

A Tale of Time City made me love it even more, and taught me that Vivian could be a boy's name.

Hexwood was the BEST. THING. EVER. King Arthur and Merlin both secretly aliens? As well as most other European mythological figures? Plus telepathy, computer games, and a main character who keeps dreaming she's trapped inside her own ear? Brilliant.

Charmed Life taught me how to play conkers, which I still have yet to play.

Cart and Cwidder, together with Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves," formed a loose basis for my current Dungeons and Dragons character.

Drowned Ammet actually got drowned when I left it near an open window in a rainstorm. That seemed very right to me.

The Spellcoats makes me love my Guatemalan patchwork coat even more.

Crown of Dalemark pointed out that fantasy doesn't have to be a long time ago.

The Ogre Downstairs made science fun!

Dogsbody put the magic back into the stars. And was about dogs!

Eight Days of Luke made the Norse Gods I loved to read about into regular people.

Archer's Goon is perfect for conspiracy theorists who believe magical folks are secretly controlling everything.

Aunt Maria taught me the same distrust of Aunts that I learned from James and the Giant Peach, but much more intense. Luckily my own aunts weren't evil.

Fire and Hemlock was an actual grown-up book, the first I read. It's a version of the Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer ballads that's about a doomed cellist and a young girl who writes bad fan fiction. SO. FUCKING. GOOD.

A Sudden Wild Magic was my second grown-up book, and it gave me a crush on a centaur. Another book with an old lady protagonist. Also REALLY FUCKING GOOD.

Deep Secret reminded me of The Story of the Amulet, but better, and also for grownups.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but these are the ones I read as a kid/teenager, and they basically made me love reading more than anything else except possibly some of the works of Bruce Coville. If you are the sort of person who can read children's books, I wholeheartedly recommend her children's books. If not, I doubleheartedly recommend her few adult books. She was an amazing voice in children's literature, fantasy literature, and just literature in general. I will miss her as much as I would miss someone I actually had the chance to know and love.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

I don't understand how I managed to never read anything she has written, given that I was a child who read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively - but luckily I have a dissertation to procrastinate on, so I think I will start catching up now!