I’ve Got A New Idol

I’m embarrassed to say I have only just read my first book by Diana Wynne Jones. First of all, this: Diana Wynne Jones is a genius, a goddess, a fucking gift to this earth, none of us were worthy of her while she was here, and why her name hasn’t been on a lot of the must-read lists for fantasy I’ve come across is a wonder (though maybe I was just looking at the wrong lists). I understand some of her stuff may not have aged well race-wise, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate everything else she has to offer while understanding we need to do better.

I just finished Howl’s Moving Castle this morning. I haven’t seen the much-beloved Miyazaki movie (I do plan to), but also (from what I understand) they’re pretty different stories, so keep that in mind when I say this next important fact: this is a perfect book. God damn it is so much fun and so smart and is inspiring and easy but also has these little heavy nuggets that just *chef’s kiss* do it for me. I know it’s supposed to be a novel for a younger audience, and I see that in how she simplifies a lot throughout the book, but it can easily be enjoyed by an adult.

As a girl, Sophie would have shriveled with embarrassment at the way she was behaving. As an old woman, she did not mind what she did or said. She found that a great relief.

– Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle

I’m just delighted by the narrative of this girl being meek until the freedom that comes with sudden, magical old age, and while a kid reading this may enjoy that, I think it probably takes an adult, and in many ways a woman, to appreciate it.

But famous, dead authors don’t need reviews. The book’s good and worth reading, five stars, whatevs. What I actually want to post about is how much I have been trying to be like this lady without even knowing it. I’m not saying I’m at all succeeding, it’s just awesome to find someone who’s doing these things I want to do and doing them breathtakingly well. That’s the thing about Pratchett and Gaiman and Adams–I love them all, and they’re amazing storytellers and disgustingly clever, but there’s always something missing in their books for me. (Please don’t come at me for this absolutely scalding take.) I’ve thought, “I want to write a book like Equal Rites, but…softer and also harder all at once???” I found that missing piece with Jones.

Plus I came across all these little moments where I was like, “Oh, damn, I tried to do that too but did much, much worse” and that felt very humbling yet satisfying at the same time. Like introducing the reader to the “real world” in the midst of a fantasy world through the eyes of a character whose real world is actually the fantasy world (when Korinna goes through the asphodel meadows), or just the whole concept of trying to endear the reader to a sulky, self-absorbed “wizard.” I apparently stole the name Conrad from her too. I even found a used, hardback copy of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland over the weekend, and on page two she’s referencing a Rule with a capital R. Like a rule for magic! My goodness!

I know none of these are really new ideas, there are no new ideas if some writers are to be believed (and I’m inclined to be one of those believers), it just feels good to feel…on track in this way? Basically, I’ve got a lot to learn, and now I just have another teacher from which to learn all of the It. Plus now I know time is not at all linear because I probably read everything Jones has written in a past life or just absorbed through the osmosis of time and the Big Magic that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about my own desire to tell certain stories. Fate! Destiny! Maybe it’s all real?

My gods isn’t reading just great?

2 thoughts on “I’ve Got A New Idol”

  1. Absolutely. Diana Wynne Jones is amazing — particularly in that her stories often come out quite differently than one expected, but always in a way that makes sense. Raised both my kids on her tales. (And, incidentally, if you want to see Harry Potter in embryo, check out the second of the three sections of _The Lives of Christopher Chant_ . . . 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

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