Kids, reading, and "good" lit...

McMullin, Elise mcmullea at
Mon Aug 9 11:36:03 EDT 1999

Congrats to Mary Ann and new spouse!

Max/Tanaquil2 - your post was great!  I'd like to put the whole thing in
quotes and say "yeah!", but I'll just restrain it to where I have
>something to chime in with.
>"And the clues are certainly there for Sophie to see--ie. when 
>all her hat predictions start coming true.  She just has to say something for
it to be so.  She makes her own reality."

I like how dwj has the shape of Sophie's gift fall in with this idea -
she makes reality even more noticeably than others, therefore she must
put a *lot* of effort into turning a blind eye to it.  And you can see
her passing things up and not being good enough for things: thinking
that apprenticing for free in the hat shop is fitting to her lot, being
completely intimidated by Howl upon their first meeting on May Day.
Ostensibly her alarm arose from having been so isolated and quiet, but
maybe more because he's too exciting-looking for what she has plotted
for herself and insists is true about herself. 
>    "It is so much more comfortable to be able to say 
>"Oh, I won't succeed anyway so why bother" than to say "These are my gifts 
>and abilities, what use am I going to put them to in the face of other 
people's jealousy and threatened feelings?""

You are so right!

>"I suspect it is this sense of 'collusion' that is so uncomfortable.  It's 
>one thing to be able to blame the world if one doesn't succeed, but it's 
>quite another to acknowledge one's own responsibility for what happens to 
>one, to admit that one might willingly, if unconsciously, harm oneself rather
than take risks or change one's life."

The way dwj works these actual human concerns into her books is one of
the main things that sets her apart from many others and makes her so
re-re-readable.  She really tackles the thorny issues - aglaia ulaia?
And the way she *doesn't* overlook the collusion in difficulties is SO
refreshing and truthful too.  Sophie is a character who strikes close to
home with me and gives me some truly uncomfortable moments of reading,
but there's no question it's worth it.  And it's also funny how reading
about a character who has  uncomfortable realizations not unlike the
ones you are having while reading about the character having them...(got
a bit tangled in this sentence)...anyway, it makes me think a lot harder
than most books and learn things about life that I wasn't suspecting
when I flipped the book open.

>" What DWJ seems to be saying (and maybe I'm just reading that into her 
work because it's what I want to see) is 'your life is your own in the

No, I completely agree.  I've been reading dwj since I was 7 or 8 (20
yrs - can't name another writer with that kind of staying power in my
life) and there have definitely been times where I was highly reluctant
to hear this information, but there have also been times when the only
place I heard this said was in her books.  Breath of fresh air.  Useful
>knowledge.  Rueful reminder  ;)
>"It's up to you to make the most of it, but if you don't, the responsibility 
>is your own not society's.  And it seems to me that that is part, at least, 
>of what lies at the heart of all her stories.  (Also, it seems to me that she
>uses magic as a sort of metaphor for creative gifts in general.  Her 
>characters try to run away from their gifts but of course they can't, for 
>when they do everything goes wrong, and only being true to themselves puts 
>things right.  With a gift, it seems, comes a responsibility on some level to
>put that gift to use or suffer the consequences of stifling that sort of 

I think I should print this and tape it to my computer or something.
Well said!


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