dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #70

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Tue Aug 31 16:12:55 EDT 1999


On Tue, 31 Aug 1999 10:02:37 -0400 (EDT), deborah wrote:

>And as for the books Melissa mentioned above?  Try to convince me
>that Connie Willis' _To Say Nothing of the Dog_ isn't literature.
>Or _Uncharted Territories_, which is actually a lot like a DWJ
>novel, come to think of it.  Bellairs' books, which I wish all
>the Goosebumps readers knew about.  Lois McMaster Bujold -- she
>may not be taught in school, but if my roomate doesn't finish _A
>Civil Campaign_ soon so I can read it I'm going to hit her over
>the head and kidnap it.

My husband was going to smother me with a pillow if I didn't stop laughing
over _A Civil Campaign_.  Luckily he finished it last night so we could
share our glee over Ivan's gradual transformation into "not-quite-an-idiot."
I just love her characters.

Of course all those books are literature.  The point is, there's a trend in
literary criticism to define literature very narrowly, even to the extent of
saying that a book with popular appeal cannot possibly be literary, because
the definition of literary is exclusive and even a little elitist.  Back to
the whole PJF thing, James Joyce was *deliberately* this way and I've even
read that he wanted people to have to work hard to understand _Ulysses_.  If
it's accessible, if it's enjoyable, it *can't* be literature.

It took me a long time to realize that, though.  You get trained into all
sorts of garbage in getting an English degree.

>(Warnings to people who are going to takes us up on these
>recommendations:

Oh, wait, I forgot people might want to go out and read that stuff.  Thanks,
Deborah.  I actually live in terror of people reading things based on my
effusions and then giving me the hairy eyeball ("you sinner, you depraved
lunatic, how can you think these are GOOD!"  Actually a friend read
_Uncharted Territory_ by Connie Willis and thought it was terrible based on
the fact that it contains profanity.  My soul curdles in dismay.)
>
>Neil Gaiman: _The Books of Magic_ is great, but _Sandman_ while
>wonderful, started as a horror comic and retained vestiges of
>that throughout its life.  I can read it, and I'm an utter wuss
>about horror, but be warned.

The Sandman graphic novels are a work of art (literally and figuratively)
but they are incredibly disturbing and bloody and violent.  I admire them
and enjoy them, but feel a little weird about doing so because they left a
mark on me.  Gaiman is not afraid to depict evil at its worst--not the
abstract Evil of, say, Susan Cooper, but the everyday evil that humans
inflict on one another.  The section about the serial killers' convention is
one that I genuinely wish I hadn't read.
>
>Connie Willis: Do *not* start with her short story "All My
>Darling Daughters".  Please trust me on this.  It's a brilliantly
>executed, absolutely horrifying story about an extremely taboo
>topic, and once you read it you'll feel unclean for a week.  

Oooh.  I second this.  It is even more shocking because Willis makes up
profanities and words to describe very adult themes--and in doing so
prevents you from blipping over them the way you might over obscenities
you're used to hearing, whether in movies or in everyday life.  It's like a
bludgeon.  Incredible, but also ghastly and heartwrenching.

>Lois McMaster Bujold: Adult themes (rape and violence) are
>implied and, in later books, the violence is explicit.  But
>the violence is never gratuitous, and the baddies are always
>known to be Bad.

I especially recommend these for more mature readers.  The other good thing
is that all the books end tied up in neat little bows, the bad guys get
theirs....
>
>John Bellairs:  Don't read him when you're home alone at night.

It's so true.  And he's a YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR!  The editions I have have
those wonderfully chilling Edward Gorey illustrations, too.

>Helen Cresswell:  Helen Cresswell is perfect.  No warnings.

Anybody who lives somewhere other than this desert of true fiction (i.e.
America) know how many Bagthorpe books there are after _Bagthorpes
Liberated_?  For some reason our library has _The Bagthorpe Triangle_ in a
sound recording only.

Melissa Proffitt
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