Sense of place
mcmullea at kl.com
Tue Aug 31 16:39:32 EDT 1999
Nat just said:
"One of the things I've noticed about DWJ is how she manages to
> specificity in her sense of place. Even when it sounds like she's using a
> real setting, she usually finds a way to make it a place that doesn't
"I think perhaps a key to what Jones is about comes in Homeward
> where He (Prometheus) makes his home "real" by his mere presence. Not sure
> how, but I think a similar process of an author living in the the setting
> does make a big difference, even when (as in Jones' case) the setting is
> almost never real."
Yes. Firstly, you should write those interesting-sounding essays
you mentioned ;) Look how you have a receptive audience built right from
this mailing list. This also sounds like a promising essay idea whether it
concentrated on dwj or ranged over how a variety of writers handle sense of
Now for my meager off the cuff thoughts on sense of place in dwj. I
agree they always seem like they could be any of several places. Power of
Three could be any moor (or at least, a number of moors). Her settings seem
_Like_ places; as in "this Stow on the Water is like Stow on the Wold, or in
the Hathaway past in AG I was looking for likenesses to the Hathaway cottage
I dutifully saw in Stratford on Avon. So I am always having the sense of
familiarity of knowing what the place is "like" without actually pinning it
down to some specific place in reality.
The book that transformed me into a bookworm was called The Mystical
Beast (stand by for relevance ;) ). In it, if you stood upon a manhole
cover and stamped twice sharply with your left foot (or whatever, getting a
bit hazy), the manhole cover would carry you swiftly downward and away to
The Other Side. This reminds me a bit of dwj, in that a manhole cover is
perfectly anonymous. You wouldn't think of the specific manhole cover over
on Elm Avenue that you saw once. There are plenty of them all over the
place and it's easy to recognize. Perfectly familiar without being
specific. But what of when dwj takes us to a place which is Other?
Sometimes those places seem familiar to me too. But if you've read a book
scores of times, that's not so surprising. An actual locus to consider this
topic in dwj might be The Place Between from Lives of C.C.
Oh! Btw, I would definitely recommend The Mystical Beast, especially
to a younger reader. I've never met another soul who has read this book but
I got it from the Scholastic Book Club lo these many years ago (christmas
1977). It's now my most tattered tome, since I loved it kind of ruthlessly.
I'll have to check again for the author's proper name because I am feeling
dangerously malapropic at the moment.
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