dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #93

Gili Bar-Hillel abhillel at hotmail.com
Wed Dec 8 08:57:07 EST 1999

hi hi all,

another brief defense for Harry Potter...
My first thoughts upon reading a Harry Potter book were of course along the 
lines of how vastly less sophisticated these books were to DWJ, and isn't it 
unfair Rowling should get all the attention while DWJ is obviously superior, 
and annoyance at the numerous inconsistencies in the story. What can I say, 
I'm a DWJ diehard. Hence joining this list.

BUT upon rereading and rereading and rereading the books (I've never 
translated anything of this length before. It's SO much work. And amazing 
how many typos I was still finding after the fifth or sixth round of 
proofreading...), I'm enjoying them more and more. I can easily imagine the 
opposite happening - so I suppose I have to admit it: I like the Harry 
Potter books. A lot.

True, the instant labeling of good and evil is annoying, I don't like the 
competitiveness between the houses, or the absolutly random system of awards 
and penalties at Hogwarts, and the simultaneous disregard for rules with 
ridiculous enforcement of them, and the continuing inconsistencies.

BUT, the books are humorous, nonstop and at many different levels. I've 
really enjoyed rereading them, even day after day. And they're funloving and 
imaginative - the whole school-for-wizards setup may not be new ("The Worst 
Witch" was the first book I read for myself, when I was five), but a lot of 
the details show a great deal of imagination and innovation. And they're 
suspenseful, and not really all that obvious as they seem - I have been 
consistently surprised by the exact outcomes at the end of hte books. And I 
really appreciate the continuity between books, and the sense that there's a 
whole world that Rowling has in fact worked out in her imagination, of which 
she is only feeding us bits and pieces at a time. I have the feeling that 
this is going to be a well-structured series as far as development from book 
to book - books 2 and 3 keep up a standard set by book 1, they don't seem to 
have been tacked on just to monopolize on the success of the first book.

That said, I still think DWJ is no less humorous, but miles more 
sophisticated and challenging. But perhaps this in itself is an explanation 
of why she would have less popular appeal.

Anyway, I'm thrilled to announce that the Hebrew edition of "Harry Potter 
and the Sorcerer's Stone" which I translated goes to press by Friday, and 
will be in stores in January. Book 2 is coming along at an alarming pace.


I was thinking about Sophie's magic gift, and how her particular brand of 
magic seems to be common to many different DWJ characters, though different 
explanations are given for this in different books.

Take Tanaquil, who weaves reality - at some point it is no longer clear 
whether she weaves what happens, or what happens is what she weaves.

Or Polly and Tom's stories in Fire and Hemlock.

Or the enchanted typewriter in Archer's Goon.

Or Abdullah's daydreams in Castle in the Air - note his foreknowledge of the 
genie in the bottle.

And I forgot the name of the girl in Witch Week with the storytelling gift. 
Or for that matter, the curse on Simon.

Anyone who has read many DWJ knows that when something is mentioned as a 
legend or a dream, it is always going to crop up as some form of reality.

I'm sure there are more examples of this type of magic in DWJ - telling a 
story and then having it come true. I think this is because DWJ herself is a 
teller of stories, and feels the power of being able to create a world 
through inventing it. Her stories would not exist if she were not telling 

And perhaps what rises out of many of her books is that we write the scripts 
for our lives, in our perceptions of others and attitudes towards ourselves. 
Which is quite different of course from the fatalism of Susan Cooper, and 
brings me back on-topic and full-circle to some of my first posts away back 
when this list was young.

This post took a long time to write. Sigh.


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