introduction

jessie shelton at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Tue Dec 14 00:38:51 EST 1999


I guess I could rouse myself momentarily from the depths, especially now
that I've been mentioned by name (twice!).

I used to be a discusser of many things, but at the moment the
myriad requirements of being a college senior (thesis, GREs, grad school
applications, grad school courses, feeling sorry for oneself...) keep me
somewhat preoccupied.  I am a physicist.  I play the oboe and adore
classical music, especially stuff from Mahler on forward (Shostakovich,
Prokofiev, Stravinsky, molto etc).  In times when I did not have so many
application essays and niggly little forms to fill out, I wrote fiction
too.

Did I mention I was a physicist?  This is an important thing to remember.
(:

I have a highly (perhaps overly) developed taste for irony and complexity.
I read compulsively -- although again when I'm not writing application
essays or musing about Kaluza-Klein gravitons -- and have an abiding
amateur's interest in pre-modern history.

I hail originally from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and currently reside
in New Jersey.  I miss winter.  I do not watch TV either, though I
occasionally make an exception for the Simpsons.

I am mentioning all this in the hope that someday -- perhaps even next
semester -- it will become relevant again.  (:


My first DWJ was _A Tale of Time City_, which I pulled at random off the
shelves of my local library when I was quite little, and absolutely
adored.  I was entranced by the utter inventiveness of it all, by the new
worlds, the interesting idea of a city outside time and history, and by
the fact that all the people inhabiting this phenomenal, strange world
were still, somehow and amazingly, unmistakably *human*.  (Digression on
this theme to ensue below.)  I loved AToTC so much that I proceeded not to
read another thing by DWJ until I met Jenwa ( <waves> ), years later.  I
mean that seriously, actually; I did that to Douglas Adams too, I liked
Hitchhiker's Guide so much that I refused to read Dirk Gently's Holistic
Detective Agency for years.  This arose out of a very weird sense of
loyalty to works I particularly liked, where reading anything else by the
author was somehow being disloyal to that one book.

Fortunately, I grew out of that.

My favorite DWJ books are: Homeward Bounders, Power of Three, Hexwood,
Archer's Goon, Howl's Moving Castle, Spellcoats, Cart and Cwidder, A Tale
of Time City, Dogsbody, Fire and Hemlock, The Ogre Downstairs, Eight
Days of Luke, and, and... I never know quite when to stop.  (:



Digression on humanity in DWJ.

I have been spectating somewhat intermittently while you all have been
talking about optimism in DWJ.  I don't find 'optimism' to be quite the
right term; what I see, and what I think other people are seeing, is an
intense understanding of (and appreciation for) humanity.  All of DWJ's
characters are deeply fundamentally *human*, which is a big thing that
distinguishes her from most other {fantasy/kidlit} authors.  Not just her
children, but also her adults; not just her heroes, but also her villains.
The Sempitern of Tale of Time City is as real and human as his son
Jonathan -- there are no distant authority figures in DWJ, and those that
are presented as such at the beginning of the book are usually revealed to
be something else by the end.  This is also why I find Dalemark uniquely
compelling among created worlds; Dalemark has this incredible ineffable
sense of a place populated by *people*, real human people, moving and
acting just as real people do.  It is the furthest thing from cardboard.

This is both a comforting and a discomforting thing.  While DWJ takes an
overall positive view of human-ness, it also means that she faces the
reality that some people are really not pleasant at all, to disturbing
degrees; it is a deep honesty about the realities of being human, which
will always be discomfiting to some extent.

This is a very clumsy and terse way to say what I would really like to,
but I'm afraid I have to get back to writing them durn application essays
again.  :( 

jessie


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