thru Potter to DWJ

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Wed Jul 12 17:48:43 EDT 2000


Neil Ward:
 
+ Thanks Tanaqui!  I thought your comments on Harry Potter IV were interesting
+ and I even agree with you to some extent (especially the comment on 'racism
+ - those national caricatures were a bit "Scooby Doo"), but I still loved it
+ to bits.  There was something very comforting about the formulaic style,
+ code-laden plots and cartoon like cast.

Oh, yes, I devoured in a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon after buying 
it for my nephew (very convenient, nephews are), and it was fun. But Rowling is
candy, and Diana Wynne Jones is a nice fresh baguette with exciting fillings.
It's not that Rowling is nasty, and it's not that she doesn't show that "our"
side isn't also a bit dodgy, but she definitely guides the reader to an opinion.
I have no compunction about buying DWJ overtly for me.

Rowling is comfort-fodder, I think.

+ DWJ has a different feel on the basis of the Chrestomanci books and the
+ first fifth of "Fire & Hemlock" (that's where I am now).  

Oh, very much! Cat's hurts aren't marks which make him obviously unique and
place him in the universe - he has to feel his way through to his special
nature himself. It's a difficult internal journey. Diana has this great 
respect for Mental Magic, and she clearly establishes how it feels to "get"
something - and the genius of her stuff is that the reader can go on that
laborious mental journey too. Or read it as a simple story - but that's missing
so much, as the debates on this list show. It would be hard to debate what
Professor Lockhart's glamour brings to his character - he's clearly shown to
be a bit of a lightweight and er, that's it.

+ On the face of it,
+ she has greater depth as a writer and is mysterious rather than simply a
+ setter of puzzles. I get a sense of other-wordliness from DWJ, which I don't
+ get from JK Rowling - in her books it's just 'another world', albeit magnetic.

I think you couldn't quiz Rowling on how magic works in her world. Or why 
someone clearly as magical as DWJ didn't get a letter from Hogwarts. |-)
Her magic is something which is just-there, so little problems like _The
Philosopher's Stone_ telling us that muggles and wizards don't mix when the
escaped Sirius Black is put on the muggles' news as an escaped convict (albeit
not openly as an escaped wizard) in _Prisoner of Azkaban_ aren't important.
As for those of us who have always felt that there's magic in the world, but
are lumped in the muggle class <sob>. DWJ has magic as ongoing, and not very
successful in the General Consensus Reality as yet - but it's out there. Her
magic is often matter-of-fact, because she's established exactly how it fits.
Mordion conjuring stass-trays always makes me giggle. Here comes the Magical
Airline Food tray, courtesy of the indulgent local magic field! 

DWJ is really really good at establishing parameters. There's so much of 
Dalemark which didn't make it into the novels - and Laura Cecil (DWJ's agent)
persuaded her to make a little Guide to Dalemark of it, eventually.

Mary Gentle (DWJ, Neil Gaiman, and Mary Gentle are a little plotting circle
of authors who play with each others' universes when they're together - and
some of Neil's characteristics make it into Nick of _Deep Secret_, as well as
DWJ dedicating _Hexwood_ to him and getting a poem in return) works out an
enormous amount of detail for her worlds. I wish we had more of the Orthean
background than the simple glossary, a year guide and the rules of ochmir.
Let me at those notes!

DWJ has reasons behind the books and can discuss them fluidly. Philip Pullman
was a bit stymied by my inquiry into the world of His Dark Materials.  I asked
about the fixed nature of adults' daemons (childrens' are shape-shifters) and 
whether you could have a daemon of a creature you'd never met. He assumed I
meant unicorns, dragons, manticores and so on; but as I said, I meant Nile
crocodiles or meerkats. Two explorer-types in the books have non-British
animals as their daemons and servants tend to have plain dogs, so... what if
you meet the perfect animal exemplar only after you are adult? Would you have
found it in a reference book anyway? Is it an external imposition on you, or
do you in some sense choose among alternatives. 

+ If this sounds like a criticism of Harry Potter it isn't.  I adore the
+ Pantomime element of Harry Potter (I can almost see the players coming
+ onstage at the end in pairs and bowing, before dividing into groups on
+ either side of the stage).  Also, we can only imagine what JK Rowling might
+ produce after completing Harry Potter. She may develop strangely or never
+ write again!

I read the books; I'm not saying they're bad. They're stylised, yes, that's
fairer than calling them sloppy. I did find two continuity flaws in _Prisoner
of Azkaban_, and wasn't very happy with the idea of large and small quarters
in _Goblet of Fire_ (p 30). Mind you, if I applied my ludicrously rigorous
standards to all authors, I'd be morally obliged to start writing novels
myself. And, for all my critical faculties, I simply can't write dialogue.
I can't speak for other people: they always sound as odd as me. 

Rowling did mention, actually (according to the BBC which dragged Michael
Rosen on to comment on the furore about Book IV) that she might write again, but
not publish necessarily!
 
+ Hmmmm.  I'll come back to you when I've read a bit more DWJ.

OK. The offer of _The Ogre Downstairs_ stands. DWJ has fun with chemistry
sets in that one, and it's the one I loan first to the Harry Potter addicts 
when they need more magical books. That's the sole cause of my reluctance to 
hand over the spare: it does the rounds.

_The Ogre Downstairs_ has the philosopher's stone, of course. In abbrev. Latin.

Tanaqui 
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