DWJ's answers: Harry Potter, etc

shelly at the-seasiders.co.uk shelly at the-seasiders.co.uk
Sat Sep 1 19:45:39 EDT 2001

Thanks for the opinions in response to my original question about DWJ and JK Rowling - in particular to Melissa for the Reader's Digest article (I still find it hard to believe that no-one seems to have done a serious article asking JKR about her literary influences), and to Sallyo for the comments about characterisation - most interesting.

I too have been taking notes of the books everyone's recommended - I haven't read a lot of fantasy as I've been put off in the past. I have recently read Tanya Huff's two Keeper books after someone mentioned them (sorry - didn't keep a note of who it was) and they were quite fun in a very light way. It did make me think that one of the good points about DWJ is how much she lets her characters keep to themselves. In the Huff books everyone seems to say everything they think, as soon as it comes into their minds. Even at the end of the second book, when there's a piece of information the Keeper doesn't want to let someone else know she knows, this has to be made explicit by two of the other characters explaining to each other that she does know, but doesn't want to _say_ to this other character that she knows ... I just felt Huff needed a bit of Less is More.

I've also just read _American Gods_. [I don't think there are any spoilers here, but just in case people don't want my opinion before reading it themselves ... ]

Whilst I found this quite gripping whilst I was reading it, ultimately I don't think it's one that will be staying with me. The premise is wonderful (if not totally original), and the writing mostly very vivid. In the end, though, I felt that the book was built round a riddle, and that once the reader has worked this out a lot of the suspense vanishes. Also, I wasn't sure that I cared enough about the main character: mostly he's drifting, so we never get that much sense of him as a person - he's too passive, and his motivation isn't always clear. I understand that he's in shock for some of the book, but even so I wasn't convinced that he has enough personality to carry the book. I found this with _Neverwhere_ too (though I haven't read the book, just seen the series) - the idea was memorable and the encounters Richard has are interesting and often frightening or moving - but Richard just seems to be someone things happen to, rather than a character I came to care about.

I don't want to knock the book too much - I did enjoy it and I think Gaiman's writing is always worth reading - but I feel he has so much fun getting the settings and the supernatural characters right that he doesn't always pay enough attention to the protagonists.

[off-topic]: Has anyone on the list read any Maeterlinck? I'm going to Belgium and would like to read some Belgian literature in translation - it's a very short touristy thing, but the research is half the fun of any excursion.

Happy Autumnal wishes

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