shelly at shelly at
Sat Sep 8 19:24:58 EDT 2001

Hi everyone.

As I've still got no internet access at work and probably won't have for the next few weeks, I only have weekend email access. I've just been working through about 250 emails and I'm going to reply to several threads at once - sorry. And I've probably got confused about who said what - again, sorry if so. I'll have to switch to the digest I think, especially as I have web-based email so I've been on for three hours reading it ... ouch.

First of all, I have to enquire what that wonderful word "croggling" means - JOdel wrote "I find them a bit croggling, mysself, but I honestly cannot say that they are necessarily BAD... " Looked the word up on altavista and found a few uses since 1960s - mainly by sci-fic communities - seems to mean something like unbelievable, shocking ... ?

2. deborah wrote - 
>I'm wondering if anyone wants to help me on a data gathering 
>project. I'm trying to put all the data I have about any DWJ 
>books into a big XML database

Could you tell us a bit more about what sort of data you are planning to collect? Basic bibliographic stuff, or more than that?

3. Philip mentioned Sylvia Engdahl's "Heritage of the Star" series. I didn't know this was a trilogy - I've only read the first one, wch I found interesting & memorable (gd example of protagonist learning/changing) - could someone tell me the titles of the other two books? Tried to find them on Amazon/ABE but wasn't clear whether the ones listed were the same series or not. 

4. Joan Aiken. I particularly liked Melissa's comment about the scales being heavily weighted towards Bad Luck. I don't think anyone's mentioned Aiken's short stories - A Harp of Fishbones etc - some of these are very good I think. I like the way the characters appear to be living in the 'normal' world and then something magical happens and they accept it. Has anyone come across any Aiken sites? I found an extract from an interview (warning: it has serious spoilers for Black Hearts in Battersea and Night Birds on Nantucket) at wch is quite interesting, but very little else. And has anyone read her book on how to write for children? It's got very mixed reviews on Amazon. I've read a couple of her Austen sequels - Mansfield Park is quite fun, as long as you don't expect anything Austenlike (Austenish? Austenesque? Austenly?). I've also read Jane Fairfax, but I had completely forgotten that I had until a friend to whom I'd lent it reminded me that we had discussed the plot in some detail - so I can't say it was a success in the medium-term for me. It does have a stammerer in it, though, wch I always find interesting. I think the best thing about her (& probably anyone's) sequels is they make you think again about the originals - to analyse why you think, "That's wrong - they wouldn't do that," etc.

5. Bought a McKillip book today from the British Heart Foundation (yay for charity shops!), after the recommendations on the list. It's The Sorceress and the Cygnet - have to say it doesn't look like something I'd like, from a quick flip through (I notice one character speaks through gritted teeth [I've tried this several times, but it just doesn't work for me] and then further down the page "speaks tightly" - is he drunk, or just mean?), but I shall try it, & let you know if I'm converted. If anyone immediately thinks "No! Don't start with that one, it's not typical!" then let me know.

6. Identifying with characters in DWJ - I've been surprised that people tend to identify with the main characters in the books. I find I always identify with the characters who _don't_ get things right, in terms of particular books' ethoses (what on earth is the plural of ethos? - "since I've been with you I find myself needing to know the plural of Armageddon" - Riley Finn [and I was getting back on DWJ-track so well]). So in Swallows and Amazons I know I'd be Susan, not really enjoying the sailing, and worrying about mundane things - and in the Narnia books I'd be Susan too. Well, anyone would, wouldn't they? Given a choice between believing your brothers' and sister's weird stories about your childhood games, and the much more possible-seeming allure of worldly success and lipstick? Most protagonists in children's books just don't make enough mistakes for me to identify with them - that's why I read them, I think, to have a break from being me. There's a poem by Larkin about coming to identify with the failures in books - I think it's called "A Study of Reading Habits", and it ends something like "Don't read much now ... the chap who's yellow and keeps the store/Seem[s] far too familiar". I'm impressed by those of you who read about Sophie (for instance) and think "yes, that's exactly what I'd do", and I sort of feel that if I felt that I wouldn't get as much out of the books, because I would be reading about my own character rather than someone different and therefore more interesting.

Anyway. Hope all that makes sense - post-midnight ramblings. Georgia.

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