deborah deborah at
Tue Apr 8 12:19:09 EDT 2003

On Wed, 12 Mar 2003, Robyn Starkey wrote:
|>(To be fair, I once loved McKinley.  But where DWJ has grown
|>as a writer as she's written more, I feel McKinley has become
|Why? Is it her florid language, or something else?
|I loved Spindle's End, but then I am a sucker for fairy tale retellings.

A month later, I answer:

I feel that McKinley has started telling every single neat idea which
comes into her head, whether it helps or hinders the story.  I recently
reread the Spindle's End, and put my finger on what is that frustrates
me about that look.  Any given sentence of description is a fascinating
fact.  Here's how the foxes live.  Here's what lives on the mantelpiece
in the protagonist's home, and how each item was made, who made it, and
its emotional significance.  Here's a page and a half of funky details
about the down-to-earth side effects of the world thick with magic.  All
great details.  And all of them show that McKinley putting enormous
amount of effort into fully realizing her world.

But there are too many.  I can't remember the number offhand, but I
believe it is about 100 pages into this retelling of Sleeping Beauty
before you meet Sleeping Beauty herself.  And it doesn't become her
story, instead of Kat's, for a significant length of time after that.
Because while each individual detail is very cool, all of them together
overload the book, and make it too heavy for me.

She didn't always do this.  Though I've always had the sense that
McKinley understands her worlds and characters fully, she used to pick
specific places to explore those details.  A moment which has always
stood out for me in Beauty is when Beauty finds her bedroom in the
Beast's house and rifles through the paper and inks on her desk.  But it
stands out because that is the one thing the narrator has chosen to
describe with such affection.  The loving sensual detail dwells on the
paper and inks.  I feel that if she were writing that book now, she'd
have dwelled with just as much sensuality on the dresses, the books, the
covers on the bed, the lighting fixture, the carvings in the windowsill
-- and then it wouldn't be the papers and inks that would have such an

deborah at
I don't suppose that I have ever been so happy.  No; was it happiness?
Something wider and darker, more like knowledge, more like the night: joy.
				- Ursula Le Guin, "The New Atlantis"

To unsubscribe, email dwj-request at with the body "unsubscribe".
Visit the archives at

More information about the Dwj mailing list