TotG (was Re: Introductions)

mecha godscylla mechagodscylla at
Mon Jun 23 13:07:29 EDT 2003

minnow wrote:
When one reads in "Meet the author" type books that it is at
least partly autobiographical, that's chilling.  Regardless of the
unpleasant goddess, there's something badly wrong in the whole set-up, or
at least, there is for me, and I hate the idea that the things I find so
yick happened to someone who is so obviously a Good Thing.

It's a shame and not right that it happened, and I say that to preface my 
next remarks because otherwise I would be afraid they might come off as 
saying somehow it was good or somehow necessary to who she became, which I'm 
not!  That DWJ had this experience - it is as if she learned, chose or found 
how to learn through it, how to look at things really fearlessly, and in her 
work she shows characters who are in different stages of this same kind of 
learning. So often in her books, everything turns on just those sorts 
moments of reflection and insight.

Also, while her characters can be in desperate straits, I have never 
considered them pitiable victims and I don't believe I've ever heard/read 
anyone else say anything like that.  Yes, their plight may be very  moving, 
but you know they are whole people and have powers and abilities, not just 
supernatural.  I think I am saying you are never under the impression that 
they are any less than a whole bunch of things - manifested and potential 
and latent - just like people.  By extension, one can see that - yes, many 
things were rotten about the childhood of DWJ and her sisters - but while 
they were powerless to change their circumstances for a while (and no doubt 
family has been an ongoing challenge since) and I feel for them, it isn't 
pity that I feel. Hmm, I feel sure there is more to be said about that, but 
it isn't coming together for me at the moment.

Hallie! I will try not to become a *complete* lurker again :)

I do recall saying here I felt familiar with Totg, but in retrospect I worry 
that how I said it may have left the impression that there was more 
similarity between our experiences than there actually was.  In our case, 
our parents were stricken with serious diseases, one after the other.  It 
was a major and ongoing crisis and made a 'normal' life impossible.  It was 
a harrowing passage, and not just for my sister and I.  Everyone was unequal 
to the situation and everyone's ability to help and support each other was 
devastated. Such things cannot help but be life shaping for everyone 
involved. Telescoping to now, we are all doing well and its an ongoing 
amazement to me that we seem to have shot through the rapids, somehow 
(probably backward and having lost all our paddles) and can laugh about it, 
although not too hard.

The parts I recognize from Totg - - being completely unsupervised - DWJ 
wrote this fantastically well.  Also scavenging around for food, although in 
our case it was simply that no one had gotten groceries and no one was 
around to help make anything.  Also, the whole collecting of blood in order 
to speak to the ghost - I never did anything like that, but didn't it have 
the ring of absolute reality to it? I thought so, and certainly I would pick 
up strange ideas from books and be interested in implementing them. However, 
I wouldn't think that a chaotic family situation would have anything to do 
with that. Definitely Isabel mourning - straight from life, I feel sure. 
Sally's attempts to create order and stick to the fantasy of normal, in the 
teeth of all the facts - painfully close to the bone, that.  It's often how 
the oldest child reacts to chaos, I've read. And being bossy is part of that 
attempt to fill the void of order.  I may regret this, but Fenella... no, my 
sister will kill me!  There, I've said it without saying it.  And things 
being a complete mess, and being civilized by our grandmother (along with a 
crash course in heavy cleaning). Oh and being surrounded by projects taken 
up and discarded. And definitely knowing, probably earlier because of the 
situation, that my decisions for myself and responsibility for myself, as an 
individual, were completely my own and there was no one to consult.

For us there was much more challenge of taking on responsibilities though, 
rather than leaving, as the book (as in life) resolved that part of their 
lives.  And of course, our parents weren't cold, but overwhelmed by 
circumstance, and that is a *very* different thing. Unlike DWJ and her 
sisters, we went to the library and had activities and trips and things, 
even when things were barely in hand or really not very in hand at all.

Then there are other bits that I wouldn't have thought would be connected to 
difficult circumstances.  I am thinking of somewhere, probably on Meredith 
and Helen's official fan site, there is an interview or essay by DWJ where 
she talks about the mysterious garden, and her sense that there was this 
sort of unspoken, mysterious dimension to life, a side of things that was 
stronger in that garden. So that isn't Totg, but is about her childhood, and 
certainly I remember having that sense myself. Don't others?

So that's my perspective on it.  I am curious to hear different ones. 
Certainly, I would think that one couldn't live too long without meeting 
people who have had all sorts of things happen in their lives? Is it that 
the book gives it visual immediacy?


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