Re Families

Ven vendersleighc at
Thu May 1 22:15:38 EDT 2003

Anna wrote:
> the characters have been neglected or abused or

ill-parented or betrayed
> or otherwise mistreated, and they know real 
suffering from bitter personal
> experience. DWJ presents these traumas, and the

consequences of these.>

Something else I like is that she is also good at
presenting tools and techniques for dealing with
htese. For example Mr Wedding's lesson about
gratitude. I'm sure there are later examples, if
I could only think of them. 


<I am reading Deep Secret to myself and out loud 
to a friend at the same time
and having the most wonderful time (I picked it 
up from the bookstore after
my exam yesterday and have even missed a lecture 
to keep reading). After
reading Anna's remarks, I thought I'd say 
something I'd been thinking about
for a while. Or a couple of things. But to start 

I love the way she writes families. In so many 
books, the main character is
deliberately isolated from everything known and 
familar. DWJ may make the
familiar strange but the characters very often 
stay in a similar (or partly
similar) milieu to that in which they began, and 
families are a very
important part of this, for good or ill. I'm 
thinking of Polly and her
grandmother (and mother and father) in F&H, and 
Tom's family-by-marriage,
and in a way the musicians who are his family as 
well. There are the two
sets of siblings plus the human family in Power 
of Three. Vivian is
separated from her family in A Tale of Time City,

but taken into another
one. Dark Lord of Derkholm is far more about 
Derk's family than it is about
the wizard themself (even Querida was married to 
a grandfather). That same
family is still important in Year of the Griffin,

but other families are
seen as well, and the rapid friendship that 
develops between the main
characters welds them into a family of sorts as 
well. Then there's Deep
Secret, which has family trees chasing all over 
the place (I haven't
finished yet so I may not get this right). Quite 
apart from the Venables and
associates, and the Emperor's progeny, there is 
Maree's attachment to her
adoptive father and Nick's to the father he 
decided to adopt. These families
are all an integral part of the main characters' 
worlds and they must grow
and develop within that - all the complications 
and arguments and love and
hatred and companionship. It's something I've 
started to really appreciate
about her works - warm (or heated) interpersonal 
relationships which are
very real and vital and necessary, and which are 
missing from so many other
books, particularly fantasy where the standard 
"call to adventure" and
"departure" are so similar (and so disimilar to 
hers) and almost invariably
involve leaving home (our world, the Shire, 
Emond's field, take your pick)
and leaving or losing family.

This reminds me of two things: one is the
Thatcherite division between real and irrc
manufactured families, where real stood for
married (heterosexula of course) couples and
their mutual biological families. Not one of her 
better ideas, ad hoc arrangements are as much a
part of traditionasl family life as modern,
something DWj clearly understands. (this is Old
Politics, and that's OK, right?). The second
thing, again irrc, is that Dwj said something
along the lines that her husband and children
taught her what family life should (could) be
like, which, I daresay accounts for her general
optimism. She has certainly seen both sides.

Snippage of more good stuff

<I had also been looking at 
photos of a long-ago
holiday in New Zealand (whispering Mordor! in 
unison with my sister - it was
winter). And I thought that I read so many books 
which make me think "I want
to see that place or that sky" and I hardly ever 
go out and look at the
utterly lovely campus I live in the middle of, or

the rest of the world. But
DWJ books make me want to go out and look at 
people - not just the beautiful
ones, but the ordinary, bespectacled, abrasive, 
odd-shaped complicated ones
all around me. I go outside and look at them and 
know they all have stories
(because everyone has one in DWJ). Very few books

make me look outwards like
that, and I realised that I've been missing it 
without knowing I was.

DWJ's books are an active reading experience for 
me. She drops you in the
middle without explaining and leaves you to fend 
for yourself. She doesn't
point the way to a familiar plot or pattern of 
events but circles and
prevaricates and spirals inwards until you look 
back up and realise that
every single thing and place and person has been 
integral to and indeed a
part of the plot from the beginning. She makes 
you care and think and
reevaluate the things you think you know. I feel 
very priveleged to have
been able to read them, and so many.
But I might have to stop for a little while. The 
shine is coming off all my
other books.>

A friend has just finished Merlin so I've had
someone to talk to about it (Oh joy!). Without
spoilers she was listing all the things she
wished DWj had said more about and I said "But
just think, when you reread you'll be able to
extract more nuance and meaning from what is
there because Dwj is like that!" . Then I
bargained that I'd swap her DS for getting Merlin
back, in case I need to read it again when our
discussion starts. Then she can reread Merlin
after DS.


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