dwj-digest (Diana Wynne Jones) V1 #747

Sarah sarah-neko at dove.gen.nz
Wed Nov 12 14:32:33 EST 2003

> Irina: I used to think 'what if I had a child and it was stupid?' 
> Fortunately,
> all of ours turned out reasonably bright. Handicapped wouldn't have
> been as bad, I think, as 'normal' and dim.

I don't think *many* children really are stupid. I meet more genuinely 
stupid adults, which inclines me to think that although some folks are 
naturally stupid, more are nurtured into it.

> So What, It seems a reasonable excuse for many of the
> world's ills to me.

Jon: Perhaps... but no blame must attach to Doug Howlett of the All 
Blacks, because my sister and I think he's beautiful.

> I believe CR Milne was rather mercilessly ribbed in
> the army, especially about saying his prayers (when
> the point of the poem is that he wasn't really saying
> them), but he became an author and bookseller in his
> own right and died in 1996 at the respectable age of
> 76.

I believe it was Ogden Nash who movingly wrote,
Hush! Hush! Nobody cares.
Christopher Robin has fallen downstairs.
(And if it wasn't, that just goes to show you how bad I am at 
attribution without handy references.)

It must be the model for Little Lord Fauntleroy that I'm thinking of - 
I believe the story was that he was drowned rescuing people from a 
shipwreck. He threw himself into things like that in the hope that it 
would make everyone forget about the lacy collars.

> Little Lord Fauntleroy, if one actually reads the book rather than 
> thinking
> of a picture with extreme ringletness probably painted by Millais or
> someone, was a very manly chap, downright brave and so forth, and this 
> is
> frequently remarked by the author... :-)  So he probably wouldn't have 
> had
> to prove it, since he already was it.

Ah, but unfortunately I don't think he was dealing with people who had 
read the book closely and considered the character! *I* know Cedric 
(character) isn't really a wimp... but it was things like calling his 
mother 'Dearest' that made him appear one.

> I *think* Christopher Milne ran a bookshop in Dartmouth for a long, 
> long
> time, and had a son who was in some way handicapped to whom he devoted 
> much
> of his time, and was too busy just being to be such a prune, but I 
> might be
> wrong.  It's a *long* time since I read that autobiography.  He'd be 80
> this year if still alive, being that he's the same age to the day as my
> respected Papa, or so my respected Papa always claimed when explaining 
> why
> he would read those books and no others to us.  He thought *Now We Are 
> Six*
> was written for him personally when he was six, it seems.

I think a lot of people who were given it when they were six received 
the same impression!

> Speaking of reading books to people: Neil Gaiman was doing a signing in
> Bristol this evening, and he says he reads to his daughter Maddy (she 
> must
> now be ten, I think) every night he's at home, and much of what he 
> reads to
> her is DWJ's work.

Awww *^.^* Yay!

> Maybe reading aloud to oneself if one doesn't have a child the right 
> age to
> be read to would work.  Or at least moving one's lips while reading.

One of my English professors told me that the idea one should not move 
one's lips while reading silently is of fairly modern vintage. 
Apparently it used to be normal, and... oh, bugger, I can't remember 
WHO, it's Christopher Milne and Little Lord Fauntleroy all over 
again... okay, I THINK it was Sir Isaac Newton who was remarked upon 
for NOT doing it.

> Oh! That makes such perfect sense! hee hee. (I'm assuming it's the
> first one with all the personified stars).

That was one of my favourites in the book, especially the portrayal of 

> I love that these two love each other's work so much. It makes my
> enjoyment of both of them that much greater!

And of course makes it all the easier to introduce DWJ books to rabid 
Sandman fans. 'Well, your hero rates them...'
My number one problem with introducing any of Gaiman's books to people 
I know is that I must not be pronouncing his name clearly, because half 
the time I get a wondering stare and the question, 'Neil Diamond writes 
books? Is there no END to the man's talents?'

> Ven: As a child I can't remember being read to by
> either of my parents, although I know they did
> before I could read! But, before you all feel
> sorry for me about that, I should tell you that
> my Dad told me bedtime stories he made up himself
> about Squidgy Squirrel and his woodland friends.
> I had a teacher who was very good at reading
> aloud, unfortunately I loathed her. She read to
> us a book about a wolverine in Canada written in
> a sort of Call of the Wild style, can anyone help
> in tracking that down?

I used to get into trouble for creeping back into the classroom during 
break or after school, finding the book the teacher was reading aloud, 
and reading ahead so I knew what would happen in the next chapter.

> JOdel: Christopher Robin Milne died fairly recently at a fairly 
> respectable age.=20
> Vivien Burnett lived to be a fairly old man (and bald as well). Never 
> heard=20=
> of=20
> any particulary "macho" exploits of either. Vivien's older brother 
> however d=
> ied=20
> in adolescence, of tuberculosis. That may be where the confusion may 
> lie.

Drat! Someone has imposed upon me with a myth!

> Jackie: You all might be thinking about Dennis of Dennis the Menace.  
> I don't
> think that he died young, but he was estranged from his father, I
> believe, over the Dennis the Menace comic strip.

American Dennis the Menace, or English?

>   Well, I suppose that
> doesn't really fit the description either, but it is another example of
> "why we should not write about our children using their own names."  
> Come
> to think of it, it would be pretty awful to carry a name that triggered
> immediate and not necessarily positive associations...

And there are some names that are so powerfully associated with one 
person that it's awkward to be called them because you can't really 
make them your own. 'Oscar' gets it three ways from Oscar Wilde, Oscar 
the Grouch and the Oscar awards. I remember reading that Barry 
Humphries named one of his sons Oscar and I've always felt rather sorry 
for the little wretch.

> I've been thinking it must have been the boy who was inspiration for 
> Peter
> Pan.  I've forgotten everything about this, except that I seem to 
> think I
> heard he jumped off a bridge, and even the headlines on his suicide
> consisted of an annoying Peter Pan reference.
> Or I could be wrong....
> Elise

I got the initial reference wrong, but now everyone is thinking of 
similar cases? Clearly, basing iconic fictional characters on real 
children is rife with danger!

> Jennifer: If it's any help, I know a rationalist mathematician and 
> he's very fond of silly books <g> (he likes fantasy, too.)
> My personality is pretty different to my mother's, but we like a lot 
> of the same things, because she indoctrinated, er, I mean, introduced 
> me to them young. You'd probably have enough in common with your child 
> to get along with it.

And it's never too late. I didn't begin to like 'Coronation Street' 
until a couple of years ago but am bang alongside it now.
My sister semi-likes it. That is, she only likes it when something 
awful is happening to the Platts. So she tuned in for Sarah's 
pregnancy, Sarah's internet stalker and the Evil Richard saga, but 
tuned out in between.

> It seems unlikely to me but I'm not sure why.

I guess it depends on how Gwendolen's original cat-generation spell 
worked. Was the life consumed or merely encapsulated?

> Fiddle, being a cat with only one life, probably won't live as long as 
> Cat, so we may never know the answer to this one... (when he dies, 
> will he turn back into a violin? And what would you do with something 
> that this had happened to? I wouldn't like to let just anybody use > it.)

*Is* Fiddle a cat with only one life? Has he only one because he was 
made from a boy's life, or do all cats get nine of their own as a 

> I think you might be able to in some way- the principle of contagion, 
> or whatever it's called, where you can hex someone if you have 
> fingernail clippings, ought to work even better if you have one of 
> their lives.

'And now... we will give Fiddle catnip, causing you to go goofy in your 
final exams! Muahaha!'

> Which Dennis the Menace, the American one (blond-haired, most of the 
> bad things he does are accidental) or the British one (black-haired, 
> has a dog called Gnasher, deliberately bad)?
> (The American one seems more likely- I'd hate to think that the 
> British one is based on real life. Here's a picture of him in 
> unusually mellow mood:
> http://www.beanotown.com/areas/areamuseum/infogoldenage/modern.html)
> Jennifer

One assumes little boys would find it *less* embarrassing to be the 
basis for the less cute, more naughty character.
On a vaguely related tangent, I think I've read Matt Groening saying 
that Bart Simpson is partly based on himself as a boy, and partly on 
his disappointment at Dennis the Menace failing to be very menacing. He 
wanted to create a little boy who really was as outrageous as the title 

> Aloud, one also notices if one has fallen into verse-rhythms by 
> accident,
> the way I did in that last sentence!  Eeek.  Has anyone else on the 
> list
> found that if they read Shakespeare for any length of time, 
> particularly
> aloud, they start to talk in iambic pentameter?  It begins to feel to 
> me
> like the natural way to speak after a bit of that stimulus, and I have 
> to
> make a conscious effort to get out of it again.
> Minnow

Well, all my teachers told me Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter 
(for the plays at least) because it was so easy to speak and acted as a 
rhythmic aide-memoire.

> widdy (or maybe minnow, I'm muddled now): I couldn't begin to guess, I 
> don't get to read it until she has!  I haven't
> got a copy of my own.  (Sorrow...)  I'm looking forward to it because 
> he
> says he enjoyed writing those stories; they were apparently "an 
> indulgence"
> because he "didn't have anything to prove".  Which left me wondering, 
> what
> on earth was he feeling he had to prove with the rest of Sandman?  He 
> must
> have *known* he was doing good work, I would have thought.

The 'Endless Nights' stories are small, self-contained flights of 
fantasy that sometimes shed lights on the existing canon (we see 
exactly how Dream and Desire fell out in the first place) but otherwise 
are under no obligation to expand to or support longer stories... 
perhaps that's it.
And even when *you* know your work is good you still have to prove it 
to others.
My copy of 'Endless Nights' is a handsome hardcover that SMELLS great 
inside. I love that combined smell of glue, lots of coloured ink and 
glossy paper.

> owner-dwj-digest at suberic.net writes:
>> What's the oldest reading-level book people have had read aloud?  Any
>> DWJ?  Some of the storiews in Warlock at the Wheel would be hysterical
>> read-alouds... But I doubt that's where her strength lies.

I missed part of this question at first and only answered on the 
'oldest level' part. I have never read any DWJ aloud to people that I 
can remember. This is why I need to spawn.

> Charlie: On the two Dennis the Menaces (or should that be Dennises the 
> Menace?), I heard they were invented independently in the USA and 
> Scotland at around the same time, and that the two inventors, instead 
> of suing each other into bankruptcy as would no doubt have happened in 
> our own more enlightened times, agreed a policy of live and let live, 
> and that each would stick to his menacing his own continent.

How wonderfully civilised!

E you later,
(the artist formerly known as Sarah-neko)

Air and Angels Anime Shrines

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