Trying to access the archives ....

minnow at minnow at
Wed Feb 4 10:43:03 EST 2004

Charlie wrote

>I won't pretend to be able to plumb the mysteries of the suberic archive,
>but here's another TMC-related archival oddity I turned up yesterday. I went
>to the Times online archive to read the interview DWJ did with Nicolette
>Jones (URL =,,923-623182,00.html).
>This is the one (I think we discussed it at the time) where she speculates
>as to whether JK Rowling had read her books as a child and been influenced
>by them. When I looked at it yesterday, it had sprouted the following
>disclaimer, printed in biggish black letters just under the headline:
>J.K. Rowling has asked us to point out that she has never read any of Diana
>Wynne Jones' books
>I may be wrong, but I'm pretty sure this wasn't there when the article first
>appeared! So presumably either JKR herself or one of her crack legal team
>insisted on its insertion.
>Any comments? I'm happy to take JKR's word for it, but I find it interesting
>that, though she has publicly endorsed one or two childhood favourites (such
>as *The Little White Horse* and *I Capture the Castle*), at other times she
>finds it necessary to insist how badly-read she is in children's literature.
>I assume this is regarded as less shameful than the imputation that her
>ideas aren't wholly original - even though they clearly depend on their
>familiarity for part of their effect.

So she can't win.  Either she's ignorant of some of the best children's
literature available (poor deprived woman!) or she's been influnced by it.

Might the choice of books she does mention liking be something to do with
Elizabeth Goudge and Dodie Smith being safely dead, and unlikely ever to
mention any similarity between their work and hers? (not that there is, in
either of those two cases, I don't think: how sensible to claim as
favourites work quite unlike one's own!)

It's surprising how often people don't see when they are making the Nixon
mistake: once something like that is said, denial just makes one look like
a twerp instead of a knave, and doesn't really make things any better.

In the case of Rowling, of course, it leads one to the question: how does
she know she has never read any of Diana Wynne Jones' books?  Can she be
sure that not one single one of them snuck under her guard when she was
eleven, or is she utterly confident on account of knowing every childhood
book she ever had in her hands, even those from the public library?  One
can I think reasonably claim never to have read one particular book: I know
for a fact that I never actually read *Silas Marner* when it was a set-book
at school (all right, *because* it was set, I deliberately didn't read it!)
and have never got round to it since, but I would hesitate to claim I had
never read *anything* by Eliot, simply because I might have forgotten who
the author was of some book I read and didn't particularly remember.

One reason I might take this claim of Rowling's with a pinch of salt is
that I am sure I remember, years ago before she was quite such a "household
name", warming to her when she was interviewed on one of those Radio 4 arts
programmes because she *did* mention feeling indebted to authors "like
Diana Wynne Jones" who had inspired her to write.  I am fairly certain that
if it hadn't been DWJ who was mentioned, I wouldn't have had the same
feeling that here was someone who was prepared to say such a thing, and to
say it about an author whose work I very much admired myself.  This is not
something I can prove; it is merely something I have had in the back of my
mind as a reason to like the person who was making a success: she wasn't
too proud to admit that she had built on foundations laid by others, and
others whose quality I didn't doubt.

What a shame.  I shall now not have that reason to like her.


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