"Imagine -- Unsuitable for Children"

Ika blake at gaudaprime.co.uk
Fri Jul 2 15:00:34 EDT 2004

Minnow wrote (some days ago), about the "Imagine" programme:

> If it's really about "Sex, drug-taking, racial murder, the death of God",
> then it's quite hard to see what exactly of DWJ's they might have talked
> about with her anyway.  Off-hand, I don't think she deals in any of these
> themes particularly, does she?

I was thinking about this, in my contrary way, and I think the thing is
that she actually *does* deal with at least some of those themes: but she
integrates them into her fictional universes in such a way that they don't
jump up and down saying THIS IS AN ISSUE!!, but crop up more as they do
(IMO) in people's/children's lives - just as bad things that are going on,
and you deal with them along the way of doing whatever it was you were
preoccupied with anyway.

Sex doesn't show up as such, much (F&H has that bit about how all 16yo
girls should be locked up, because they go crazy and run off to Germany
over people who've never looked at them, but that's all I can think of
offhand) - but there's a lot of learning about how to be close to people
(often after a rotten start: Cat and Tonino in Stealer of Souls come to
mind, and maybe Sophie and Howl, though her start isn't as rotten as
Cat's), which is what I think sex in YA novels is mostly about anyway.

Drug-taking - okay, can't think of a single example there...

Racial murder shows up quite a lot, though: the mermaids in Lives of
Christopher Chant; the centaurs in Deep Secret; the exploitation of the
whole world in Dark Lord probably comes in here too.

And thinking about the death of God makes me think there's probably a
whole thesis to be written on that topic. The displaced gods in Eight Days
of Luke; the way *They* fill the place of god/s without being at all
divine in Homeward Bounders (and the solution to the problem of their
overthrow is thoroughly secular); the theme of the absent king/god
(Koryfos in Deep Secret; Faber John in Tale of Time City; etc).

Anyway. This isn't disagreeing with you as such, Minnow, just spinning off
the programme write-up in a different direction & taking the opportunity
to ramble about Why I Love DWJ (Part Umpteen And Odd): because she deals
with all these things in a perfectly sensible manner, never letting them
take over the whole scheme of the book, and often obliquely, which (IMO)
allows surprising - and more interesting - insights or perspectives to
come to light.

Hmm. I guess what I really mean is that it requires a certain patience and
attention to detail to read all this stuff in DWJ: it's not pre-packaged
for you in a recognizable cultural format - "The Death of God!" or
"Drug-taking!" - like in certain YA problem novels. (Though actually I
like YA problem novels as well.) And that's a good thing, but makes her
less likely to be the subject of a sensationalist write-up about The State
Of Children's Literature: it's easier to say in soundbite form "Melvyn
Bragg's new novel is all about sex and has lots of swearing!"* than to say
"If you sit down quietly with this book you will discover many quietly and
exactingly wise things, some of which are to do with racial murder and the
death of God".

Love, Ika

*For the record, BTW, I think it's a really good novel - I just read it
yesterday and it made me very happy.

PS: Judith - my parents have unexpectedly invited themselves this weekend,
so it might be a couple more days before I get a chance to watch the tape.

"He's your favorite gay uncle that does smack"
- Cuaron on Remus Lupin

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