Why I love DWJ

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Sep 17 17:30:17 EDT 2004

Beck wrote:

>Oh, this is so frustrating! Lots of fascinating threads, but I have to go
>and catch a coach home to Sawston (near Cambridge, in England) and because I
>work a four-day week and my laptop is being mended and anyway I only moved
>in eight weeks ago and haven't got a phone line yet, I can't write anything
>till Monday.

Well then you'll see this reply then!  I hope you will have/are having/have
had a good weekend.

>She never seems to write about anything she doesn't really understand - and
>she understands an awful lot of things. I was quite worried, early in F&H,
>that Tom turning out to be a cellist was going to mean lots of embarrassing
>musical faux pas. Cf that Mary Wesley book where there was a string quartet
>that had a conductor (never happens) or the author - a fairly respectable
>(??) one, ISTR - who had a character learning the harpsichord so that she
>could play Schubert (19th-century music on a 17th-century instrument -
>nope!). And of course DWJ gets everything *exactly* right about music and
>musicians - not just the facts, but the atmosphere, the economics, the
>emotions. Even the damn technique.

>Perhaps it seems more remarkable because she only uses this knowledge in
>this one book? So if she can be so casual with her expertise, she must know
>lots and lots about lots of things?

She does.  And quite a lot of what she doesn't, someone in her immediate
family does.

She's also got a good eye for detail and observation, of course; in DWJ's
books people don't do things in cliches, they do real-person things like
wincing and complaining about it loudly if someone puts a book down
face-down, and there are tiny chunks of perfect description like there
being "a kind of holy calm about Granny's house, smelling of biscuits" and
Mintchoc having a faint, clean scent, like talcum powder.

There's that heartfelt bit in F&H, when Tom dictates the letter explaining
to Polly just why it's not a good idea to write people with rippling
back-muscles.  I suspect that people had been sunbathing at DWJ on the
green just outside her house, when she wrote that.  :-)


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