[DWJ] review site

Ika Willis blake at gaudaprime.co.uk
Tue Dec 26 08:16:41 EST 2006


Sally/Chris:

> > > DWJ has two books reviewed... HIDDEN TURNINGS and THE HOMEWARD BOUNDERS.
> > > Both come out Good for style and Unobjectionabe for attitude.
> >
> > I would have said that /tHB/, read all the way to the end, certainly does
> > foster a positive value, or at least a value that that some cultures view
> > as positive -- sacrificing one's own opportunities to protect others.

I suspect that by 'positive value' they mean 'a value that is not so
embedded in the reviewer's own culture that they are no longer able to
recognize it as having positive content'. Not that, as Farah points
out, HB doesn't contain a bunch of positive values even on those
criteria, but I think some readers don't notice 'positive values'
unless they come in a very recognizable generic form - a lot of people
don't notice what a terrible person Dumbledore is, because the big
flashing GANDALF sign on his head obscures his actual behaviour and
(dare I say it) objectionable attitudes. Or similarly, I'm reading a
lot of Morris Gleitzman (sp?) at the moment and it looks like he can
get away with not being seen as 'political correctness run mad', etc,
even though he writes about children with
disabilities/refugees/AIDS/homosexuality - because his books are
hilariously funny and talk about poo a lot. So his books get talked
about in terms of their stylistic qualities, whereas other books on
'controversial' topics (like *Junk*, say) tend to get talked about in
terms of their content, because its content and its style match up in
ways we're more used to.

I suspect this is why DWJ is still less celebrated than she deserves
to be - because she doesn't play the Fantasyland game of embedding
'positive values' in their conventional generic symbols and writing
about them in the usual registers, so people don't notice them so
much. (Like the way most people - including me, till my girlfriend
pointed it out to me - miss the huge number of lesbian characters in
Jacqueline Wilson novels, because they don't come with the
conventional generic 'lesbian' signifiers).

I must go and have a look at this site, though, because I totally read
and judge books mostly on the basis of things like 'attitude',
'values', and 'message', but most of the ways I see people talking
about those things are a bit annoying and reductive. So I'm trying to
figure out how to talk about the things I value in books without
talking as if books contain a secret and identifiable 'message' that
all readers are supposed to decode in the same way.

Hmm. Okay, must go and write fanfic now.

Love, Ika



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