[DWJ] Attitude

Robyn Starkey rohina at shaw.ca
Sat Dec 30 01:28:24 EST 2006

Ika wrote

> I'm trying to figure all this out at the moment. Can you (and other
> people, if this applies to them) give me some examples of preachy
> books? Because I suspect I *might* read for the pot of message - but
> then the messages that arrive for me will of course always be
> different from the messages that arrive for other people. (Cf the
> exchange I had with Farah a few days ago about *Baby Brains*.) So,
> say, the Chrestomanci books probably have some of the clearest
> messages I've ever come across: the end of *Charmed Life* is made of
> joy for me partly because it tells me very clearly some things I
> needed/need to know. Or, OMG, that bit in *Eight Days of Luke* where
> wossname tells Luke that he doesn't have to be grateful to his
> guardians. Or the bit in *Lives of CC* where Christopher realizes that
> he works better when he's bumptious. Those bits in DWJ books strike me
> as a bit like the spell that Polly's grandmother points out to her in
> the Ballad of Tam Lin ('Sticks out, plain as a pikestaff'), and to
> some extent that's what I read them for - *Pinhoe Egg* isn't one of my
> favourite Chrestomancis overall, but there are a couple of moments in
> it which nail something about being a butch* which I've never seen put
> into words so well, and I treasure it highly for those. So I'm trying
> to figure out whether that sort of thing is different in *kind* from,
> say, 'What Katy Did' (which I guess most people would agree was a
> preachy book), or just better-*executed*.

A little from column A, a little from column B, I think. Execution has a 
huge impact for me on degree of preachy-ness. Frexample, Charlotte's Web 
has a lot of strong messages about life and death, but I don't think 
it's preachy because it's well done. I mean, all that symbolism is 
there, but it isn't so overt that it interferes with the story. It's not 
my favourite book, although it is my daughter's at the moment (she's 
listening to the audio of it being read by EB White).

I think preachiness is a criticism that I make of books that tend to be 
lacking in other qualities, like the message is the only thing the book 
has going for it - no good characters or interesting plot or other 
redeeming feature. That horrible Rainbow Fish book that Melissa hates so 
much is a good example of a preachy book, plus its message SUCKS.


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