[DWJ] DWJ article

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Thu Dec 20 15:57:49 EST 2007

>On 17 Dec 2007, at 23:42, Minnow wrote:
>> HMC is complex in some ways, but I always found it fairly
>> straight-forward,
>> because I never saw Howl as anything but on-the-right-side, as it were.
>> Doesn't it lay cards on the table quite a lot, all the way through?

Joe replied:

>I suppose so, but I think it's beautifully layered all the way through,
>especially at those points where Ingary rubs up against our world. I
>remember reading it for the first time during my first major DWJ binge
>ten years ago. It _starts_ like a straightforward narrative in a
>self-contained fantasy world, and that's what I was expecting, so when
>I came to the section that takes place in Wales, it felt as though my
>brain had been turned through 90 degrees. I'd never read anything like
>it. Howl _Welsh_ all along! And Wales in the 80s drawn so tenderly and
>so familiar to me, but looking so very foreign viewed from Ingary. And
>here's this Donne poem, on the one hand a dull homework assignment, and
>on the other a savage curse, threaded deftly through the narrative. I'm
>not sure I'm capturing quite what I mean, but I think there's a
>sophistication there that's masked by DWJ's lightness of touch, and the
>jokes and pyrotechnics.

Well, it starts by suborning the whole 'lucky third child' meme, which
endeared it to me from the very start.  :-)

Maybe it helped that the Donne poem was a very familiar piece of vitriol,
from my point of view.  So I saw it as nasty before  any more was said
about it.

>> When I read BM I always remember that it is written 'by' a fairly young
>> person, and may have things going on which Mig hasn't quite
>> understood; and
>> also the whole women's magic/men's magic business, and that it's a
>> mistake
>> when taken to extremes, is complicated in itself.
>> *The Homeward Bounders* is high on my list of 'maybe her nastiest book'
>> candidates, because it's so *bleak* for Jamie to be a displaced person
>> forever, even if he does sort-of volunteer.
>I know what you mean. But isn't that more melancholy? I was thinking of
>the hot, close nastiness of Aunt Maria and her extraordinary
>bitchiness, and the bleak lives of those poor children, and being
>buried alive, and losing faith in your own mother... it's all so
>claustrophobic. Jamie's story has that devastating ending, but before
>then we have the travelogue around the worlds, and those
>wonderfully-drawn friendships, and there's something exuberant about
>the whole thing. In Black Maria we have this horrible spider at the
>centre, who poisons everything and whom no-one can do anything about.
>Even when she gets her comeuppance she's off the hook, IIRC. (Same
>thing happens to Chesney, come to think of it.) I really should read it
>again, I suppose; but I'm reluctant (I still haven't sought it out 2
>days after my first mail), mostly because I don't want to spend any
>time in the same room as Aunt Maria. She's not the most disgusting DWJ
>character by a long chalk (that would be Reigner One, for me), but she
>really has to be the most oppressive.

All the Reighners are fairly comprehensively Wrong, aren't they?

Goodness, I see what you mean about BM!  I think the most horrible thing in
it is the way that the mother completely forgets about caring at all for
her own son, under the influence of the Evil Old Hag.

I think Aunt Maria herself is almost like a semi-human version of the
goddess-creature in *Deep Secret*, wossit, the thorn one, Aglaia Ualaia,
which I always hear in my head as 'uglier'.  Most of DWJ's older women in
authority are rather odious, or at best uncaring and unobservant, I
suspect.  Art following life -- except that DWJ herself is *nothing* like

>However, my sister-in-law called round this morning with some rather
>delicious-looking BOUGHT CAKE, so perhaps I should celebrate by curling
>up with it and BM and a cup of tea, and see if she redeems herself on a

Is it a spoiler to say that I think Aunt M *does* get a comeuppance in the end?

Not a character who redeems herself: she simply denies that she has ever
done anything wrong, and sees no need for redemption.  Yick.

And hey, isn't perpetual imprisonment in a paperweight a pretty horrible
comeuppance for Chesney?  I always thought that death is It, end of story,
no more suffering, whereas imprisonment is a sort of torture; so I reckoned
powerless imprisonment was the right way for the manipulative horrors to
end up, especially the 'powerless' bit.


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