[DWJ] Sayers and Meg Cabot v. DWJ

Joe oddenda at gmail.com
Fri Feb 1 20:18:01 EST 2008

On 1 Feb 2008, at 23:42, Jackie E Stallcup wrote:
> hmmm... now I'm wondering... where and how does DWJ use first person?  
> At
> the moment, my feet are tucked too comfortably under me to get up and
> look.

The ones I can think of:

Deep secret
Homeward Bounders
Black Maria
The Merlin conspiracy
Dragon reserve, Home Eight
The Master
The true state of affairs

I get the impression that DWJ doesn't use the first person lightly, but 
there usually has to be some pretext built into the narrative. In the 
case of at least 3 of the above, events are being recorded for 
posterity (Deep Secret uses the Thornlady files as well as Rupert's 
recollections, but the only reason we get to read them is because 
they're made part of the historical record... if you see what I mean. 
The irrelevant stuff is excised.) Jamie's account is in part 
prophylactic against Their return (isn't it? Time for a reread.) And 
whatshername in Dragon Reserve, Home Eight is conscious that she's 
recording history as it's happening. Come to think of it, Mig does more 
or less the same in Black Maria; it's not just that she has a 
compulsion to write it down because of her vocation (which would have 
been excuse enough in any other first person narrative), but she's 
reworked it to make it public... I think. Now I'm too lazy to go up and 

So these stories aren't using the kind of device that leads us to 
experience the narrative as if we were inexplicably lodged inside the 
protagonist's head (whatever the technical term is for that). Instead 
they're carefully, _knowingly_ constructed pieces of writing. There's 
always some little passage justifying their creation. I think this is 
important, because DWJ has a whole slew of other books where the 
telling of the tale by individuals, including the means by which it is 
told, is central to the narrative. (You might call this a sort of 
displaced first person. Well, I might, anyway. Might. Just making this 
up as I go along.) Examples:

The spellcoats
Archer's goon
Fire and hemlock
Hexwood (if you take it that the Bannus is a sort of story-telling 
machine/person (individual, anyway!) that co-opts real people)

Now I'm tempted to think about this properly and rewrite this email 
using short, carefully considered sentences whose meaning is clear and 
tallies with what's in my head, but alas it's 1:17 and I'm due to be 
bounced out of bed in six hours, so I'll have to dream about this 
instead. In the first person? Who's to say? Thanks for bringing this 

Oh - a faultless first-person novel done in Valley-speak (if I've got 
the right sort of idea of what that might be): _How I live now_ by Meg 

Good night.


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