[DWJ] Being Talked Up To

Kyra Jucovy arykiy at gmail.com
Fri Apr 1 03:24:33 EDT 2011


This kind of thing is more or less exactly what my paper at the conference
and in the JFA is about, and it's something that's very important for me
when I speak about why DWJ has been so influential in my life.  In my paper,
I talk about *Archer's Goon; *when I first read AG at 11, and when I fell
madly in love with it at 12, I hadn't ever read *1984*, and even when I did
read *1984* I didn't notice the connection, and even after I read about the
connection in this interview that was available in the public library I
didn't really fully realize what it implied, but the more I thought about it
as an adult the more I realized that the ideas in AG had shaped my response
to *1984 *as a kid without my even realizing it.

Similarly, my response to Eliot's *Four Quartets* has been very heavily
influenced by the fact that I first heard of them when I was told that they
were a source for *Fire and Hemlock* - my reading of them was very
influenced by F&H.  Speaking of which, if you have not yet read
rushthatspeaks on LiveJournal's essay on F&H, finished after three years as
a memorial after DWJ's death, go read it (Part
1<http://rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com/254549.html>
, Part 2 <http://rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com/406003.html>) - it is
amazing and fabulous and possibly one of the most personally moving critical
works I've ever read in my life, and my response to reading it was, *Yes,
all those things, which happen to be some of the ideas I care about most in
the world, are in fact there in F&H, which may even be where I got some of
those ideas, but I never really articulated it to myself like rushthatspeaks
just did.*
*
*
But I guess the most significant for me right now is *The Homeward Bounders*.
 When I was taking the best course of my life, on Byron, Shelley, and Keats,
and started feeling like all of the amazing things my professor was saying
about Shelley were really familiar and got Minnow to confirm with DWJ for me
that I was correct that the whole book was inspired by Shelley. . . I don't
even really know how to describe that.  I guess I feel like, with Orwell and
Eliot and especially with Shelley, reading DWJ was a huge preparation for
everything I was to come to read later in life.  It made the ideas seem all
familiar and welcoming to me so that my childhood was preparation for me to
understand the things I came to understand as an adult.  I feel like I'm not
expressing this very well, but I guess that since you all expressed it so
much better you understand what I'm talking about.  When I say that DWJ
influenced my worldview more than almost anyone else in the world, that's
the kind of thing I mean - my taste, my beliefs, the things I care about -
they were so shaped by things she put into her books that I didn't even
realize were there as a kid.

---Kyra

On Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 1:22 AM, Ellen Willcox <eawil3 at email.wm.edu> wrote:

> (I realize that subject line makes little sense on its own, but bear with
> me.)
>
> I can't seem to discover which it is - I've read dozens of beautiful
> tributes to DWJ over the past few days - but I thought it extraordinarily
> well-put when one person said that her books not only didn't talk down to
> readers (children in particular), but talked up to them.  It made me think
> about the things I've gained from reading and rereading her books.
>
> Howl's Moving Castle has been my number-one favorite book since I first
> read
> it at the age of eight.  At that time, I thought that when Howl took Sophie
> to visit his sister's family in Wales, he was bringing her to a different
> fantasy world.  I'd never heard of Wales.  I assumed this was just another
> parallel universe, like the multiple fantastical worlds I would later
> discover through Christopher Chant.  You can't imagine the size of the
> "*Click*  WHOAH!" moment that happened in my head when I realized the
> truth.
>
> Dogsbody was the second of her books that I discovered, when I was probably
> not yet ten.  It wasn't until a few years back, in college, that I really
> grasped some of the things DWJ was tying into - and it wasn't until a few
> MONTHS back that I, now in graduate school, discovered that "dogsbody" is
> actually a word people use.  (Here in America, it's not.)  A word with a
> meaning that cleverly connects to the book.  Once again, whoah.
>
> These are both pretty basic things that I'd probably have learned a lot
> sooner if I lived in the UK.  (The Wales one at least, I hope!)  But to me,
> they're still related to the cleverness and emotional truths that DWJ was
> brave and kind and smart enough to put into books written for children.
> They're all things that I didn't understand the first time through, but
> instead of making the books "too hard," they made the books stronger.
>  After
> all, people - children especially - don't immediately grasp everything that
> happens in the real world.  They're are good at knowing when something's
> been simplified for them, and it doesn't feel honest.  A book that's
> perfectly straightforward tends to be one that won't be reread in adulthood
> - if it's even enjoyed in childhood.  DWJ's books, on the other hand, are
> rich enough to last forever.
>
> Anything you didn't get the first time through one of her books, but you do
> now?
>
> - Nic
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