[DWJ] One's First Jones

jodel at aol.com jodel at aol.com
Thu Apr 14 13:32:07 EDT 2011

"One" being me.

I'm sure I've told this before, but I might as well repeat myself. In 
the first place, I'm way too old to have read Jones as a child. I'm 
also in the wrong country to have read her earliest books in the years 
that they were originally published. It took a while before Macmillan 
brought her books out in American editions.

In any rate, I was a member of the Mythopoeic Society, and while there 
was an attempt to "go national" and phase out the local branches for a 
while most of the local branches still met once a month to talk about a 
book, or an element of LOTR, or something of Lewis's, or whatever. And 
most of us in that social circle had never stopped reading children's 

In any case, sometime late in '77 somebody at a meeting had got hold of 
a galley proof of 'Cart and Cwidder', and it was being loaned around 
the whole social circle. None of us, of course, had ever heard of 
Jones, and it was something like the fifth of her books to be brought 
out in the US, only a couple of years after its release in Britain. I 
was about 30.

Well, there was no looking back after that. One advantage of 
discovering an author as an adult is that you have control of your own 
money and don't have to beg your parents in order to buy a book. And 
with only a backlist of about 5 other books to hunt down (no one had 
ever heard of 'Changover') it wasn't that long before we were reduced 
to having to wait for new releases. Fortunately those came along at a 
reasonably brisk clip.

I still have a great deal of admiration for 'Cart and Cwidder'. It is a 
brilliant example of tight, spare storytelling. I don't think there is 
a single extranious word in the whole story. I'm not able to point at 
any given work as a favorite, however. The work is too varied for that. 
Although I am inclined to agree that the short story form is not an 
especially good fit. Her short stories are always entertaining, but she 
needs a bit more breathing room to really do what she does best. I 
think the book of hers that I found the most off-putting was 'Aunt 
Maria'. The sort of "dampening" spell that Aunt Maria had cast over the 
town affected the narratior, and it  ade the first whole swath of the 
story come across as dull. Having Mig's brother turned into a wolf was 
(understandably) a nasty shock. Rather like being dashed with a bucket 
of ice water, and you spent the rest of the book scrambling to catch 
up. It was very uncomfortable. But certainly effective. That book would 
make a good compare and contrast exercise with 'Fire and Hemlock', but 
I'm not at all sure what kind of a conclusion one could make of the 

I'll admit that I have not managed to get through 'Changeover' yet. I 
have got a copy, but it is a bit of a lurch, and I've not hit it at the 
right point yet. 

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