[DWJ] Wilkins' Tooth

Philip Belben philipbelben at alice.de
Fri Dec 30 17:03:07 EST 2011

Melissa wrote:

> end: "As for Buster, he kept his word about being friends with the Piries,
> and with the others, too. Nobody could call him a reformed character. He
> still had his gang. He still used slimy and disemboweled language. But he
> was not so much of a bully after that. Perhaps, in some ways, he did learn a
> lesson." I don't know how this looks to the young reader, but it tells me
> that DWJ had a real grasp of what makes someone a bully.

Interesting point about differences in editions here.  In the US edition 
that Melissa quotes here, Buster uses "slimy and disemboweled" language. 
  In the same passage in my early UK paperback (Puffin, 1973, p171), 
Buster uses "orange and purple" language.

In my previous comment on the book, I raised the issue of this 
convention, by which in all Buster's dialogue the swear words are 
replaced by colours, because I liked the way DWJ played with it.  The 
example that springs to mind is on page 37 of my Puffin copy (about a 
page into chapter 3), where Jess, faced with the prospect of confronting 
either Biddy or the gang, remarks "Between the Devil and the deep blue 

Which brings me to two questions: First, is all Buster's blue language 
changed into words like "slimy" and "disemboweled" in Witches' Business? 
  (and if so, what happens to that remark of Jess's?)  Second, where 
else have people encountered this convention of representing swear words 
with colours?  I'm sure I've met it elsewhere, but I can't think of an 

> In some ways I think of Wilkins' Tooth as DWJ's first novel, with Changeover
> being a sort of exercise in all the things one needs to know as a writer.

Much as I like Changeover (I happen to find it as funny as almost any of 
DWJ's novels apart from YotG), I think I agree with you.  In Changeover 
she was laying on with a trowel some of the stylistic devices that 
nicely spice her later work.

As an example, someone said of Changeover that it had a cinematic feel. 
  To me the device that gives me that feeling the strongest is the way 
she cuts the action from scene to scene very bittily.  She deliberately 
goes OTT on this in that chapter (XXIII was it?) in which everyone has 
his say; but it is present in large measure throughout the book.

Contrast this with the way she used the same device of cutting 
unexpectedly between scenes in Hexwood, and you'll see just how much she 
still had to mature as a writer when she wrote Changeover.

> The next novel is actually The Ogre Downstairs, not Eight Days of Luke, and
> I agree that we should add "Who Got Rid of Angus Flint?" for January.

Read TOD this week already, looking forward to discussing it next month. 
  EDoL (I have a first edition, with one of my favourite cover pictures 
ever) will bubble to the top of mount TBR.  It will be interesting to 
read this alongside Angus Flint, which is one of my least favourite DWJs.


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