[DWJ] Wilkins' Tooth

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sat Dec 31 00:11:00 EST 2011

Philip wrote: 

> Interesting point about differences in editions here.  In the US edition
> Melissa quotes here, Buster uses "slimy and disemboweled" language.
>   In the same passage in my early UK paperback (Puffin, 1973, p171),
> 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
> 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 Buster".
> Which brings me to two questions: First, is all Buster's blue language
> 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

This is a good point. Without having the original text in front of me, I
can't swear to it, but I believe the "colourful" language has in every
instance become slimy and disemboweled, and in some case zombie-juiced and
vampire-stomached. I thought it was incredibly stupid-sounding. It drew
attention to the fact that DWJ* was replacing real swears with fake ones,
and absurd fake ones at that. (*I doubt DWJ made those changes from the UK
to the US edition, but any American reader would assume this was her idea.)
However, "between the Devil and the deep blue Buster" remains. It's so
comforting to know that the original wasn't dumb.

> > 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
> 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.

The stylistic quirk I noticed--hardly noticing, you couldn't help notice it
because it was every other line of dialogue practically--was how she broke
up sentences of dialogue by inserting the speaker tag near the front of a
line. I don't have Changeover with me right now, but it's like-- "Because,"
she said, "I said so." In later books she uses this technique to great
effect, but sparingly, and it's a technique I associate with her work
(though other authors use it too).

> 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
> alongside Angus Flint, which is one of my least favourite DWJs.

I've got the US first edition, so it should be interesting to compare the
texts. I have exactly no memory of Angus Flint except that I did read it,
once. Probably.

Melissa Proffitt

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