Sunday, February 9, 2014

Diana Wynne Jones 1934-2011

"The rediscovery of fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones continues at Greenwillow. Her latest reissues, in handsomely designed hardcover and paperback editions, are Dogsbody (1975), Howl’s Moving Castle (1986), and Castle in the Air (1990). There is apparently no limit to Jones’s inventiveness, and her novels continue to surprise and delight new readers."

"In Dogsbody, hot-tempered Sirius, the Dog Star, is tried for murder by a celestial court, and sentenced to come to Earth in the body of a dog to recover the mysterious and powerful Zoi, which has been lost through his carelessness. The struggles between his consciousness of his previous “luminary” status and his new doggy nature are hilariously drawn, and the whole impossible premise made to seem perfectly logical."

                                                older edition

Dogsbody is an all-time favorite of mine. It is very funny and zany and, I guess, we cannot resist using the word "stellar" to describe it--pun fully intended! --L.A. 

"Another shape-shifting novel, Howl’s Moving Castle, takes place in the land of Ingary, where magic is an everyday commodity. Sophie Hatter, the eldest of three sisters (and therefore by the laws of magic doomed to fail at any undertaking), is turned into an aged crone by the peevish Witch of the Waste and spends the entire novel in the body of a ninety-year-old woman. In her new crotchety persona, she tries to aid the charming, wildly theatrical wizard Howl in vanquishing the Witch, so that both of them can break the spells they’re under."

Here is an interesting interview with the author answering questions after seeing the animated version of Howl's Moving Castle. The problem is that you cannot hear the questions she is being asked, only her responses.  But still, it is terrific to hear her voice, and her insights into the film version and its relationship with her book.
hover here for link to Diana Wynne Jones interview

"Castle in the Air, loosely linked to Howl’s Moving Castle, is also set in Ingary, and involves young carpet maker Abdullah and his efforts to win the hand of the despotic Sultan of Zanzib’s daughter. Magic carpets, irritable genies, and fierce desert bandits all play a part in this Arabian Nights-flavored tale."

all quotes by Terri Schmitz, excerpts from Recommended Reissues: Just Ask Terri, January/February 2002 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

see below for a biographical excerpt:

some of Diana Wynne Jones' other novels:

a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle

Another favorite of mine...can be read as just a fabulous, humorous, magical fantasy adventure story, or, for the more curious reader, you can begin to puzzle out some fascinating details from Norse mythology! I was very excited when it came back into print recently because it was always such a great book to recommend to boys who are reluctant readers. --L.A.

A marvelous, mysterious enjoyable puzzle...Another piece of fun from a master of whimsy. School Library Journal

An immensely enjoyable story which should not be missed. Times Literary Supplement (London)

Filled with tension and intrigue...A rich complexity... ALA Booklist

Diana Wynne Jones was raised in the village of Thaxted, in Essex, England. She has been a compulsive storyteller for as long as she can remember enjoying most ardently those tales dealing with witches, hobgoblins, and the like. Ms. Jones lived in Bristol, England. She is survived by her husband, a professor of English at Bristol University, their three sons and two granddaughters. 

In Her Own Words...
"I decided to be a writer at the age of eight, but I did not receive any encouragement in this ambition until thirty years later. I think this ambition was fired--or perhaps exacerbated is a better word--by early marginal contacts with the Great, when we were evacuated to the English Lakes during the war. The house we were in had belonged to Ruskin's secretary and had also been the home of the children in the books of Arthur Ransome. One day, finding I had no paper to draw on, I stole from the attic a stack of exquisite flower-drawings, almost certainly by Ruskin himself, and proceeded to rub them out. I was punished for this. Soon after, we children offended Arthur Ransome by making a noise on the shore beside his houseboat. He complained. So likewise did Beatrix Potter, who lived nearby. It struck me then that the Great were remarkably touchy and unpleasant (even if, in Ruskin's case, it was posthumous), and I thought I would like to be the same, without the unpleasantness.

"I started writing children's books when we moved to a village in Essex where there were almost no books. The main activities there were hand-weaving, hand-making pottery, and singing madrigals, for none of which I had either taste or talent. So, in intervals between trying to haunt the church and sitting on roofs hoping to learn to fly, I wrote enormous epic adventure stories which I read to my sisters instead of the real books we did not have. This writing was stopped, though, when it was decided I must be coached to go to University. A local philosopher was engaged to teach me Greek and philosophy in exchange for a dollhouse (my family never did things normally), and I eventually got a place at Oxford.

"At this stage, despite attending lectures by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, I did not expect to be writing fantasy. But that was what I started to write when I was married and had children of my own. It was what they liked best. But small children do not allow you the use of your brain. They used to jump on my feet to stop me thinking. And I had not realized how much I needed to teach myself about writing. I took years to learn, and it was not until my youngest child began school that I was able to produce a book which a publisher did not send straight back.

"As soon as my books began to be published, they started coming true. Fantastic things that I thought I had made up keep happening to me. The most spectacular was Drowned Ammet. The first time I went on a boat after writing that book, an island grew up out of the sea and stranded us. This sort of thing, combined with the fact that I have a travel jinx, means that my life is never dull."

found on

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