layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Let the Monday “Booktalk” posts commence! :D

I’ve been on a Diana Wynne Jones rereading kick lately. It started with Hexwood and proceeded to the Chrestomanci books, of which The Lives of Christopher Chant is my favorite by far, and one of my favorites of all of her books — mainly because I think the things I like most about her books are more clearly on display in this one than in many of her others.

I didn’t start reading DWJ ’til I was an adult. I expect I would have liked her books as a kid, but I think I might’ve appreciated them in a different way — more seduced by the sense of wonder, less distracted by how the plots go (or don’t go). As an adult reading her books, I sometimes find the plots very hit-or-miss, and in particular the endings frequently leave me feeling let down or simply frustrated. She has a meandering approach to plot that breaks just about all of the standard plotting rules at one point or another — important characters fail to appear until halfway through her books, critically important plot elements may be held back until the very end, Chekhov’s Gun may or may not fire, etc. It’s a style that feels much more like an oral storytelling tradition — someone telling you a story — than a lot of fiction tends to, and sometimes I really appreciate it for its lack of artificiality, but sometimes it just completely misses the boat for me.

But the thing I love most about her books, that keeps me coming back to them, is the layered-ness of the characters, and in particular the way the characters are presented to the reader. One thing that frustrates me about a lot of fiction aimed at kids is the flatness of the character presentation. Good people and bad people are evident at first glance; they wear their goodness or badness on the outside. (Good people pretty, bad people ugly….) And certainly they don’t do both good and bad things at once, so you can’t even tell how you’re supposed to feel about them …

But DWJ’s characters are complicated and surprising. Her hapless protagonists have to guess, like everyone in the real world, about who the good and bad people are: who to believe, who to trust. And often they guess wrong (frequently misjudging other characters based on superficial attributes), only to figure things out over the course of the book.

Many of her books deal with a particularly challenging aspect of growing up — the way that your perspective on other people, and yourself, tilts as you mature and begin to recognize your own humanity in other people, and become aware of the flaws in yourself.

I enjoy all of the Chrestomanci books to one degree or another — I’m currently reading The Pinhoe Egg, which doesn’t seem at all familiar, so it’s possible I’ve actually never read it before — but The Lives of Christopher Chant has always been the book in the series that stood out the most to me.

(Spoilers follow.)

Spoilers under the cut )


Crossposted from Wordpress.  

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
My long-time comics-making friend Jane Irwin is currently running a Kickstarter for her graphic novel Clockwork Game. This is the print edition of the webcomic Clockwork Game, meticulously researched and beautifully drawn historical fiction with a slight steampunk vibe, about an 18th-century chess-playing automaton and the contemporary PR circus surrounding it. This is a gorgeous labor of love on Jane's part, and I know that the print editions will be excellent quality, because I know Jane and she's very detail-oriented about that sort of thing! There's an introduction by SF & fantasy author Nisi Shawl. It's well worth taking a look; you can check out the comic online at the above link.

My ~14K-word Torn World story "The Lichenwold Crossing" has finished its run on the Torn World website. The story begins here and is a part of the Empire Explores the North storyline.

I ran across this intriguingly creepy link today in which the author Alan Gardner talks about the real-life ghost story behind one of his novels. I don't think I've ever read any of his novels nor heard of this one, but it was a fascinating story anyway! Sometimes life is truly stranger than fiction ...
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Tor.com is hosting a couple of book rereads (with accompanying open discussion threads) that are of interest to me, and maybe to you! Their chapter-by-chapter reread of The Hobbit is just getting started. And they’re two books into a book-by-book Dresden Files reread. (The new book comes out on Nov. 27! WHY YES I HAVE PREORDERED.)

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

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Layla

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