Tuesday Topic: Diana Wynne Jones

I know Tessa normally picks up the slack and does our Tuesday topics, but as my love for Diana Wynne Jones is deep and abiding, I asked to do it this week. Oh let me describe the love for you.

Diana Wynne Jones did snarky British wizarding schools before Harry Potter was out of diapers with her Chrestomanci books, starting with The Lives of Christopher Chant.

She combined a dog protagonist (my favorite thing when I was 12) with intergalactic angst and hounds of death — OMG the hounds made this all worthwhile — in Dogsbody, which I read 6 times back to back when I got it, and only as an adult got the double meaning of the title.

She created quite possibly my most favorite protagonist/ antagonist ever in Howl, the reluctantly, cowardly, incredibly appealing and funny wizard in Howl’s Moving Castle.

She made me want butter pies in A Tale of Time City and did the whole "fall for an older man and delight Maggie intensely" in Fire and Hemlock.

She wrote about fun with chemicals and why gifts should always be regarded with suspicion and why it’s dangerous to fly in The Ogre Downstairs.

I’ve read so many of her books but what I find the most impressive is that each has their own character and that she’s been writing professionally since 1973 and still going strong. She’s an institution. I would love to follow in her footsteps.

34 thoughts on “Tuesday Topic: Diana Wynne Jones

  1. My love for Diana Wynne Jones burns with the fire of a gazillion flames.

    The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Howl’s Moving Castle, A Tale of Time City….hmmmmmm, good times. (LOL! I craved those butter pies, too)

    There’s a couple there you mentioned that I haven’t read yet. Now I’ll have to find them.

  2. Those are all my favorites. Well, ARCHER’S GOON, too. But other than that, those are my absolute favorites.

  3. The only DWJ I’ve read is Fire and Hemlock, which I read this summer and loved. I have The Dalemark Quartet and The Dark Lord of Derkholm sitting on my bookshelf, though.

    I tried to read The Lives of Christopher Chant once, because everyone loves it, but I couldn’t get into it! I wonder if this was because I didn’t read it as a kid but tried to pick it up as an adult? The writing style seemed distinctly middle-grade to me, much more so even than Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is pretty straightforward. I love YA lit, but I just definitely felt like I was not this book’s audience, and I couldn’t get past that feeling. And this makes me sad because everybody loves the Chrestomanci books! And then I feel like a crotchety old woman.

  4. Chrestomanci is NOT YA. It is decidedly MG, and lower MG at that, so don’t feel bad. I loved them when I was a kid but I wouldn’t reread them now, because I’m sure my love would dwindle.

    I would recommend THE 8 DAYS OF LUKE and DOGSBODY though.

  5. Oh, I *heart* Fire and Hemlock so much. I love the Dalemark books too.

    I wasn’t crazy about The Lives of Christopher Chant, but I accidentally read the third book, Witch Week, first, and really liked that one, even on rereading it fairly recently.

  6. And Howl! You must read Howl!!!

    ps. I may have said this before, but your icon is one of my favorites EVER.

  7. Oh, that makes me feel better — I was standing in a bookstore and opened up to the first page, and I was like, “This book is not for me.” But it was a 500 or 600 page book, which is why I was expecting something with a meatier style. (I just looked it up, and I realize now that I was looking at this edition which includes both Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant. It makes more sense now.)

  8. I really need to write up my thoughts on Tam Lin and modern versions thereof, especially F&H and Dean’s Tam Lin, which I’ve been wanting to write about for ages anyway.

    Also, I never realized that Witch Week was part of the Chrestomanci series. It’s been on my list of DWJ books to check out, too.

  9. I know, it’s on my list too! The movie is also in my Netflix queue.

    And Northanger Abbey is one of my all-time favorite books, so I had to have this icon when I saw it!

  10. I really need to write up my thoughts on Tam Lin and modern versions thereof

    Yes please! πŸ™‚

  11. Well, naturally.

    I thought that was just a given.

    And the fact that you’re going to be Queen of the Universe doesn’t hurt either.

  12. I have to say that Howl’s Moving Castle is the only thing by her I’ve read. And wait…I vaguely remember something else. A really short book with Greek mythology of some kind. *shrug*
    I did have an absolutely hilarious experience with some friends and the Howl’s movie, which seriously makes no sense and has a plot held together only by holes, by Howl’s flamboyancy (everything he wears billows! everything!) is just so hilarious. Definitely liked his character in the book better though, much more 3D. And less likely to turn into a bear/bird/thing for no reason.

  13. It had absolutely NOTHING to do with the book. Like, they took the plot and twisted it and broke it and Howl kept turning into a bird and then a bear and he other apprentice kid (whose name escapes me) was like nine, and none of her sisters had any major part, and the Witch of the Waste was this really minor conflict in the front of some confusing thing I don’t even remember, but Howl wore earrings and a checkerboard pink-on-pink cloak with long blond hair and it was all hilarious. I will admit I saw it before reading the book, and it became a hilarious joke between my friends (billowing!)

  14. Ok, I am an unabashed fan of both book and movie. I recommend watching it at some point – because although after the first 40 minutes of pretty accurate book-plot it does, indeed, fly off into the realms of wtf, it’s still hilarious. AND Calcifer is spot-on, esp with Billy Crystal doing the voice.

    The THEME of the book is still mostly present, just reimagined and very, um… overtly realized with the animation. One of the prettiest images I’ve ever seen in a movie comes from Howl. See icon. πŸ˜€

  15. Oh, I loved it, but mostly for the hilarious wtf-ness. The book I could appreciate on more levels.

  16. I just need to point out here that I had a car named Calcifer when I was in college.

    Because it overheated a lot.

    Um, get it?

  17. YESSS Diana Wynne Jones!

    I am so pleased I’m making the effort to catch up with my flist. My favourite author ever!

    I love Luke and David so, so much. Especially because it’s my favourite pantheon. Oh! And Dogsbody! The bit where Leo!Sirius dies gets me every. damn. time.

    And Dark Lord of Derkholm! I have a massive crush on Kit. He may be a huge black griffin (who is very annoying in Year of the Griffin, I have enormous empathy for Ella) but he is awesome.

    For some reason, I’ve never quite loved Howl. I think there are moments of brilliance and hilarity – dressing all in black for the funeral, ginger hair, the fact that he’s bloody Welsh and it’s ‘Howell’ – but still. He leaves me cold.

    Christopher, on the other hand…

    Btw, have you read The Game? Because the concept is so ridiculously brilliant it’s untrue.

  18. Oh, yeah, THE GAME is another awesome one. And Clistopher . . . oh the fishy-smelled packages . . . *shudder*

  19. I didn’t eat salmon between the ages of nine and thirteen because of that bit. I’d just picture Christopher biting into the sandwich before Tacroy was asked about the mermaids and… blargh.

  20. Plus, he’s pretty. :d And I love him and Christopher bonding over cricket.

    Now I’m remembering all the *shudder* bits in her ouevre. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

    The lubbock in House of Many Ways freaked me out so much. I’m physically shuddering right now thinking about it.

    *pictures Tacroy purring at Proudfoot* Ah, that’s better.

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