Thursday, December 28, 2006

Are You a Slitherer-outer?


Diana Wynne Jones has been my favorite author for as far back as I can remember. As with many good things in my life, it was my sister who first introduced me to Diana's books. I think the first one I read was Dogsbody (my sister's favorite) and I was hooked.

Imagine that the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and every stellar body in the sky are alive and conscious, possessed by great spirit beings known as "illuminaries." This is the story about one of the greatest of such entities, Sirius - the Dogstar. - Caesar M. Warrington

You know when you find an author whose books feel like home to you? That is what Diana's books are to me. I open her pages and instantly feel like I am with old friends, whether I am reading her book for the first or the fifteenth time.

Diana pre-dates Harry Potter and even wrote a book about a school of magicians called Witch Week FAR before JK Rowling was sitting in her favorite cafe scribbling about a school full o'wizards. The good thing about Harry Potter's success is that it has brought more attention to authors like Diana. JK even gives her props. So I guess that little whiny, predictable Potter stinker brain is good for something!

Diana's books are hard to encapsulate. They expertly weave the normal everyday with the fantastic and the unreal. In her world(s), there are many alternate realities and average kids stumble upon them, usually by accident in situations of great duress.

Within these worlds, there are all sorts of haphazard characters: distracted magicians, bitchy witches, nasty mothers, vain wizards, fireplace bullies and magic cats. Her characters are not cookie cutter dull, each one has distinct motivations that set him/her/it apart.

Reading her books always makes me hungry because her descriptions of steaming hot tea and thick slices of bread drizzled with butter and honey make me salivate. She feeds all five of your senses with her rich descriptions. Her books give me sensory overload.

Thankfully, the first film adapted from her book, Howl's Moving Castle, was Japanese anime made by Hayao Miyazaki and his amazingly talented Studio Ghibli. It is unlikely that this book could have amounted to anything worthwhile in another director's hands.

Miyazaki took a faint imprint of Diana's book and took off soaring in one of his flying machines with it. He added his own impressions and style to her solid story thread and created a beautiful collaboration.

Sitting in the darkened theater, watching that movie for the first time, I wept. It was so good and I never thought I would be lucky enough to watch one of Diana's books made into a touching film.

Afterwards, I ambled up Church St and couldn't get the theme song out of my head. Church St is not unlike Market Chipping in Howl's Moving Castle. In fact, it is quite similar to many of Diana's small towns full of ancient cobblestone streets and heavy with fate.

I felt like I was enshrouded in a magical gloss and around any corner I might stumble upon a rip in the fabric of this dimension and, if I tripped, I might fall through to another world. And that would only be the beginning of my adventure...

Ultimately, Diana's books have to be read to be enjoyed. I could never do them justice with my measly descriptions. But this here QUIZ is a great way to get a feel for her work. It helps you decide which Diana Wynne Jones character you are.

I turned out to be Howl (the grandest slithererouter of them all) from Howl's Moving Castle. No big surprise there! Here are some of the quiz's questions which are damn brilliant. Questions we should all ask ourselves at one time or another:

Are you lost (or travelling)
  • in time?
  • in space?
  • in one or more alternative world?
  • in a dream?
  • in a nightmare?
  • in no way - it's everyone else who's lost?
  • in confusion?

    Are you:
  • fully human?
  • mostly human?
  • slightly human?
  • superhuman?
  • not human at all?

    Is your idea of "a happy ending:"
  • to find or be reunited with your family?
  • to marry the person you are in love with?
  • to know that you have saved the world (or some equivalent)?
  • to solve your immediate problems (and incidentally save the whole situation)?
  • to achieve your proper position or job in life?
  • to start proper training or to learn what you have always wanted to learn?
  • to come to terms with the life that has been forced on you?
  • to make the life that has been forced upon you come to terms with you?
  • a bit of peace and quiet for a change?

PS And did I mention that these books are supposedly for "kids?" Pfft.

8 comments:

the le duo said...

eva- thanks for recomending 'the philadelphia story' i'll probably rent it this weekend- I have a little harold & maude type crush on Hepburn right now- she completes me... anyway, how was your holiday? I hope it was fun with family & friends- see ya around sometime...

jb

Eva the Deadbeat said...

cool! lemme know what you think of it (there are lots of other goofy characters in it too). i also dig Holiday which is Hepburn and Grant (a dream team if there ever was one). it is really funny and refreshing.

I can see you and Katherine getting along swimmingly. you would have dizzyingly fast-paced verbal volleys that would confuse mere mortals.

yes yes, holidays all good, just editing like crazy now. hope Swanton was nice and your New Year's resolutions sound great to me as well!

take care! e

Brooke said...

Holiday! You know it? It's one of my favorite favorites, but I find very few people have actually seen it.

la-la-lani said...

I loooves Holiday! (Although it hits a little close to home.)

Ms. Eva, we should cocoon ourselves up one of these winter weekends with the Hepburn gals, Mr. Grant, Mr. Tracey, et al. -- and a couple of nice bottles of wine.

Eva the Deadbeat said...

Oooh, me loves Holiday!! George Cukor kicks some serious butt. I think I saw it once late at night on PBS and was like, "What the hell is this shit, it is so fucking funny and biting!??!!" I also think they might be remaking it (noooooo!) but who knows, if Jude Law is in it, I am there.

Oooh, that is a date Lani!! Booze and fast talking broads and the gents who love 'em! Once I finish this damn January episode I am so there.

Another good film to include is My Man Godfrey, it ain't Hepburn but it is William Powell and Carole Lombard and it is also a refreshing biting screwball comedy from the 30s.

I am so tired of going to the movies and walking out yawning. In the old days they were making big budget pictures with killer scripts, unusual plots and actors worth their salt. Ah well, at least there are DVDs!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

oops, my links are backwards, just like me!!!

Q_Monroe said...

i want in on that girls night please!

Eva the Deadbeat said...

yes yes! old movies and booze, oh my!