Saturday, 26 March 2011
Queen and Huntress
I am off to Bologna tomorrow and will report back from the Fair on my return. I was going to blog about the Michael Gove's "50 books" farrago but something happened today that knocked that off the top of my list. Early this morning I got an email telling me that Diana Wynne Jones was in a hospice and fading fast. By then she had already died, as I found out in seconds from Twitter.
So this blog post is dedicated to Diana - like her Roman namesake, fearless, peerless, worshipped and unpredictable.
I think I first came across her work when my oldest daughter, Rhiannon Lassiter discovered it. Knowing what I like almost as well as I do, she told me to read Archer's Goon. I did and then I think found my all-time favourite, Fire and Hemlock, before starting on the Chrestomanci novels, Howl's Moving Castle and the hilarious Tough Guide to Fantasyland.
What an output! Eight Days of Luke, Dogsbody, The Homewardbounders ... anyone would be proud to have produced just one of these. And she had a way of getting under your skin and into your everyday life. I still say under my breath at bus-stops, "Hathaway send a bus," a habit developed when the children were young, because Hathaway "farms" transport in Archer's Goon. And we have a cat that says "Wong" just like Throgmorten.
I was thrilled when she reviewed my fantasy novel Special Powers for the TES, less so when she didn't much like it! Sarah Prineas was luckier with The Magic Thief and got a splendid puff from this generous older writer. But all was made better when the three of us shared a panel at the Bath festival a few years ago.
In the green room before the event, where Diana arrived a bit flustered after a bomb scare on her route, she spontaneously told me she had read and enjoyed The Falconer's Knot and that there really was a friary where I had invented one, between Gubbio and Assisi.
I got her to sign my copy of Fire and Hemlock and she did the same for Rhiannon's A Tale of Time City - that's another wonderful book. Her signing queue after the event went on and on ....
I was furious that it took a revival of interest in wizards after a certain Hogwarts pupil to bring some of her books back into print; they should never have been allowed to disappear in the first place. But Diana's fans were loyal, all over the world, and they had the satisfaction of seeing the re-jacketed Harper Collins versions spreading the word to lots of new readers.
She had an extraordinary childhood, was wildly anarchic in her use of themes and ideas, was always generous to new writers and to critics and was by all accounts a splendid person to know and work with. Imagine having her for a grandmother!
Diana Wynne Jones was taken far too soon, while she was still full of ideas, and had to suffer far too much. But the creator of Chrestomanci, Howl, the Goon, Mr Lynn and Christopher Chant and many others was so prodigal with her genius that she has left much to remember her by.
I hope she is now in one of the parallel universes she so richly imagined, laughing and free from pain, and able to read the countless tributes on the Internet and enjoy the fact that her name was trending Worlwide on Twitter. I think that would amuse her.