Saturday, 2 April 2011
If anyone was a Chrestomanci, it was her.
A week ago, on March 26th, Diana Wynne Jones died. She was one of the best and most influential children's writers of the 20th century, and she will be sadly missed.
Diana Wynne Jones is probably my favourite writer, and certainly the author of my best book, Howl's Moving Castle. I thought I first discovered her aged about 18, but then as I read my way through her canon I kept finding books which had been treasured childhood favourites, that I'd never known were by her. Archer's Goon (also a brilliant BBC tv series that couldn't match the brilliance of the book); Dogsbody, in which Sirius, the dogstar, was confined to the body of a Labrador here on Earth (school bookfair purchase); The Magicians of Caprona (children trapped as Punch and Judy puppets, at one point - scary scary); and Fire and Hemlock - I'm not sure anyone has ever managed to figure out what was going out in that one. And of course, the wonderful, magical Howl's Moving Castle. And the ones which I hadn't read still felt like old friends - her writing had that quality that tickled some deep-hidden ur-fiction sense, tapping into the leylines of stories.
And there were more of them! And grown-up books! Deep Secret, so much a favourite that when I lent my copy to someone and they failed to return it in a few weeks, I had to buy a new copy. Neil Gaiman, who knew Diana Wynne Jones well, revealed in his blog this week that the breakfast scene with Nick in Deep Secret is based on him - a neat little in-joke that made me laugh while I cried at his memorial for her. It's odd to be upset when someone you don't know dies - but sometimes you feel like you know someone through their writing, and especially when it is writing that has been a companion for so long. On a purely selfish note, I'm sad that there will be no more new books to read. And I'm sad that there is a little less magic in the world, but so so glad that she wrote so much and created so much happiness in book form.
If you haven't, read her. If you have, reread. Buy the books for your children, your friends, your relations, for strangers on the bus. Give a little magic.