Sunday, March 27, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones, 1934-2011

The great British fantasy writer Diana Wynne Jones -- whose books were usually published aimed at an audience of young teenagers, and were as good as that genre, or any other, ever got -- died on Friday night, after fighting cancer for several years. It wasn't unexpected -- she was too ill to travel to see the 2004 premiere of Howl's Moving Castle, the Hayao Miyazaki film based loosely on her 1986 novel of the same name -- but her continuing productivity had made us think that, just this once, the iron laws of the universe would stand aside.

I didn't know Jones personally, just through her work. And I somehow managed to miss reading her when I was young -- the first Jones book I read was either her excellent adult novel Deep Secret (loosely based on an actual British SF convention) or her indispensable satiric reference book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, both of which I came across before they were published in the US in the late '90s. So I can't say anything direct about her effect on young readers. But her books were always smart in the best ways, with that questioning intelligence that the best writers for young readers always have, that sense that the world might not, at the bottom, exactly make sense, and that every supposed certainty and bit of received wisdom needs to be carefully examined.

In other words, she was exactly the kind of writer that smart kids, or any kind of kids, really needed: both a guide to the ways that worlds could be and a voice to say that all of those conceptions of the world were worth thinking and talking and writing about. And she will be gravely missed -- luckily for us, she left us behind a long shelf of books to remember her by.

No comments:

Post a Comment