Thursday, August 5, 2010

Diana Wynne Jones Week: Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories by Diana Wynne Jones

I've been reading Diana Wynne Jones stories here and there for many years and was delighted when I discovered this big, lovely collection several years ago. Of course, even this thick collection isn't complete - it would take multiple volumes for that. But it does have several dear favorites of mine. Like any good collection, there's something for everyone...

"The Girl Jones" was, I believe, written for this collection, since I've never seen it anywhere else. It's one of my favorites - how can you help liking a story that explains the title by saying, "Neither of my sisters was ever called "The girl Jones." They were never notorious." The actual events of the story, hilarious though they are, aren't nearly as important as the perfectly captured childlike mindset of the adventurers. The story is clearly meant to be autobiographical, and it's fascinating to see that DWJ is able to so clearly recall and convey her thoughts as a child.

"Nad and Dan adn Quaffy" is one of the most reprinted stories, at least the one I've seen most often. I've never really felt strongly about it one way or another, although I'm guessing it's probably a lot more funnier and closer to the bone to writers and those who lived through the computer revolution.

"The Plague of Peacocks" is another one of my favorites. After all, who doesn't want to see a pair of officious hypocrites, the kind of thick-skinned people who insist they know best, the kind of people it's impossible to get through to, bested by the smallest and apparently weakest? Deliciously wicked and another perfect capture of children's interactions with adults.

"The Master" is scary. 'nuff said.

"Enna Hittims" I think appeals most to an actual child reader. It's a wonderfully crafted piece of imagination.

"The Girl Who Loved the Sun" I love this one. The actual story is a fascinating conglomeration of myth and history, but what I most enjoy is the glorious language that describes the beauties of trees and seasons so perfectly.

"The Fluffy Pink Toadstool" this reminds me of Joan Aiken's short story, "The cat-flap and the apple-pie" with its perfect turning of the tables on a domestic tyrant. Jones' ending is much less...well, final if you know what I mean. I often find myself longing for a handy pink toadstool when I meet parents who can only be described as cranks.

"Auntie Bea's Day Out" What to do with nasty relatives...or a chapter of accidents. *snicker*

"Carruthers" also makes me furious at the mysoginistic, nasty father. Which, I suppose, is the whole point. So, it works.

"What the cat told me" I always feel is sort of a Chrestomanci story, but from a cat's point of view. It's also got a little romance and quite a lot of magic.

"The Green Stone" is the story I always think should go with The Tough Guide to FantasyLand. It's obviously what happens after all the adventurers get their copy of The Tough Guide and are getting ready to set off...

"The Fat Wizard" is another underdog defeats the powers of darkness (or at least the powers of annoying hypocrisy and nastiness) Yay pigs!

"No One" is an odd but irresistable mixture of futuristic science, household magic, and grammar.

"Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" is another frequently anthologized story, but it's never really appealed to me has a more scifi flavor than most of the other stories.

"Little Dot" is another of my favorites - it's also a story from a cat's point of view. There is opera, wicked monsters, and mobile chicken coops.

This collection also includes the novella Everard's Ride, about which I am not really going to say anything. Somehow, I have never managed to read it all the way through. It has a sort of time/world twisting and family dynamics and other stuff and my head just doesn't get it.

I always think of Diana Wynne Jones' short stories in relationship to Joan Aiken's short stories, mostly because they're the only collections I love enough to buy. Although they are both beautifully written, Aiken's stories are full of magic and mystery that is somehow more stratified, set in a world that is the same and yet completely different. Most of Diana Wynne Jones' stories are more in the Nesbitian mold, firmly in the modern, normal world and yet encountering magic every day. One can't really imagine Joan Aiken's weather witch existing in our world, but one wouldn't be surprised if fluffy pink toadstools really did grow out of the floor one day...

ISBN: 978-0060555351; Published February 2006 by Greenwillow; Purchased for my personal collection


Anonymous said...

I didn't care for "Dragon Reserve, Home Eight" either. Not that I disliked it, but it's not as marvelous as some of the others. I meant to reread this collection for DWJ week but didn't get a chance--it'll have to wait until I get home.

Jennifer said...

There's something about it that make me uncomfortable...maybe because it's so short and it feels like it needs a lengthy book. Or several!