Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing, by Diana Wynne Jones

During March Magics, I read a few extra things by DWJ, like Mixed Magics and The Magicians of Caprona, just to round out the experience.  Something Kristen said at the very beginning of the month prompted me to get Reflections out again -- I wanted to look up a particular quotation, and when I couldn't find it right away, I decided to just read the whole thing and enjoy it again.

I did enjoy it, very much.  I think I got more out of some of the essays this time around.  Others are old friends I have read several times by now.  I was particularly impressed by the essay on "The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings," and since we're doing the readalong right now, I decided to read that one piecemeal, one bit after each volume.  I just read the part covering Two Towers and I love how she points out what Tolkien is doing.

What I was looking for was a comment on the importance of imaginative literature for children, and the fact that in the early 20th century, there was a vogue for realism in children's literature.  Many, many people believed that children should only read about concrete experiences just like their own lives, and that imaginative works were actually damaging to the childish mind. (I actually did a paper on this in college; I should dig it out and see what I said!)  DWJ's mother seems to have been a victim of this belief -- in fact, one essay says that her father found her little stash of beloved fairy tales and burned them.  Here are DWJ's comments on the wider implications:
I always think it is significant that the generation that trained my mother to despise all fantasizing produced Hitler and two world wars. People confronted with Hitler should have said "He's just like that villain I imagined the other night," or , "He's as mad as something out of Batman," but they couldn't because it was not allowed.  
She goes on to comment (in several different places) that we need imagination in order to think about solutions to problems, or new ways of doing things.  If an entire generation is rendered incapable of imagining bizarre and nightmarish evil, how can they deal with it when it actually shows up?  I think that's something worth pondering.

Since this is a collection of pieces written over decades, themes keep popping up and it's possible that some readers will feel it repetitious.  In that case, just read it over time instead of all at once.  I didn't have a problem with it this time.

And now for my Blogger's Lament: I've been having a terrible time lately making time for blogging.  Every morning, I wake up hoping to be able to write something, and every day, I pretty much fail.  It's kind of bumming me out, but on the other hand, I've been doing lots of other useful things.  I just want to write blog posts too!  At this point, I could write a post every day for two weeks and not run out of books to review.  If you're a mom of demanding teens, please give me tips on blogging while driving kids all over creation. 

We've had some good things going on though.  Remember I said I was going to go hiking....well, instead it rained for three days, which made that tricky.  I'm still hoping to go in a few days if things dry out a bit.  Instead, we went bowling, which I haven't done in ages, and that was a lot of fun.  My younger daughter turned 14 (holy moley) and went to her first dance, too.

These bowling shoes were awesome and I want them.


  1. Geez, I'm not looking forward to that driving teens all over phase of parenthood. Maybe more moms should get together and create some kind of co-op bus service??? But we're too far flung in America. I think in Europe they just take public transportation.

  2. Happily, the kid who needs the most driving DOES take the bus fairly regularly! She's made close friends in a teeny town up the ridge, though, *and* joined an organization that meets in the middle of nowhere -- it's a gorgeous drive but 30 minutes away. Luckily I usually drop her off halfway for carpooling, but even her best bus efforts don't save me from an awful lot of driving these days. I'm going to have to bicycle everywhere when they're gone, to make up for all this....

  3. OK, so what was the quote you wanted so badly?

  4. The Batman one I quoted above, though really it turned out to be at least three different mentions in various essays, with further elaborations. I just picked the most quotable one.

  5. I need to revisit this book, especially now that my copy has Neil's signature in it. :) I'm sure I will glean different things from it every time I pick it up.

  6. Those are fabulous bowling shoes! I love them!

    I love this book, too. You're right that it can come off a teeny bit repetitive, if you read all the essays at once, but I sensibly parceled them out to myself. I had Neil Gaiman sign my copy of this book at a signing a few years ago, which was nice -- he signed his intro and we talked a little bit about Time of the Ghost. Lovely, lovely Time of the Ghost!


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