DWJ March: ALL MY BOOKS

Once again, the wonderful Kristen of We Be Reading is hosting Diana Wynne Jones March! She’s put together a fantastic schedule of events for the month. If you’re a Diana Wynne Jones fan or interested in becoming one, make sure to stop by her blog every day this month to see what she’s got going on over there.

To kick off the month, she’s asking people to post pictures of their collection of DWJ books. Fortunately, since I haven’t yet organized my books onto bookshelves in my new apartment, all of my Diana Wynne Jones books were pre-strewn about the floor. Here they all are:

DWJ books

Notes:

1. My big sister got me that copy of Changeover. Don’t you wish you had a big sister as good as mine?

2. That is the third copy of Fire and Hemlock I’ve owned. If (slash when) some publisher decides to reissue it with a better cover than the cover I’ve got, I will probably purchase that copy to replace this copy. This will continue until I own the One Best Copy, as is my constant goal for every book I have ever loved.

3. The most recent purchase by me is A Tale of Time City, which I only bought a year or two ago. It’s not my favorite of her books. You may post your arguments in its favor in the comments.

4. I bought that hardback copy of Howl’s Moving Castle at the thrift store when I was in college and gave it to my then-boyfriend, because I wanted him to love Diana Wynne Jones. When we broke up, there was a heated debate in my family as to whether it was acceptable for me to ask him to give it back to me. I did ask for it back in the end, not because I felt it would be okay by Emily Post standards, but just because I really, really, really, really wanted it. He was perfectly gracious about it because he is a nice person.

5. I don’t know where my copy of Unexpected Magic has gotten to, but I have not seen it in several years. I really want it back. What have I done with it? I want it back.

6. Those paperbacks of Deep Secret and A Sudden Wild Magic were acquired on my first-ever trip to London, in 2005. I have hated virtually ever cover Deep Secret has ever had, and I do not hate this one. Thanks, Waterstones!

7. Diana Wynne Jones wrote a lot of books. I wish she had written a hundred more, and given enough time, she could have. She was endlessly inventive, trying something new in every book she ever wrote. She’s been one of my favorite authors for more than a decade, and I wish I’d written to her when she was still alive to thank her for the many hours of happiness her books have given me.

Archer’s Goon, Diana Wynne Jones

March has whizzed by in a whirlwind of cherry blossoms and other even lovelier events, doing me a great disservice by never letting me catch my breath long enough to schedule a post about a Diana Wynne Jones book for the Diana Wynne Jones March operated by the wonderful Kristen of We Be Reading. March has happened so fast I didn’t even remember to relish March 4th, the only day of the year that’s a command. Ordinarily I say “March forth!” with tedious frequency on that day, and this year I forgot. Sigh. March, you whirlwind vixen.

Archer’s Goon, fittingly enough in a post that began with a time gripe, is a book about the constraints of time. Howard’s father Quentin, a writer, has for years written 2000 words each month and sent them to a friend called Lovejoy as a way of keeping his creative juices flowing. This month, an enormous Goon turns up at the house demanding the 2000 words, which Quentin says he has already sent. The Goon says that Archer — apparently Lovejoy’s boss — hasn’t received the words and demands to have them. Howard’s family is gradually beseiged by a group of seven siblings (Archer, Dillian, Shine, Hathaway, Torquil, Erskine, and Venturus, and yes, I have read Archer’s Goon often enough that I know those names in order by heart) who run various aspects of the town, are confined to stay within the town limits, and inexplicably seem desperate to acquire Quentin’s 2000 words.

As with many Diana Wynne Jones books, Archer’s Goon did not immediately take its place in my heart as a DWJ favorite. Because I apparently can’t talk about Diana Wynne Jones without saying “She’s better on a reread,” I’ll say it again. There are never too many times to say it! Diana Wynne Jones is better on a reread. And Archer’s Goon particularly is better on a reread. The plot is fairly complicated, and because it takes a while for most of the basic questions to be resolved, I missed a lot of the small, fun stuff about Archer’s Goon.

And the small fun stuff is what makes it so great. The power-mad siblings persecute Quentin relentlessly to make him give in and send them the words, and the things they invent to do, within their own spheres of power, are really funny and terrible. It’s brilliant fun how Diana Wynne Jones gradually lets you see the dynamics between the siblings: that Archer hates Dillian and Dillian hates him right back, but Dillian and Torquil are sort of allies. Sibling dynamics are DWJ’s best thing, and the Archer’s Goon siblings are, if not my favorites, at least in my top two. It’s between them and the Dark Lord of Derkholm family.

Moreover, the end of Archer’s Goon is one of the best and most satisfying endings of any of her books. A common and true complain about DWJ is that her endings can feel a little rushed and confusing, but not with Archer’s Goon. The characters realize things that they’ve been building up to realizing all along. The questions that were raised at the beginning get resolved. The good guys put paid to the bad guys. And the climactic fight is just so, so funny. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that I can never read the scene without picturing Diana Wynne Jones at her typewriter giggling madly as she wrote it all out. It’s the best.

As many longtime readers know, I am the hugest Diana Wynne Jones fan. As you may also know, she died last year, in March. I am so grateful for all the books of hers that we do have, and I am terribly sad that there won’t be any new ones forthcoming. But if you haven’t read anything by her, you are in for a treat.

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