Day one of the Diana Wynne Jones conference, held at the University of West England at Bristol, had two papers and the first keynote speech given by Nicholas Tucker, who grew up with the DWJ’s family.
Deborah Kaplan presented a great paper about the theme of disguised age and age confusion. As part of it, she explored how Wynne Jones explores and challenges the assumed readership of her novels. In particular Kaplan delved into Hexwood and Dark Lord of Derkholm. Farah Mendlesohn suggested that adulthood was a disguise (which I think is terribly true in Howl’s Moving Castle).
This came out with the phrase of the conference: “She writes for smart people”. This is true, she does. Like so many other writers if you don’t approach the books with care, you will miss vast parts of them and usually the interesting bits.
Tui Head explored the role of the girl in adventure fiction with Roddy in Merlin Conspiracy and Charmain in House of Many Ways.
Nicholas Tucker rounded the afternoon off with an extremely funny and moving portrait of Diana Wynne Jones and her family and growing up in the war. Having decided that the she wanted to be a writer at eight, he illuminated the madness of the war.
He outlined three of themes in her work:
- The older person betrays the child.
- Power and its abuse.
- Ordinary person becoming extraordinary.
A touching and highly amusing talk, I (like every one else ) could have listened to so much more.