❝ To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be. ❞
❝ Of course that is not the whole story, but that is the way with stories; we make them what we will. It’s a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained, it’s a way of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time. Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. ❞
❝ I think the reason that the heroic ideal had, as it were, retreated to children’s books is that children do, by nature, status, and instinct, live more in the heroic mode than the rest of humanity. ❞
— Diana Wynne Jones, “The Heroic Idea: A Personal Odyssey,” Reflections —
❝ The vision of the future lover is of course a common folktale element. But in The Faerie Queene the vision serves as the high ideal, the thing to strive toward, and it is also, in plain human terms, love. And here I began to see just what Christianity had really added to the heroic tradition. It had reinforced the high ideal - for God is love - but heroes have always had that, even if they do not know it when the begin; but, more importantly, Christianity had modified the tradition that a hero is guided by a god or gods. For God watches over everyone. Thanks to Britomart and Spenser, I now knew that every ordinary man or woman could be a hero. ❞
— Diana Wynne Jones, “The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey,” Reflections —
For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give names to the nameless so it can be thought. THe farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action. Right now, I could name at least ten ideas I would have found intolerable or incomprehensible and frightening, except as they came after dreams and poems. This is not idle fantasy, but a disciplined attention to the true meaning of “it feels right to me.”
— from “Poetry is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde (via commovente
❝ her own heroine – capricious, exacting, exquisite, very learned, and beautifully dressed. ❞
— virginia woolf, on hope mirrlees —
❝ Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called The Hobbit which in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century. ❞
❝ Adults are different. They need me to do all that for them. ❞
— Diana Wynne Jones, on the imaginative work of reading as done by adults versus children, “Two Kinds of Writing?,” Reflections —
❝ Tolkien works his final sleight-of-narrative here. He was perfectly aware of the Germanic custom of ship burial, in which a dead king was floated out to sea in a ship. Crossing the Sea is represented as a matter full of sadness, and Cirdan the shipwright is given many attributes of a priest, but the passing of Frodo is never represented as other than a permanent voyage. So the ending is heartrendingly equivocal. You can see it as Frodo moving into eternity, or into history - or not. You can see it as a justification - or not - of the negative side. In fact, we are experiencing the proper mode of Romance, which was signaled right from the start. The values of the people who wrote Romances never seem quite the same as our own. This kind of equivocal ending where winning and failing amounts to the same, Arthur passes to sleep in a hill, and a gift exacts its price, is exactly what should have been expected. You Were Warned. For good measure, you knew that life never comes round to a happy ending and stops there. There is always afterward. But such was the skill with which this narrative was shaped that you could not see the patter, even when it was being constantly put before you.
Yes, there really was nothing about narrative that Tolkien didn’t know. ❞
Diana Wynne Jones, “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings,” Reflections
i’ve never been able to defend the close of lotr to people who expect a hero’s celebration and happy ending for frodo, other than to say that his end evokes in me the same chest-deep ache that much of the rest of the novels and their weight do, but here is diana wynne jones explaining how it works with the narrative type tolkien was building (and really, i should have realized, as the ache over frodo is the same ache i feel over arthur and his camelot, but then, as she says: that is tolkien’s great skill.) the expectation arises from thinking that you’re reading a very different type of story, of course.
❝ Lothórien fools us to some extent, by appearing to awe and tame Boromir - though it is never said that it has - and the Great River fools us too. The Fellowship appears to be sliding united along its current to a single end. But you always have to watch Tolkien with water. He never uses it unmeaningfully. Pools and lakes mirror stars, and hold hidden things. This Anduin has contrasting banks and, moreover, reeks of history. In a way it is history, and the Fellowship is going with its current, to break up in confusion at the falls of Rauros. It is worth pointing out that when Aragorn later uses the same river, he comes up it, against the current, changing a course of events that seems inevitable. ❞
Diana Wynne Jones, “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings,” Reflections
marked down in my copy due to my own obsessions with bodies of water and the weight of history both, but shared to tumblr more with the last sentence about aragorn and the people who will love it in mind.
❝ His primary use for history is as a motive power, pushing his present-day characters in to certain actions, to bring about the future. ❞
— Diana Wynne Jones, “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings,” Reflections —
❝ The Ring, whatever it does, always brings the tragic past into the present. ❞
— Diana Wynne Jones, “The Shape of the Narrative in The Lord of the Rings," Reflections: on The Magic of Writing —
❝ Its insistent rhythm, like theirs, is the rhythm of a throb. The entire book is a wound. ❞
— Brigid Brophy, foreword to Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept —
I am not sure what more I could tell you about these pieces. I could tell you that I liked doing some of them more than others, but that all of them were hard for me to do, and took more time than perhaps they were worth; that there is always a point in the writing of a piece when I sit in a room literally papered with false starts and cannot put one word after another and imagine that I have suffered a small stroke, leaving me apparently undamaged but actually aphasic. I was in fact as sick as I had ever been when I was writing “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”; the pain kept me awake at night and so for twenty and twenty-one hours a day I drank gin-and-hot-water to blunt the pain and took Dexedrine to blunt the gin and wrote the piece. (I would like you to believe that I kept working out of some real professionalism, to meet the deadline, but that would not be entirely true; I did have a deadline, but it was also a troubled time, and working did to the trouble what gin did to the pain.) What else is there to tell? I am bad at interviewing people. I avoid situations in which I have to talk to anyone’s press agent. (This precludes doing pieces on most actors, a bonus in itself.) I do not like to make telephone calls, and would not like to count the mornings I have sat on some Best Western motel bed somewhere and tried to force myself to put through the call to the assistant district attorney. My only advantage as a reporter is that I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests. And it always does. That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem Preface
❝ One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before. ❞
— Joan Didion, Goodbye to All That