On Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne JonesI first discovered Diana Wynne Jones through the adaptation of her book Howl’s Moving Castle by the well-known film company Studio Ghibli. I love the film and the book, and the two other books she wrote that tie into that world. Since finding her work, I’ve become more interested in her as an artist. Perhaps this may be partly influenced by stories told about her by other authors I like, such as Neil Gaiman who wrote about her and how he first met her. I don’t know why, but I’ll never forget that little story (if you want to know about it, you can read it in his book A View From the Cheap Seats).

I read her book Reflections: On the Magic of Writing which is almost more a memoir than a book about the craft, which suited me just fine. I learned more about her, which made me want to learn even more about her. One thing that really stuck out to me was that she had both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as professors when she attended Oxford. Her thoughts on both of them were amusing to be honest. She had an interesting childhood though tough at times. Her wonder for the world never diminished despite living through darker moments of human history (primarily referencing World War II here). Her stories are skillfully written but are often marketed to children. I think she wrote them for children, but I think they have something for everyone, especially for adults who have forgotten the wonder they once held for the world.

I hope to introduce or read her stories to my children. They are magical and wholesome. I’m curious how my reading habits would have been different had I discovered her books earlier. I was probably mid-twenties when I first found them. Now that I have, I can return to them when needed so as to (hopefully) never lose my own sense of wonder in the whirlwind of adult responsibilities. I am grateful to have the opportunity. I am grateful she wrote her stories and let them out into the world. I’m sure she has impacted more lives than she could have dreamed possible. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in 2011 at the age of 77. Her works will likely live on for a long time. Much longer than my own lifetime at least, because once you discover a book that nestles its way into your heart, it will remain there forever to bring you comfort and joy. My hope is that you give her work a chance if you have not done so already. Of course, I suggest starting with Howl’s Moving Castle. 

Coraline

Coraline Book CoverCoraline by Neil Gaiman is a quick read that I think has been, and remains, a source of inspiration and bravery for many readers. I have not yet seen the movie adaptation, having just read the book for the first time, but I know that the movie has expanded this story’s audience and influence. All this being said, I believe Coraline is a great story with a great effect. Though I didn’t love the story and felt a little old for it, which may just mean I’m in need of a rediscovery, I did like the story and believe it can be an very important book for those who need it or find it while younger or at the right time. It can easily be influential for younger minds, and I hope to read this story to my daughter when she is a bit older.

The premise of Coraline is that Coraline likes to explore. While exploring, she find finds a door that opens to a brick wall, except sometimes it opens to another place. This place is occupied by her “other mother” who very much wants Coraline to stay with her forever.

When I first saw images of the movie adaptation, I was a bit confused as to how the story would be for younger children. I saw the black button eyes and promptly thought it was a scary story. To be fair, it is a bit scary, but the story is more about bravery. Taking action despite being scared in order to set things right. I think this book has a lot in common with another of Neil’s works titled The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which could arguably be a “Coraline-themed book for adults” but instead of arguing about it let’s just take that as a secondary recommendation and enjoy reading both of them.

I understand why so many readers love this story. I was not as enamored with it though which may partly have been influenced by knowing about the story before reading it, knowing how popular it was thus having (unconsciously) higher expectations, or simply being/feeling old while reading it. Honestly, it might not have been one I would have loved either way. I think I am more excited to read it to my daughter, and perhaps my two nieces, than I was when reading it alone, which may be the biggest reason I am recommending this book.

Perhaps you will find this book more to your liking, or you may find it at the right time like many others and have it be a source of bravery for you. I hope so. Either way, I hope you enjoy reading it or sharing it yourself.

Happy Reading.

Mythos

MythosI am a big fan of all kinds of mythology. I finally got around to reading Mythos which is Stephen Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths. Yes, Stephen Fry the comedian and actor. He even read/performs the audiobook, roughly 15 hours in length, which is how I made my way through this book. Though the overall story tells of a history of the world, it is a collection of smaller stories which makes it is easy to find stopping points or pick up without getting lost even when many stories build upon or reference earlier ones. I really enjoyed listening to Fry tell these stories and recommend the audiobook version though any version will prove entertaining and enlightening.

One thing I really enjoyed about Fry’s retellings was his method of showing how each story influenced the world we live in. He does so primarily by telling how certain words derived from or retain connections to the myths. You can certainly tell that he, perhaps with some assistance, conducted thorough research into these myths and enjoyed not only telling the stories but showing how they continue on.

It is commonly known that many of the Greek myths, or rather the problems at their center, stem from Zeus’s inability to keep it in his pants. This is of course true, but there is a lot more to the myths and there was much from this volume that was new to me. There were several stories I had not heard before and many characters I had known about but did not fully know their backgrounds or origins. For example, I knew the standard interpretation or general reference to Sisyphus, but I knew practically nothing else about him. Now I do and I feel much better about it for some reason. The same goes for many others including those who came before the more common Greek gods. I knew of Chronos and his relation to Zeus but I did not know his origin or those who existed before him. I did not recall how humans came to be via Greek myth but now I know that too. Thank you Prometheus.

There is so much depth and richness (both fascinating and horrifying) to the Greek myths and they greatly influenced, and continue to influence, much of the world. They are arguably the most well-known of the world mythologies and many stories today are influenced or reference them. There are of course those that directly relate to or incorporate the Greek gods such as the Percy Jackson series (that I have yet to look into), but there are many that are more subtly influenced by these myths. Fry has published additional myth-related books and I may eventually read, or listen, to them.

If you are a fan of mythology, history, or just interesting stories, then this is a book for you.

Happy Reading.

Fall Reading Lineup

Fall is here and I am wrapping up my final few classes which means I (should) have more time for some reading. My last post showing my intended upcoming reads was August and I am still working through one of them, the Sandman comic series, which I took a hiatus on reading once my current classes began. I am roughly halfway through the 3 volume omnibus set and will certainly finish the series by the end of the year. That being said, here are a few others I hope to read in the next few months.

The Foundation Trilogy Book CoverI am current reading The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. I just finished the first book and hope to finish up the next two in the next few weeks. I was prompted to start this series due to the premiere of the television adaptation though it may be some time before I actual watch the series. I am definitely intrigued by the story and look forward to seeing how it all wraps up. The structure is a bit lacking and characters are short-lived/lack depth but this is likely due to the story spanning 1,000 years.

Coraline Book CoverA smaller book I’ve been meaning to read is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Since we are now entering spooky season, it is prime time I finally read it. I’ll likely read this one after I finish The Foundation. I may watch the film as well once I read the book. I always hear good things about this story.

The Graveyard Book CoverAnother Neil Gaiman book I might finally read, since it was bought alongside Coraline and corresponds to the spooky season, is The Graveyard Book which I also hear great things about. These two came in a three-pack of Gaiman’s books as illustrated by Chris Riddell. The third is Unfortunately, The Milk which I may read because it is short and came alongside these other two. We will see.

Cloud Cuckoo Land book coverThough I may wait until after the books above, I am a bit excited to read Anthony Doerr’s new book Cloud Cuckoo Land which I picked up recently because my book purchasing habits way outperform my reading habits due to time constraints. Regardless, I loved Doerr’s previous novel All The Light We Cannot See which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It was my first, and so far only, work by Doerr I’ve read so I’m looking forward to this one. I will likely look for his other works as well.

These may occupy my reading for the remainder of the year since I still have one more class after the two I will wrap up after next week. I may find room for more, and of course I will be writing recommendations for each book if I like them and think you should check them out. Of course, I’m always interested to hear what you may be reading or looking forward to read. Feel free to send me a cover or a message either here or on Twitter at @YarberWrites.

Happy Reading.

Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun book coverShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe is a collection of short stories by various authors who have been influenced, professionally or personally, by the literary master that is Gene Wolfe. The collection also includes two short stories not previously published by Gene Wolfe himself. This collection was released in 2013 and several of those who contributed are authors I really enjoy, and there were many I had never read before but will likely look into their work after reading their stories in this collection.

What I really enjoyed about this collection, ironically enough, were the unintended stories. Each author who contributed a short story also provided a short commentary about Gene himself, which really gave this collection its intended purpose. Yes, each story was inspired by or related to Gene’s work with several even taking place within a world Gene created or included characters he imagined, but it was amazing to see how Gene influenced each storyteller. Many knew Gene personally and had fun stories to tell about him or something he did whereas a few had never met him in person but had an anecdote to share nonetheless.

To my knowledge, there currently are no biographies about Gene Wolfe, though I hope one does come out as I would love to know more about him. Gene passed away in 2019 at the age of 87. I wish I had discovered his work before his passing, but that is the great thing about books. You can discover and be greatly influenced by works written years, decades, or even centuries before. Some say history has a way of filtering the mass amounts of art and only allow the best to persist through the ages. I would not be surprised if Gene Wolfe is read for centuries to come. His work has found me and will persist at least throughout my lifetime as I will continue to read everything of his I can find. I chanced upon this collection at my local library’s annual book sale. Some of the best books are those you find by chance. In fact, many authors in this collection found Gene’s work by chance, and they recognized it as uniquely masterful upon discovery. I had the same experience and his books quickly became treasured tomes on my shelf.

If you have yet to find Gene’s work, perhaps this can be your reason to give it a chance. I hope you like it if you do.

Happy Reading.