Two Giants

I’ve been re-reading the Redwall series ever since Brian Jacques’ death. Thankfully, I own all of them but the most recent, so the biggest challenge in reading them has come from trying to remember the original published order instead of the chronological order I had them in on my shelves. Thank goodness for internet resources!

With the passing of Diana Wynne Jones, I’ve decided to intersperse the Redwall books (and the Flying Dutchman books, which I also own) with some of hers. I was going to start re-reading the Chrestomanci books, but I don’t own any of those, and somebody else at our library must have had the same idea, for the first two were checked out today when I looked. As was Howl’s Moving Castle, which was my second choice.

So I’m reading Enchanted Glass right now, and I have the collection of short stories Unexpected Magic to read as well. It’ll do until I can get my hands on the Chrestomanci books.

I came to Jones late – not until last year or the year before as a matter of fact. I’m not sure how I missed her as a kid – with my affection for Lloyd Alexander, E Nesbit, and others of like ilk, she would have been right up my alley.

Be that as it may, I have thoroughly enjoyed her books ever since I discovered them. Sometimes I have a hard time wrapping my head around what’s happening, and often the endings leave me feeling vaguely confused (or, in the case of Fire and Hemlock, completely and totally confused, and having to re-read the ending several times over to make any sense of it). But I like that. It’s not the same frustration I feel when I read Robin McKinley, and the first half is thrilling, I get bogged down in the second, and by the end I am so in the dark I barely remember the story I’m reading at all (though oddly enough I keep going back to McKinley, so there must be something compelling about that sort of writing, too).

I like having to think while I read. I like the sense of satisfaction when I’ve figured out the hidden twist (I was so very tickled when reading The Game because I got it before All Was Revealed); and I like, sometimes, knowing that the writer completely pulled the wool over my eyes.

The Redwall books are my comfort books. Not only have I read them a million times, they all follow the same pattern. I know exactly what is going to happen in each one, and reading them gives me a comforting sense that everything is right with the world, and whatever isn’t will work out eventually.

I’m so very, very sad that these two marvelous writers had to die at all, especially so close to each other, but I think that reading their books intertwined with each other is actually going to be very good, and very helpful for me as a writer, because it will be me a much clearer sense of their very different styles, and what each style accomplishes, and what I need to do in order to achieve a certain atmosphere for my books.

And hopefully in studying their styles I will start to break myself of my habit of over-using adjectives – something I didn’t even realize I did until I was working on the last few chapters of my LMM fanfic the other day, and discovered that I peppered it with adjectives all over the place. Not too bad for LMM fic, since she was also adjective-happy, but not a habit I want to indulge in for my own writings!

Are you familiar with Jacques and Wynne Jones? What do their books do for you? What are your “comfort” books, and what are your “mind-stretching” books? Which do you prefer in the Redwall series, hares or otters? And finally, what are some of your bad writing habits that you have a hard time shaking?

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