Diana Wynne Jones has passed away at the age of 76. I had had no idea that she was ill. Apparently, at least as late as last summer she was still working on two books, which makes me think yet again how much I love authors as people, how much I admire their devotion to their creations and their readers.
While her books weren’t a big part of my childhood, apart from a brief love affair with The Dark Lord of Derkholm, I very much wish they had been – a later read of Howl’s Moving Castle had me cursing myself for not having read it when I was a bit younger. And regardless, I’ve always had a strong sense of her presence and influence in the worlds of fantasy and children’s literature, of her warmth and irreverence.
Part of what had me so shocked when Brian Jacques passed away was my longstanding impression that Redwall, as a world and as a series, could go on forever. For better or for worse, in the case of the series – to me the books began to seem unbearably repetitive somewhere around Taggerung. But regardless of the quality of the later books, and regardless of the criticisms of moral black-and-whiteness and so on, there was so much good in Redwall. And my impression always included my image of Jacques himself – the mousethief, loving, mischievous, honorable, stubbornly old-fashioned – as part of that good, that heartening sense of solidity, comradeship, and simple joy. I mean, come on, he was a bearded, twinkly-eyed former sailor. He started telling the Redwall stories to children at a school for the blind when he was working as a milkman. Repeat what I said above about loving authors as people.
This is perhaps a morbid thought, but all of this is making me want to hunt down the addresses of my most favorite children’s authors and send them letters to tell them how much they mean to me, while I still can.