Secret Gardens

  Theodora Goss wrote something nice which made me think these things: 

  Diana Wynne Jones writes about the place where she grew up. Her parents ran an educational conference center, and there were three gardens on the grounds: one which was public, open to all, where the outside world was part of the goings-on. Everyday life took place there. She and her sisters played there. Then there was a formal garden: when you went there, it wasn't on the way to anything else. The flowers and trees and paths were all there for themselves, a bit more rare, a bit more graceful. Last there was a true Secret Garden, hidden behind walls, which was kept locked, and rarely visited by the children. In there were fruit trees, and mysterious statuary, and remarkably aggressive bees, all the carefully-tended vegetable plots. The remarkable Ms. Jones says that in all her books she strives to create those three gardens again. Every book has its outer grounds, where ordinary life happens. Might be pretty, might be plain, might need more tending, will always have odd bits of rubbish or lost toys or keys or similar discarded under bushes. Some books manage the second garden, where things are more carefully cultivated and strange things more likely to happen... but not all books have that third garden, the heart of any vivid experience, where anything could happen but where the pattern of the book, seemingly simple, is shown to be a tiny part of a vast fractal weather pattern, which the reader may never fully grasp no matter how many paths she wanders in it. No book can spend all its time in that third garden; the other two play their parts. But books don't feel like living things without at least showing you the garden gates, even if you can't get through them.

  I cannot understand why so few people have read Diana Wynne Jones's books. She should be a staple among fantasy readers and lovers of well-written books everywhere. There should be t-shirt, leggings, and duvet covers at WeLoveFine, and not just for HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE. Her posthumously published collection of essays and lectures, REFLECTIONS: ON THE MAGIC OF WRITING is a treasure box. Diana Wynne Jones and Shirley Jackson were soul sisters, and we lost both of them way too young. They both should have been magically pickled to live at LEAST a couple hundred years. Which is a story germ if I ever heard one.