strange_complex: (Tonino reading)
Very neatly, [livejournal.com profile] wig tagged me for this meme on LJ, and TAFKAK tagged me for it on Facebook on the same day last week. So I shall answer it in both places, but obviously LJ lends itself better to nice formatting and having space to make some actual comments about the books. I have taken the concept of the books 'staying with me' seriously, and thus listed ones which both meant a lot to me at the time of original discovery and to which I have returned regularly since. They are listed (as best as I could remember) in the order in which I first encountered them.

L. Frank Baum (1900), The Wizard of Oz
This stands for the whole series, of course. I was certainly quite obsessed with them by the age of six, and indeed a picture of me reading one of them to my friends on that birthday can be seen here. The 1939 film was important too, of course, and I'm pretty sure I had seen it by that age, but there were more of the books, with far more wonderful characters and adventures than the film could deliver. Dad used to read the books to me as bedtime stories, I used to read and re-read them myself, and of course there was a great deal of dressing up, playing at being characters from the books and so on with the very friends shown in the picture, and especially [livejournal.com profile] hollyione. A lifetime love of fantastical stories was to follow...

Alison Uttley (1939), A Traveller in Time
Did loads of other people read this as children? I don't hear it mentioned very often as a children's classic, but it was another big favourite of my childhood, and has literally stayed with me in the sense that I still have my copy of it. I haven't done that for many of my childhood books - though the Oz series are another exception. Doubtless one of the attractions all along was the fact that the main character, a young girl from the 20th century, is called Penelope. But also, time travel! While staying in a Tudor manor house, she repeatedly finds herself slipping back to its early days, and interacting with characters from the reign of Elizabeth I. Clearly at the roots of my love of both fantastical time travel stories, and the real-life dialogue between present and past.

Bram Stoker (1897), Dracula
Ha, I hardly need to explain this one right now, do I? See my dracula tag, passim, for details. First read, as far as I can tell, in early 1986, when I was nine years old, on the back of having seen the Hammer film the previous autumn. Left me with a love of all things Gothic, which has waxed and waned but never really left me ever since. As the wise [livejournal.com profile] inbetween_girl once said, you never really stop being a Goth. At best, you're in recovery. Or perhaps lapsed, would be another way of putting it.

Diana Wynne Jones (1977), Charmed Life
Initially read via a copy from the school library aged 9 or 10, this came back and 'haunted' me with memories of a book of matches, a castle and a strange magical man in my early 20s. By then, the internet was advanced enough to have forums where I could ask what the title of the book I was remembering might be, and to deliver an answer within a few hours. So I bought a copy, swiftly followed by copies of the other Chrestomanci books, and then copies of multiple other DWJ books (see my diana wynne jones tag for details). As an adult, I can see that the real appeal of DWJ's writing lies in the combination of her light yet original prose style, imaginative vision and sharp understanding of human interactions, but as a child I'm pretty sure it was all about the unrecognised magical powers and multiple interconnected magical worlds. As per the Oz books, I really love that stuff.

Gene Wright (1986), Horrorshows: the A-Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theatre
In 2010, Mark Gatiss presented a documentary series called A History of Horror, during which he held up a book about horror films which he had owned since childhood, and explained how it was his personal Horror Bible, which had opened up to him the wonderful world of the genre. From the reaction on Twitter, it instantly became clear that everyone who had grown up loving horror films before the emergence of the internet had also owned such a book, and this is mine. I bought it at a book fair in about 1987 or 1988, devoured it greedily, and have been faithfully ticking off every film in it which I have seen ever since. Of course, the internet has long rendered such books obsolete, and insofar as this one was ever comprehensive at the time of original purchase, it certainly isn't now. So it is utterly meaningless to tick off all the films in it, as though somehow the end goal is to tick off every single film in the book - at which time, I don't know, a fanfare will sound and a man in a rhinestone suit will pop out to tell me I've won a prize, or something? But I still add a tick each time I see a new film from within its pages anyway, because heck I have been doing so for 25 years, and I'm not going to stop now. Besides, it's not like I care about horror films made after 1986 anyway (I struggle to care about those made after 1976, TBH), so it doesn't matter to me that it is enormously out of date.

Douglas Adams (1979), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
First read c. age 11, and read at least another 8 times since. I know this because I have kept a tally of how many times I read it in the front of the book - classic geekish behaviour, of course. Once again, it's basically all about travel to wondrous other worlds, but this time instead of being magical (Oz, Chrestomanci), historical (A Traveller in Time), or supernatural (Dracula, everything else in Horrorshows), they are in space! It's not actually like I discovered adventures in space for the first time from Hitchhiker's, because of course I was also watching Doctor Who on a regular basis in parallel with all of this reading material, with which of course Hitchhiker's is intimately linked. But yeah - given everything else which has already appeared on this list, it is no big surprise that I loved Hitchhiker's.

C. Suetonius Tranquillus (c. AD 120), The Twelve Caesars
And now my list radically changes tack, because having established that I love stories about the fantastical, the rest of it is made up of books which mark key stages in the emergence of my academic interest in the ancient world. I am not, of course, unaware that this in itself also basically boils down to yet another interest in a wondrous other world, albeit one which actually existed in this case. Really, the mode of engagement is very similar - we have little snippets of information about the Roman world (texts, objects, places), just as we have little snippets of information about fictional fantasy worlds (texts, screen portrayals, merchandise), but there is also so much we don't know, and are at liberty to extrapolate from what we do. Plus the similar-yet-different qualities and the opportunity to compare and contrast can let us think about our own world in ways that just don't open up if we only think about it directly. And so I found a way to apply the thought-patterns and approaches I'd been developing from early childhood to something which grown-ups thought was admirable and serious, and which it was possible to acquire prestige and eventually even money through studying. As for Suetonius himself, he is here because he was one of the earliest ancient authors I really came to feel familiar with and fond of, mainly during A-level Ancient History. Tacitus may well be clever and sharp, but there is always a judgemental, sanctimonious undertone with him that I don't very much like. The things which interest Suetonius, by contrast, make him seem so utterly human - but there are also all sorts of clever structures and allusions to discover in his text on close reading, which together make him incredibly rewarding. I once literally hugged my Penguin copy of Suetonius to my chest as a sort of talisman when feeling alone, upset and in need of comfort. I can't really imagine anyone doing that with Tacitus.

J.B. Ward-Perkins (1991), Roman Imperial Architecture
One of the first books I bought about ancient material culture (as opposed to texts), in the context of a module on Roman architecture which I did in (I think) my second year as an undergraduate at Bristol. While strictly about buildings rather than cities, it nonetheless includes a lot of material about how those buildings fitted into the urban landscapes where they were located - unsurprisingly, since Ward-Perkins himself was really interested in cities first and architecture second, and wrote one of the earliest English-language books on the subject. So it is to this book which my interest in Roman urbanism can really be traced, and I still turn to it occasionally when I need to get to grips with a new (to me) city.

Christopher Hibbert (1987), Rome: the biography of a city
This one is from my third year at Bristol, and the best undergraduate module I ever did - Responses to Rome with Catharine Edwards and Duncan Kennedy, which was all about post-Classical responses to ancient Rome from the medieval period to the present day. I sat in those classes falling in love with Rome, and then went home to pore through this book and the wonders within. I still return to it in order to refresh my memory of medieval myths about the city's ancient past, Grand Tourism or fascist appropriations, all of which I have needed to do in the past few years.

Greg Woolf (1998), Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul
And finally, the book which I consulted most frequently while writing my PhD thesis. It had utterly redefined thinking about the relationship between Rome the state and its provincial populations, killing off tired old paradigms of 'beneficial imperialism' (think: What have the Romans ever done for us?) for good, so would have been important no matter what province I had used to look at the relationship between Roman ideas about the urban periphery and the reality on the ground in a provincial setting. But since I had chosen Gaul as my own main case-study anyway, it was gold-dust. Fifteen years later, it remains at the forefront of scholarly thinking on the topic, and thus still features regularly on my module reading lists, amongst my recommendations to research students, and indeed in the bibliographies of my own published works.

I'm not tagging anyone, because pretty much everyone in the world has done this meme already by now - but feel free to take this post as a prompt to do it yourself if you haven't and want to.

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strange_complex: (Chrestomanci)
I learnt via [livejournal.com profile] fjm this morning that Diana Wynne Jones has finally lost her long battle with cancer. She was easily my favourite children's author, and indeed quite probably my favourite living author full stop. The world will feel several shades greyer without her in it.

It's often said that the best children's literature works well for adults too, but that is a poor understatement in the context of Diana's books. I really can't think of any other author whose work had so much to offer whatever phase of life or state of mind the reader was in. I know that her books entranced and captured me as a child, even when I didn't always understand everything that was going on in them. I read Charmed Life in school around the age of ten, and long after I had forgotten its title, the name of the author or anything but the most rudimentary elements of the plot, it stayed with me and haunted me. Eventually I tracked it down as an adult and was amazed by how rich, insightful, honest and yet optimistic it was about childhood, and the relationship between children and adults, and the process of growing up. Now I know that that is par for the course with her work, and have a considerable stretch of book-shelf devoted to the pleasure of the discovery.

I was lucky enough to meet Diana at a reader's day in Bristol in 2006, and hear her talking about her work in general, and particularly Howl's Moving Castle and the forthcoming The Pinhoe Egg. So I did at least get a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed her work. I think, too, that given the passion and enthusiasm of her fan-base, she knew very well how universally she was loved and admired. But how sad, still, to know that that conversation is over now. :-(

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strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
Bought with the book token I won for participating in the Flash Fiction challenge at Mecon.

This is another sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, and for me a better one than Castle in the Air. Not to say the latter is bad, of course - it's just that this one has more of Howl, Sophie and Calcifer in it, returns to the gingerbread fairy kingdom setting of the first novel which I liked so much (though we're in High Norland now, not Ingary), and has a heroine I can relate to more easily. Actually, there's room to get cynical about just how relatable that heroine is: she's a sheltered daughter of Respectable Parents, who thinks she likes nothing better than escaping from the world into a good book, but actually turns out to be rather more competent and capable than she thinks when circumstances require. In other words, she is DWJ's primary readership with all their fantasies fulfilled. But for all that, she's so likeable and three-dimensional that you can't help but forgive the manipulation and fall for her all the same.

As the title implies, the book centres around a magical house (specifically, the cottage of High Norland's Royal Wizard) where space folds over itself in surprising ways, and from which you can get almost anywhere in the kingdom if you know exactly the right way to turn. It made me realise, actually, how particularly good DWJ is at architecture. There's hardly a single one of her books in which a castle, a mansion, a cottage or a hotel doesn't play a central role in the plot - and as a reader, I can see all of them in rich detail. I would recognise Chrestomanci Castle, Stallery Mansion, Hunsdon House, Derkholm or the Hotel Babylon, Wantchester. And the same goes for the landscapes around them, too. It isn't overblown, but the details of them seep into your mental picture bit by bit as you read - and I love that.

I was slightly distressed in this book to find that four characters ended up being turned into animals and then killed by dogs. OK, so they were evil, and lubbockins, and planning to take over the kingdom - but I'd rather hoped they might at least be imprisoned or exiled or turned into stone or something, rather than actually murdered. It wasn't quite what I expected from the Howlverse. Other than that, though, it's a delightful read, with all sorts of brilliant characters. And it seems I've read enough DWJ books now that I even nearly managed to guess the ending. I can't really say what I guessed or what was actually correct without creating spoilers - but suffice it to say that I was right to think that the little dog, Waif, would turn out to be More Than She Seemed.

In short, highly recommended. If you liked Howl's Moving Castle, you'll like this, but even if you haven't read it, this still stands alone very effectively.

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Tonino reading)
Having previously read Deep Secret and been rather underwhelmed by it, I bought this book on the simple grounds that I had a Waterstone's voucher, and it was the only book by DWJ in the shop that I didn't already have.

On the whole, I think my reaction to it was much the same as to Deep Secret. There are lots of individual elements in it that are good, like the fearsome-yet-avuncular Gwyn ap Nudd / Grandfather Gwyn; the depiction of the society in Loggia city; the personifications of Salisbury, Old Sarum and London; Romanov's island; the midnight salamander rescue; and the string of terrified children jumping between worlds in the wake of a goat. The narrative structure of swapping between the voices of Roddy and Nick worked very nicely, too, and I loved the way Collins (the publishers) had supported this by presenting growing patterns at the beginning of each new section of their stories - Celtic for Nick and floral for Roddy - which you eventually realise will merge into the dragon-figure shown on the front cover of the book.

But somehow, despite all this, I never quite managed to care about the central characters in the same way that I usually do when I read Chrestomanci books or Howl books. Perhaps it was the shared narration, dissipating any close identification with either Roddy or Nick? Or maybe it was the very use of the first person narrative? Paradoxically, I think it may actually be harder for DWJ to portray her trademark self-realisations and personal growth convincingly on behalf of her main characters when they're actually speaking for themselves. Somehow, pointing out the moments when the characters suddenly realise how they come across to others (e.g. Cat Chant) or how they really feel about another person (e.g. Sophie) actually works more convincingly in an authorial voice, I think.

Anyway, for all that, an enjoyable and diverting read, which certainly won't stop me reading more DWJ books in future.

DWJ day in brief

Tuesday, 13 June 2006 12:43
strange_complex: (Spike tied up)
Meep! I blatantly have no time to write up the DWJ day, and indeed my weekend in Bristol generally, because I have a friend coming to stay in half an hour, and when he leaves on Thursday, I'm straight off to Rome. So I'll try for a brief account, and aim to fill in more details from my notes at some later time.

The day started off with a group discussion on Howl's Moving Castle, led by a joint member of the Classics and English departments, who also turned out to be an LJer, and friend of a friend! All sorts of very interesting themes came up, especially about things turning out to be other than they seem, and quite a few emerged later in some of the things Diana herself said, too.

Then all four of the day's featured authors appeared for the first time, taking part in a panel discussion on writing and receptions of their work. I was very excited when Diana Wynne Jones was suddenly there in the room with us! And she said lots of interesting and insightful things, too.

Next was lunch, and finally the best bit of the day for me - another group session for people particularly interested in DWJ, in which she answered lots of our questions, and read a whole chapter from the next Chrestomanci book, The Pinhoe Egg!! I had told her earlier on in the day how excited I was about that book, while getting my copy of Howl's Moving Castle signed, but she'd merely commented at the time that she was afraid I'd have to wait until the autumn. So I had to fight hard to suppress a big SQUEEEEE!!! when it turned out we were actually going to hear an extract from it.

Two pictures of me getting my book signed )

After the DWJ day, I hooked up with Amy WINOLJ, and spent the rest of the weekend with her and her nearly-two-year-old, Holly. We had an excellent time, shared between playing with little Holly and snatching time for 'grown-up' chat while Holly was either a) distracted or b) being baby-sat by Any's sister, Milly. On the Saturday, we attended a street barbecue, watched Doctor Who (which Holly found scary, but still carried on watching anyway), went out for a nice Chinese meal, and then shared a few drinks in the Hatchet pub with Amy's friends Alex and [livejournal.com profile] strangesam before heading home.

Sunday saw bath-time for Holly, which she enjoyed apart from the bit where she had to have her hair washed, and then shopping in Sainsbury's to get pizza components. We taught Holly how to make her very own baby pizza, which she covered with mozzarella, sweet-corn and olives (which she calls 'Os'), and then Milly and her partner, Rob, came round to help us eat pizza and contribute salads and kebabs. After lunch we played a devious trick on Holly - a 'trip to the park' turned out to be a sneaky way to get her to fall asleep in her push-chair, so that we could go home again, and chat in the cool while she snoozed! And by then it was time for me to head off home on the train.

I am going to have to go and meet my friend at the station now, But I would like to add that a tiny baby squirrel is outside my window right now, scavenging for nuts and berries in my garden! Aww, teh cute!
strange_complex: (Purple and black phone)
Wow, Diana Wynne Jones day was excellent. She read from 'The Pinhoe Egg' (next Chresto book)! Took many notes, will write up soon.



strange_complex: (Tonino reading)
I'm going to Bristol tomorrow, and need to be there before 10am. I'd quite assumed I would need to catch a train at about 8am, possibly a shade earlier. But, thanks to a rather tedious gap in the timetable, I shall in fact have to catch one at 07:06 tomorrow morning. It's either that, or wait until 08:45, and be late for the thing I'm going to. *grumble*

Still, it will all be worth it, 'cos what I am going to is a day-long workshop at Bristol University's English Department, focussing on Diana Wynne Jones' book, Howl's Moving Castle. There'll be a morning discussion led by a member of the English dept, and then a lunch-time panel featuring Diana herself in conversation with three other authors also being covered by the day, and an afternoon session in which we get to ask her questions. I've never met her before, and am very excited. Any suggestions for questions to ask her are welcome! Shall be frantically re-reading Howl on the train tomorrow morning, and trying to think of a few goods ones of my own...

And, as if that's not enough, afterwards I shall be hooking up with my oldest friend, Amy WINOLJ, to spend the rest of the weekend with her and her cute-as-buttons daughter, Holly. There'll be a street barbecue happening, going out for food and drinks in the evening, and, of course, a scheduled slot for Doctor Who! Little Holly is already watching this with her Mum, at the tender age of nearly two - and she could hardly not be, since Mum is a former Bristol DocSoc president! Apparently, Holly doesn't much like the Ood, and needs reassuring that all is OK. But I think that will kind of add to the fun, bringing back memories of when Amy and I used to get scared by our Dads pretending to be various Dr. Who monsters. After all, what was Bristol's DocSoc officially called, if not 'Behind the Sofa'?

Yup, should be a good weekend.
strange_complex: (ITV digital Monkey popcorn)
Went to see Howl's Moving Castle (the subtitled version) last night at the Phoenix, despite the hideous cold and the loooooong day. It was certainly worth going to see, if only because, having read the book, I was curious to see how it would translate into anime. But definitely odd.

Overall, the film had most of the episodes, characters and plot elements that the book does, but they had been put together in such a different way that the effect was rather like looking at a familiar scene through a warped stained-glass window. Or perhaps like one of those things in the Times where they take a familiar English idiom, and put it through Babelfish a couple of times, to get something like 'They cannot inform an old dog of new turns'.

This isn't surprising when you take a story written for British children by a quietly imaginative and wickedly humorous Welsh woman and turn it into an anime film, though. The changes do have their own kind of charm, and I found the visualisations of the kingdom of Ingary really delightful.

My big difficulty, though, was the character of Howl. In the book, he's endearing because, despite being rakishly good-looking and a powerful wizard, he's also very young and uncertain of himself. In fact, he's basically a troubled teenager (although supposed to be in his 20s). He's sulky, self-absorbed, thoughtless, directionless, undisciplined, cowardly, vain and lazy. Yet he's also spontaneously kind and generous and secretly unhappy about his own short-comings. And alongside all that, he's very human and vulnerable: he gets drunk, he has a cold, he argues with his family, he gets frustrated, upset or afraid. And all of this is both why Sophie (and a high proportion of DWJ's female readers) falls in love with him, and, more importantly, why she doesn't realise she has until almost the end of the book

In the film, this complex cocktail doesn't come across at all. Film!Howl just seemed like something out of a slightly unsettling fairy tale, and certainly not human in the least bit. He throws some of the same moods as book!Howl, but they're meaningless - they don't add any extra depths to his character, but are just things he does, which are forgotten the next minute. And Sophie is bowled over by him after their first meeting! She may be slightly scared of him at times in the film, but never annoyed or exasperated with him, and so again it seems vapid and meaningless when they fall in love, rather than the cumulation of a long drawn-out process of development for their two characters.

In the end, the most important thing the film did for me was to make me go home and start reading the book again. I'd always meant to anyway, because I've yet to encounter the DWJ book which didn't reward at least one re-reading. Not perhaps quite what Hayao Miyazaki may have intended. But no complaints here.
strange_complex: (La Dolce Vita Trevi)
Saturday night in Oxford saw a bunch of us heading for Chicks with Decks, a sort of Indie / Punk / 80s night at the Cellar Bar: the same low-ceilinged venue as for Intrusion. [livejournal.com profile] redkitty23 and [livejournal.com profile] secutatrix sadly couldn't make it, and were sorely missed, but we did have [livejournal.com profile] edling, Cat, aef, [livejournal.com profile] violetdisregard, Spiky Neil, Jenny and even Hugh and Zara up from London.

Oxford nights )

So, all in all, a decent enough night, but I must say the texts I got from [livejournal.com profile] damien_mocata when I got home, describing the crazy antics of the Belfast crowd, made me rather wish I'd spent the evening there instead...

An easy solution to this problem )

In other news, I'm on a big Tom Lehrer kick at the moment. I've had the whole of 'In Concert' for ages, ripped very kindly from [livejournal.com profile] mr_flay, but decided that a good way to celebrate getting my net connection back would be to download some of his other particular gems which don't happen to be on that album. So I have been, and I leave you now with my current Tom Lehrer top five, as represented by couplets from their lyrics: A few seconds wasted with Tom Lehrer ) It's also worth noting that I found a flash animation of his song, The Elements while checking I had those lyrics right. Anyone who has ever grappled with the Periodic Table should click on it, now! *tootles off to watch it again*
strange_complex: (Chrestomanci)
I did finish Conrad's Fate last night, as I had expected to. My final verdict is that it was a real delight to read, and it is now my third favourite in the Chrestomanci series1. Since no-one on my friends list will have read it (with the exception of [livejournal.com profile] pickwick who, like me, bought an advance copy on Ebay), and a few might want to, I shall note down my impressions of it in general terms, without giving away plot details.

Some of the book's themes will be familiar to DWJ fans of old: neglectful or dead parents, overbearing older siblings, a central child character who gets manipulated by adults intent on their own interests, and that same child character having unrealised magical abilities (although this latter is, I was pleased to see, much less central to the plot than it is in Charmed Life, The Nine Lives... or The Magicians of Caprona). But none of this is to say by any means that she is simply re-treading old ground: rather, she's bringing in enough that is familiar to make the book recognisably part of the Chrestomanci series, while also introducing enough that is new and playing around enough with her own formulae to make it feel fresh and exciting.

On a very basic level, this is the first Chrestomanci novel to be set entirely outside Series 12. This wouldn't necessarily count as a literary leap in its own right, but it seems to come hand in hand with some new explorations of the concept of the related worlds, which are very welcome, and build nicely on ideas developed in Witch Week2. Can't really say what those explorations entail here: you must learn the full meaning and implications of 'pulling the possibilities' along with Conrad.

Another change is the use of the first-person narrative voice. This I liked because it gave DWJ greater scope for exploring both the confusion and the hurt felt at various stages by the main character, and also because it helped to make the prolonged tension between Conrad's imperfect understanding of what was going on around him and the actual situation (itself another classic DWJ device) all the more convincing.

Other notable features included some interesting playing about with the theme of acting (both in the regular sense and more metaphorically), a cast of consistently complex and three-dimensional characters and, of course, Diana's apparently effortless, yet rich and melodic, prose style.

All in all, I'm definitely glad I bought it: not just because I was right to believe it was a pleasure which should be enjoyed as soon as humanly possible, but because I'm proud to own a proof copy of a book which I now know to be truly excellent. I'll almost certainly buy an official copy once it is published on March 7th, as I very much feel Diana deserves my contribution to her royalty cheques. But I may just wait to do so until I've moved to wherever I go next after Belfast, as it's just silly to buy a book I've already read now, when I could wait until I've moved again.

-------------
[1] The complete order for me is now: 1) Charmed Life, 2) The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant, 3) Conrad's Fate, 4) Witch Week, 5) The Magicians of Caprona (although even that is still very good). Mixed Magics is unclassified, because I like some of the stories in it better than others, with 'The Sage of Theare' probably being my favourite.

[2] Although the suggestion in the last chapter that someone who stays too long outside their native Series will 'fade' is a) a bit reminiscent of Philip Pullman and b) not logically consistent with the amount of time Millie seems to have lived in Series 12 by the time of The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant.

strange_complex: (Chrestomanci)
Someone on [livejournal.com profile] dianawynnejones today posted up a link to a PDF file containing the first chapter (16 pages) of Conrad's Fate, which is due to be published on March 7th.

It looks extremely promising, and delightfully fresh in both style and content (i.e. no rehashing of an old idea to sell books, here). Most surprising to me was the discovery that it is written in the first person, our narrator being the eponymous Conrad. I know this is a first for the Worlds of Chrestomanci series, and I can't think of any other DWJ books I've read before which use the same device (although there are plenty I haven't read).

Plot so far seems to be about tactful cut in case you'd rather discover for yourself ) There's also a rather charming reference to a series of children's books which Conrad likes to read with titles such as Peter Jenkins and the Headmaster's Secret, Peter Jenkins and the Hidden Horror and Peter Jenkins and the Magic Golfer. Naughty old Diana! ;)

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