Tuesday, 29 March 2011

We Will Not See Their Like... Celia Rees


I was shocked, as I expect many who read this blog will have been, by the death of Diana Wynne Jones. I'm not a devoted fan, I will confess that now, so anyone who was planning to write their own obit. can feel free, but nevertheless, I mourn her loss. She was one of those writers that one simply thought would always be there, somewhere, a necessary presence, there to remind us of what fantasy should be like, can be like if you know enough, think enough, write hard enough, a reminder to fantasy writers of what they should be trying to attain. She was a writer of endless inventiveness, originality and imagination, an inspiration, acknowledged or not, to later generations of writers. She knew fantasy inside out and the mythos on which it is largely based, because of that, she knew how hard it is to be original. For me, originality is the hallmark of really great fantasy and Diana Wynne Jones had it in spades.



Taking a leaf from the Bookwitch's blog and adopting a bit of serendipity, going off at a bit of a tangent, I'll admit to another shock this week, with the death of Elizabeth Taylor. Again, I've never been a great fan of hers, but like Diana, I just always thought that she would be there, somewhere, being impossibly beautiful and sultry, a last reminder of a lost world of Hollywood glamour when stars were stars. I read Camille Paglia's article in yesterday's Sunday Times, mourning the loss of 'Hollywood's last great goddess of erotic power' and found myself wondering with her at the contrast between Elizabeth Taylor, the 'pre-feminist woman', and the 'skeletal, pilates-honed, anorexic silhouettes' of modern female stars, like Gwyneth Paltrow, Keira Knightley and most others that you could name. As though, somehow, Hollywood has rejected the depiction of real women in favour of androids.


I don't suppose that Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Wynne Jones will appear together anywhere else, but isn't that what ABBA is for? Nostalgia is probably just another word for getting old, but for me the world will be much the poorer for the loss of these two very different women.

9 comments:

Stroppy Author said...

So true, Celia. I'm also not a dyed-in-the-wool DWJ fan, as I'm not that big on fantasy, but such a sad loss. Both sad losses.

catdownunder said...

I am not keen on a lot of fantasy but I did enjoy DWJ - her description of Sophie's aches and pains is entirely real too!

Linda Strachan said...

Lovely post Celia.

Katherine Langrish said...

Great post, great women. I heard - did you? - that Elizabeth Taylor left instructions for her coffin to arrive 15 minutes late at the church. She said she wanted to be late for her own funeral.

That is style.

adele said...

Thanks Celia....I agree with what you say. I never met Diana W-J but did meet Liz Taylor (that famous production of Dr. Faustus in Oxford in the Sixties!) and can report that Richard Burton used to call her DUMPY as a nickname. She was extremely beautiful, but had reassuringly SHORT legs. Hence, I guess, the name....

Lynne Garner said...

I'll admit I've never read any of Diana's books. However having just looked at her vast book list I'm going to add her to my reading list. It is sad to think fans will never be able to experience the thrill of reading a new book by her but at least they can still enjoy the legacy she has left.

Celia Rees said...

Thank you, Adele, for sharing that - good to know she wasn't perfect! I'm going to go back to DWJ's books also. What better tribute can you give a writer than to read or re-read her work?

bookwitch said...

On another blog I found this photo of Elizabeth Taylor, which I found as wonderful as the blogger did.
http://annikabryn.blogs.se/2011/03/26/bilden-10892651/
You don't need to read it, just look at the photo.

Meg Harper said...

I haven't read any of Diana's books either but know her talent through the wonderful film Howl's Moving Castle, which I thoroughly recommend.

Speaking of films, I was startled recently watching 'Some like it Hot'. Marilyn Monroe, like Liz Taylor, is utterly stunning - and by today's standards, positively porky - but looks so much more luscious than today's twiglets.