Saturday, March 28, 2009

London, vast and shadowy, towering against the purple city sky...

The DWJ book I'm reading at the moment is inventive. Instead of having wizards as the major power holders, she includes powers tied to the land and geography. My favourite bit so far has a tiny, almost non-existent village ( a rotten borough) called Old Sarum, meet and negotiate with the great city of London...

London had the strangest voice. Part of it was like the groan and clatter of thick traffic and the rest was a chorus of different voices, high, low and tenor voices, voices with very upper class accents, bass voices speaking purest Cockney, overseas voices, and every grade of voice in between. It was almost like hearing a huge concert...

"Who gave you your orders?" chorused London... in that dim light he seemed to have the strangest face. It was like the framework of a strong, noble face with other faces stuck into it. Part of one cheek was shifty. The end of one eyebrow and part of his mouth seemed to leer...

"I have never guaranteed safety," London replied, "nor wealth either."

"No, and your streets aren't really paved with gold neither," Old Sarum retorted, "All the respect in the world, your honour. Anything you say, But I don't have to tell someone who straddles a great river like you do that humans are just water under your bridges... they come, they go. You live on."

"We grew up for and by the means of human," London thumped out. He sounded like hammer on a building site.

I love the picture my mind makes of this scene. But something in me also responds to the idea. It reminds me of the power of a large community of humans. We are individuals and our choices are our responsibility and reflect our freedoms as well. But there is something collective about the choices we make that means that in groups our 'character' is larger than the sum of our parts, or something.

Makes me think of Israel and the kind of community they were (and still are) trying to be. And my own community in the little house I live in in Newy. And the wider communities I belong to: Cornerstone, my family, friends.

How would the characters of those communities be described if they were to appear in a novel?

Later London allows them passage into the city. With a rumbling chuckle he tells them that he will be with them all the way. Roddy (one of the main characters) watches as Old Sarum drives them through city streets.

And every time I glanced out of the open half of the window, I saw London's huge, shadowy figure wading among the houses beside us.

Extract from Diana Wynne Jones (2003) The Merlin Conspiracy, Harper Collins pp. 360-363

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