Sunday, August 22, 2010

Diana Wynne Jones: Archer's Goon

Let’s have a look at an entry draft that I started on February 1st, shall we? All I had written then was:

I read this to have something to read that wouldn't make me cry, and I have to say that it's perfect for that purpose. Archer's Goon has actually been filmed, too (extensive review here).

Now, it’s tempting to leave it at that. I could too, because the title is distinctive enough to allow me to remember it, and this blog is all about the purpose of me. But reading that Diana Wynne Jones is struggling with cancer and has decided to cancel her chemotherapy treatment means that I feel I owe her more. And now I am crying, a bit.

Howard Sykes, 14 years old, comes home from school one day to find a Goon in his kitchen, annoying the au-pair who can’t make tea with him in the way. He says that he needs to speak to Howard’s father, who owes Archer 2000, “and Archer farms this part of town”. It transpires that it’s not £2000 but 2000 words, that Howard’s father, a writer, for many years has sent off to the mysterious Archer. He thought it started as a joke, a cure for the writer’s block he was suffering at the time. Since he has other things to do now he thought he’d stop – and now the Goon is here to collect.

The Goon sticks around, and life gets stranger. Archer’s siblings turn up and start making trouble for the family. They all farm some part of town – transportation, crime, sewage, music and entertainment and so on. Howard and his sister start getting more and more entangled in their attempts to make that family leave their family alone. And in the end there is a twist to it that is totally unexpected and forces Howard to make a very difficult choice. Since it was ages ago that I read it I don’t remember names offhand (or the exact plotlines either), so forgive the haziness. But I do remember that I liked it. The idea that a world exists parallel to ours, or that the way we think things work are not the way things really work, is nothing new. But Wynne Jones always manages to make it seem fresh. “Farms this part of town” – that alone is quite brilliant. I raise my glass to you, Ms Wynne Jones.

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