Posted by: HAT | November 14, 2014

Food for Fantasy

Cover of The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton

The fantastic notion of late fall

Hi, Gang!

Here in southern Indiana, there are still a few beautiful orange, red and tawny leaves clinging to tree limbs, especially the Bradford pears, but most of the woods are now dark grey pen-and-ink sketches on an increasingly monochrome sky. This happens every year around this time – past Halloween, not yet Thanksgiving. And when it does, there is a moment when I say to myself, and to anyone who happens to be in the car with me, “It reminds me of The Diamond in the Window.” (Both of my family members will attest to this.)

I don’t know why the paradigmatic look of late fall is a permanent symbol of that wonderful book in my still-twelve-years-old-I-guess mind. Maybe because the cover of the book I read had a picture of a late fall scene on the cover. Maybe because the book reaches its climax around this time, so that metonymically I condensed the full density of the text into that season. (I found this out when I re-read the book trying to solve this personal puzzle.) Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in a deciduous world, so that one of the few places I had experienced this aesthetic was fiction, and The Diamond in the Window was the best-remembered and best-loved representative of such fiction.

Whatever, as food for fantasy Jane Langton’s book has proved in my experience both delicious AND “stick-to-your-ribs.” Magic, mystery, a great main character who was a girl, an exotic location (New England, with its four seasons), delight. It is also legitimately “utopian discourse,” as it incorporates explicit admiration for the Transcendentalists. I have been gratified to learn that it is on other people’s lists of all-time favorites. Consequently, prior plot summaries abound online (e.g. Bella’s and Sheila’s), and it’s available on Google Books for preview.

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