J K Rowling and the Cauldron of Critics

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Windwalker
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Postby Windwalker » Sun Aug 12, 2007 12:58 pm

Christopher Hitchens does a quasi-global review of Harry Potter in today's NY Times. A graduate of public school regimes himself, he writes with his usual acerbic perceptiveness.

On a related note, the first of the three Philip Pullman novels (The Golden Compass from His Dark Materials) has been filmed and the first posters are starting to show up. Given the uncompromising nature of the works, I wonder what the movie will be like.
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That has subsisted on defiance and visions.

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Postby intrigued_scribe » Wed Aug 29, 2007 9:44 pm

Windwalker wrote:

Given the uncompromising nature of the works, I wonder what the movie will be like.


I'm curious myself, especially as I'm not familiar with the works, but the trailer looks promising.

Heather

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Postby Windwalker » Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:30 pm

intrigued_scribe wrote: ... but the trailer looks promising.

Agreed -- though I would have picked different actors for Lyra's parents/antagonists. Jason Isaacs and Julia Ormond, for example (there are other equally good candidates... but this is no longer negotiable).

In the theatrical version of the full trilogy at the National Theater, Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter were played by Timothy Dalton and Patricia Hodge, both powerful, magnetic presences. That adaptation, in its use of Kabuki- and gamelan-like conventions (life-size puppets, masks) was similar to the Art Repertory Theater's mesmerizing The King Stag. I was tempted to fly to London just to see it, but something intervened (probably a grant deadline!) and I had to be content with galleries of stills.
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Rowling Redux

Postby Marie » Fri Aug 31, 2007 8:47 pm

As usual, another clever and extremely insightful composition by Caliban!

I too, have enjoyed Rowling’s Potterverse and am in agreement that the first 3 volumes sparked my interest. So much so, that I followed the link to the web site, got sorted into Gryffindor House, moseyed on over to Olivander’s to have my phoenix feather, maple 7 ½” wand choose me, accented my personal magical creature and even tried my hand at Quidditch. I am a total Squib so my witch qualifications are zilch. *laughs*

Since, I am not fortunate enough to have a reading partner with the same interest; vocalization of my favorite books is only an option with a cassette player. Needless to say, I don’t believe I have yet suffered the malady of a “stunted imagination” given the plethora of excellent material available between a volume’s bound sheets. Truth be told, I think it is a bit overactive. Most of the time, I speed read the larger books. By catering to the atmosphere, color and essence of the story instead of the grammatical structure and punctuation I can dispense with it in short order if my interest wanes. Reading is for pleasure not ponderous plodding. In Athena’s words, if it becomes an irritant "Fling It!"
(But if it is Potter’s #4 through #7 make sure nothing breakable is in the vicinity.)

I’d like to offer my humble opinion as well as a bit of criticism.

Indeed, most of Rowling’s main and some minor creations are vivid, in character and memorable. I found particular pleasure in that persnickety poltergeist Peeves myself.
J.K. is as comfortable with the unusual names such as Albus, Bellatrix, Dedalus, Nymphadora, Narcissa and Severus as to the common James, Harry, Ron, Ginny, Molly and Bill because they all fit seamlessly into her narratives. Even her teachers resemble their craft; most notably Professors Sprout in Herbalogy and Flitwick in Charms. But the best are her spells, jinxes, charms, curses and potions. The following are only a small example of her ability to mix up a little Latin to justify the meaning:

1. Lying is impossible after taking Veritaserum.
2. Your appearance changes with the Polyjuice Potion.
3. Ingesting gillyweed will give you aquatic capabilities.
4. With wands at the ready, the command “Petrificus Totalus!” renders a body stiff as a board.
5. Don’t plan to retain anything if someone aims “Expelliarmus” in your direction.
6. The Cruciatus Curse will prostrate you writhing in agony.
7. And the finality of “Avada Kedavra!” leaves nothing to the imagination.

There are multi-layers in her outlines that urge the reader to relish the sub-plots as well as the crux of the saga. These little tidbits helped me get through the most weighty of the Series – Book 5,” Order of the Phoenix” which is the present film. It was cut and pasted unmercifully and I took “umbrage” to that with every pun intended, Professor!

I completely concur with Caliban that the punctuation and sentence structure left me biting my lip in irritation. My biggest bone of contention was her use of double sized capital letters for emphasis as Harry and associates bellow, cry, holler, roar, scream or yell. You can be just as forceful in standard print too. Sheesh!
Also, paragraphs of perfectly complete sentences separated by 3, 4 or five series of periods. I assume she thought it would be a breathless objective for emphasis.
I will post only one example but the books are fraught with these horrible breaks in syntax. This is copied exactly from the novel and even the dots are not consistent. It is a scene from the film as well so it is not a spoiler. Here, Harry’s mind is projecting from that of Voldemort’s snake Nagini:

His body felt smooth, powerful, and flexible. He was gliding between shining metal bars, across dark, cold stone….He was flat against the floor, sliding along on his belly…..It was dark, yet he could see objects around him shimmering in strange, vibrant colors….He was turning his head….At first glance, the corridor was empty…but no…a man was sitting on the floor ahead, his chin drooping onto his chest, his outline gleaming in the dark….Harry put out his tongue….He tasted the man’s scent on the air….He was alive but drowsing…sitting in front of a door at the end of the corridor…Harry longed to bite the man…but he must master the impulse….He had more important work to do….

Nevertheless, I can overlook most of Rawling’s unedited bad habits and concentrate on her charming narrative bolstering the relevance of relationships, depth of character, honesty, trust and self-sacrifice. Although, this may cause some to consider it a marathon exercise, it will be well worth your while. The results will definitely outweigh the toil.

In many interviews, Rowling has indicated that Harry Potter will not return to Hogwarts. This is very true from the epilogue of Book 7. However, the Potter name will not be lost to the archives of that magical institution. Offspring tend to resurrect the antics of their progenitor. We shall see if this does not open another door to the tale. 8)

My thanks to Caliban for posting this essay and giving me the opportunity to voice my sentiments, and to Athena for her thoughtful interjections which gave us food for some serious discussion. I always seem to benefit from observations on this site whether it be knowledge or a lead on a good book. I have just purchased Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”series, and hope to it is as satisfying. It made my very long standing membership in the Science Fiction Book Club worth the effort.


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