Stephen Fry Recordings of Harry Potter?

A letter in my inbox this morning:

Hi John, 

My husband and I listen routinely to Jim Dale’s reading of the HP series. I wanted to also listen to the English version read by Stephen Fry.

I clicked on a website about buying a set and it took me to an obvious dark web site that started downloading something on my computer and flashing multiple popups of porn content. An unpleasant experience and scary to boot. I am now spooked about searching for it.  My local library doesn’t have it.

Do you have a suggestion for a reliable site and a reasonable price?

Thought I would ask the guru of all things Harry Potter! Thank  you!

Kathleen

Great question, Kathleen, and one I really wish I had an easy answer to. The site you refer to is akin to the HPAudioBooks.club website, the first thing to pop up in a google search for ‘Harry Potter Stephen Fry.’ It offers you the audiobooks read by Fry for free — in exchange for access to your computer’s inner workings and all your data. Some deal!

It used to be that you couldn’t buy the Fry recordings in the United States because Bloomsbury did not have publishing rights here, Scholastic did (and does), and Scholastic published the Jim Dale recordings. This agreement held over into the Audible versions available via Pottermore. End of story unless you purchased the Fry books through Amazon.co.uk as CDs and paid the trans-atlantic shipping fee (still an option if you’re willing to sign up for a UK Amazon membership). Which was tough for families that routinely listen to Dale while driving on long trips or fans who work out while tuned in to Harry’s adventures.

It seems, though, that this barrier has been relaxed, albeit at a price. The complete Stephen Fry readings of the seven Harry Potter novels can be had via Amazon for ~$275, more than 100 CDs at more than $350 off the list price. That’s no bargain if you don’t like CDs and if you’ve purchased the Audible audiobooks as read by Jim Dale for $15 each, the whole set instantly downloaded for just over $100 (and plenty of us are doing just that; 7 of the top 11 fiction books this week at Amazon.com are the PotterMore print and audio editions of Harry Potter).

Nota bene: I don’t know if that Fry ‘Complete Set’ will be available for long. It is listed as a ‘paperback’ which seems a dodge on the Amazon system controls to keep the Bloomsbury audiobooks off the American market. If you want a set and don’t live close to the Canadian border (the Fry recordings can be bought anywhere in Canada… Travis Prinzi raves on Fry’s recordings over Dale’s — he lives in Rochester, NY, so getting them did not require even a long drive for him), you may want to make the purchase promptly.

I’m no expert in this sort of thing so I open the floor to the HogPro All-Pros and whatever suggestions they may have for Kathleen and her desire to buy some Stephen Fry audiobooks. Do you know of any deals Kathleen can use to get copies of the Fry audiobooks?

Two quick Stephen Fry notes: (1) The “he pocketed it” story and (2) it was Fry who took Rowling to ‘Pratt’s Club’ in London where Cormoran Strike meets Jasper Chiswell (and Pratt’s is not happy about it?).

‘Hunger Games’ Theme Park in China

I am a fan-boy for everything Suzanne Collins writes. I loved her five Gregor the Overlander books, I think that The Hunger Games trilogy is as good and in some ways better than Harry Potter, and I’ve even read and enjoyed Year of the Jungle.

I have, though, only seen the movie adaptation of Collins’ first Hunger Games novel; I thought that film so bizarrely tone-deaf to everything that book was about — an assault on the Gamesmakers of the Capitol-ist regime today — that I avoided the next three movies made by the Gamesmakers to celebrate Gamesmakers as the real heroes of the Resistance. See ‘Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again’ for more on that. 

As unfortunate and perhaps inevitable as the beyond satire ‘transformation in adaptation’ experience to be had in the movie making of Collins’ anti-Gamesmakers novels, today I learned that Lionsgate has opened a Hunger Games theme park in the People’s Republic of China.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some of Lionsgate’s most popular film franchises from “Hunger Games” to “Twilight” will be brought to life when the studio opens what it calls the world’s first vertical theme park in China this summer.

Lionsgate Entertainment World will offer several adventures including a virtual reality motorcycle ride based on “Twilight,” a maximum-security prison breakout like in “Escape Plan” and a replica of The Capitol lobby from “Hunger Games,” complete with shops where guests can fashion themselves in the film’s distinctive couture….

Based on the four-part film series starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, park goers will journey through a motion simulator 3D ride experience called The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Flight Rebel Escape. It starts on the streets before riders board a vehicle that gets picked up by a hovercraft that flies through The Capitol.

Guests will also have the opportunity to venture around the lobby area of The Capitol where they can get their hair, makeup and even nails done to look like a citizen of the “Hunger Games” films, including the look of chaperone Effie Trinket.

Restaurants will feature a “Hunger Games”-themed menu with different dishes inspired by the film’s various districts.

A movie-adaptation of The Hunger Games is guaranteed to be an exercise in irony.

A theme park where paying customers line up to become citizens of the Capitol is at least an exponentially more difficult trick to pull off without contradicting the message of the stories.

And a theme park in China? C’mon.

This would be the People’s Republic of China with a million or more Muslims in concentration camps, the China that is using facial recognition software and social media tracking and accounting to police the behavior of its citizens, and the China that has “relaxed” its one child program — and continues to force women to have abortions, a procedure of government sanctioned and sponsored violence-akin-to-rape and murder. The China that is a living, dynamic, totalitarian-state nightmare and Orwellian hell. It is The Capitol and paranoid police-state District 13 of Collins’ dystopian novel rolled into one and writ larger than even the United States, Collins’ more obvious target in her book series.

This China is where Lionsgate is building a theme park with Hunger Games rides, on which park-goers, playing the part of Resistance Rebels, tour the Capitol — and can get made-up to play the part of the citizens of the Capitol. You know, the people for whom the Hunger Games, the last-man standing contest of tribute-children from the Districts murdering one another in state-sponsored entertainment, are designed as reality television programming.

This theme park is so far beyond satire as to be physically sickening. I want very much to believe that Suzanne Collins has nothing to do with this but have to ask myself if that isn’t risibly naive on my part.

New Deluxe Illustrated ‘Goblet of Fire’

Charles Dickens pretty much invented the profit-taking side of publishing new editions of his books for extra cash for only new packaging. Bloomsbury and Scholastic, though, with their new covers editions of the seven Harry Potter novels and the versions color-coded for each Hogwarts house are at least as shamelessly returning to the Potter well for a fresh infusion of fan dollars and pounds.

The latest round is Bloomsbury’s “Deluxe Illustrated” hardcover edition of Goblet of Fire in slipcase, illustrations by Jim Kay. No collection of Potter books will be complete without it. The deluxe book, if ordered today, comes with a “black tote bag with gold foil” and the Illustrated, plebian edition with a “cream tote bag.” The one you want costs £127 which translates to ~$160 US.

The twist beyond that price point? It’s only for sale in the UK, Republic of Ireland, Ireland, and Australia.

This offer is open to UK and ROI residents only, while stocks last. Terms & Conditions apply. If you are located outside of the UK/Republic of Ireland please order Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition here, or the Deluxe Illustrated Edition here. Please note, if you are located in United States or the Phillippines, unfortunately we do not have rights to sell the book with title “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Illustrated Edition“.

Note in those gifs from the twitter announcement that both the Bloomsbury and the WizardingWorld logos are included in the bottom corners. It seems that Scholastic has been shut out of this alliance at least temporarily so that the only North Americans who can shell out for the slipcase book and black tote “with gold foil” will be citizens of Canada and Mexico that have cash to burn.

No big deal, I guess, unless you are an American who collects Potter editions — and I have to suspect that, as collectors, they are used to, even excited about, this kind of challenge. No doubt the more avid of this set of Potter-philes have friends or fellow collectors in the UK , ROI, or down under with whom they have mutual assistance agreements for exclusive release or limited edition products and books.

Will you be missing this chance to buy the Deluxe Illustrated edition? If you live in the privileged countries, have you ordered your book and tote? Let me know in the comment boxes below!

Rowling’s Outline of Order of the Phoenix: What Does It Really Tell Us?

Whenever I give a talk to a larger group about the ring composition structure of Rowling’s various works, inevitably someone asks about the piece of notebook paper Rowling has made public, a one-sheet snapshot of her chapter by chapter breakdown of what happens when in the various plot threads in Order of the Phoenix. If you haven’t seen it, it looks like this:

That’s pretty hard to read, right? Fortunately the mavens at The Harry Potter Lexicon have created a transcription that is crystal clear legible on a page devoted to this outlineThey include the helpful information that the picture of this piece of paper was posted at Rowling’s original website with the explanatory note, ““Part of the umpteenth revision of the plan of ‘Order of the Phoenix’… Some of the Chapter Names changed and there are a few ideas that didn’t make the final draft.”

C. S. Plocher of The FriendlyEditor.com and WriteLikeRowling.com has taken this transcription-to-legibility process one step further. Check out her fascinating ‘How Rowling Revised Order of the Phoenix post in which she not only shares her transcription of the page Rowling had put up but her color coded guide to what of this plan survived, what changed, and what never made it to Phoenix.

Wild! That is some invaluable grunt work and follow-through for which every serious reader of Harry Potter should be grateful. I certainly am.

But what does it tell us about Rowling as a ring writer? Three things (at least).

(1) It’s obviously true that she works from a plan. This is not the work of a ‘pantser’ that lets her characters tell their story as she writes.

(2) There are no chapter correspondences noted on the page, i.e., it is not a confirmation of Rowling as ring writer. The chapters included on this one sheet, 16 to 29, include the story center (19), and the parallel chapters fore and aft (16-17 with 22-23, 18 and 21, and 19 to 20; see Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cyclepp 79-82, 142-143), so, if this was Rowling’s principal concern as a writer, you’d expect there to be some lines or notes making these connections.

(3) That being said, I think the chiastic phrase “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” is appropriate here. There are no notes about the alchemical structure of the work here, of the Christian content, or of literary allusion and her intratextuality, that is, references to correspondences with Philosopher’s Stone and with Prisoner of Azkaban. But all those things are embedded and make up the less-visible structure and scaffolding both of the book itself and the series of which it is a part.

My conclusion? It’s a fun chart and Rowling historians in future years, especially if they gain access to more of her drafts and outlines, will no doubt make a lot of it, even more than C. S. Plocher has. But the plot outline and sequencing, a kind of check-list preliminary for the story to make sure everything proceeds without a major glitch (as happened in the writing of Goblet) tells us very little about the writer’s formalist and iconological artistry which are under-the-hood, beneath the story-line.

That is Rowling’s greater achievement and to suggest that her tweeking and editing this graph paper is what makes her great is, I think, no little error, however important editing and time-line organization certainly are.

Your thoughts?

Cursed Child and HogwartsProfessor Fan Fiction post Deathly Hallows

I have worked the same Muggle job in Oklahoma City since 2011. One of my fellow ‘Team Members’ who has been with me all this time there recently traveled to New York City to watch ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ on Broadway. He reminded me yesterday that he was the first to tell me the play’s title when it was announced and that it would feature Albus Severus Potter and Scorpio Malfoy. He said he was astonished that my response was to tell him that, “Of course they’ll be friends and be sorted into Slytherin House together; the boy’s initials are A. S. P.” I told him, in what seemed to him a fit of clairvoyance, that their unlikely friendship would begin on the Hogwarts Express and finally resolve the Gryffindor-Slytherin divide.

I had forgotten all this but it does sound like what I might have said. The only piece of fan fiction to ever be published at HogwartsProfessor.com was in the frenetic months post publication of Deathly Hallows. From Helen, 9 November 2007:

Please excuse me for inflicting a spot of fan fiction on this illustrious thread, but… I wrote this snippet very shortly after I read DH (and yes, before I heard John speak at Biola). I think John must have trained me to notice the right things…. 🙂

****************
The hat settled softly over the boy’s head, completely hiding his green eyes. The bridge of his nose tickled where the brim rested.

“Hmmm… So you’re the younger one. I remember all of you, of course. You’re quite like your father and your brother. What shall be done with you?

“You’re bright enough to go in Ravenclaw, but I think I won’t put you there. Learning isn’t your first passion.

“A strong sense of loyalty and fair play here… ah, that’s why you were afraid of where I might put you, isn’t it? You don’t like underhandedness and double dealing. Well, there’s very little of that in Hufflepuff. But somehow I don’t think your gifts would be best employed among the badgers.”

The boy thought, “Gifts?”

“Yes, child, you have many. You’re brave as any Gryffindor, certainly, but I believe your greatest gift is the one your grandmother had: to see the good in your friends, so that they can become what you see. Are you brave enough to let me put you where your gift is needed most?”

A tiny nod from the boy under the hat.

“Well then, remember that there’s nothing wrong with ambition if you choose your means and your goals rightly, and go help remake your namesake’s House. Go to SLYTHERIN!”

Albus Severus Potter scrambled down from the high wooden stool and went over to sit at his new House table, next to an obviously gobsmacked Scorpius Malfoy.

“Your father’s going to go off like a Blast-ended Skrewt when he finds out where you got Sorted, Potter!”

“Nah, Dad’ll be all right. He named me after Headmaster Snape, didn’t he? Hey, maybe I was supposed to be here in Slytherin! Do you know what my initials spell?”
***************************
We now return you to more edifying reflections.

This story has expanded from Helen’s original to include a first meeting on the train, in which Scorpius and Albus compare their different but comparable family miseries in a shadow of Harry and Ron’s first conversation. Rose Weasley, sorted after both Malfoy and Potter, chooses Slytherin House as Harry chose Gryffindor during their Sorting Hat experiences.

Could this have inspired the ‘Cursed Child’ script writing trio? Sure. But I guess it’s a fairly well choreographed next step from Harry’s conversation with Albus on the Hogwarts Express platform and one too many other fan fiction writers must have followed to claim any originality. Wasn’t one of the chief complaints about Cursed Child that it reads like fan fiction? Isn’t it still?