Hidden Photos at Rowling Websites: Digital Clues and Detective Work, Foto 3


The picture above is from the bottom left corner of J. K. Rowling’s website, most of which image is just out of sight. Using the method described in the two previous ‘Hidden Photos’ HogwartsProfessor posts, there it is. But what is it? What is in this stack of pictures?

The url for the image labels the picture “Report” but that doesn’t quite cover it. There is a a report card for her daughter Mackenzie, but the top of the stack is a brochure called ‘Places around Melrose’ and beneath it there are two items, a ‘Captivating Scents’ brochure and an illustrated book(?). There is also what looks to be a wooden mouse toy in the lower left and a chevron shaped cartoon character (a pin?) on the report card.

The village of Melrose, of course, features in Career of Evil so that is no surprise or mystery.

The report card is a nice touch because it serves as a reminder that J. K. Rowling, writer and philanthropist, is also Joanne Murray, mother and center of the universe to three young people.

The ‘Captivating Scents’ brochure can be read en toto online here. It’s from the Chelsea Physic Garden, the “oldest botanical garden in London” that is home to “more than 5,000 plants.” I’m not sure if this remarkable location is a model for the Herbology classrooms at Hogwarts (check out their “Historic Glasshouses“), a place to expect Cormoran or Robin to visit soon in the Strike mysteries, or both.

I don’t recognize the cartoon figure on the Progress Report, the wooden mouse, or the book cover (?) underneath the pile. Please share your ideas about them or your explanations or interpretations of the visible items by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ in the subject line above and writing out your thoughts!

Accio Knowledge! (And cookies!): Countdown to Queen City Mischief and Magic.

We are down to less than a week until the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival, and the line-up of speakers rocks this year, starting with our own Headmaster.  I am going to be crazy busy this year, but I hope it will all be worth it.  I look forward to hosting John and hopefully impressing him with both Mary Baldwin University and Anthony and Cleopatra at the Blackfriars.

See full program here:

I like to bake special cookies for special occasions, and QCMM is no exception.  I usually do several batches of treats to hand out for trivia prizes and give as thank-you’s to our wonderful volunteers.  I spent most of yesterday with my rolling pin and Harry Potter cookie cutters, baking up some specialty treats.  My personal favorite is the Sorting Hat, made with an apple-cinnamon dough that is the perfect color.  A bonus:  no decorating needed!

Even better, my cookie-cutter collection is extensive enough that I can create some Potter-themed goodies with other cutters.  A Christmas reindeer becomes Prongs, a dog (in my favorite chocolate dough) makes a great Padfoot and I turned a train into the Hogwarts Express.  My newest edition is a fawn I ran across at Michael’s, which has become my Silver Doe.

I’m still looking for a cute frog cookie cutter for Chocolate Frog cookies, but in the meantime I’ll settle for my molds.  In addition to the Chocolate Frogs, I crushed up some candy mints and made some white Peppermint Toads.

If any of our regular Hogpro readers are coming to the festival, stop by the talks at MBU at the Wharf, next to Pufferbellies Toys (which is another place you don’t want to miss!) I’ll try to slip you a cookie, or possibly one of my Cauldron Cake Pops, from the speakers’ stash.

What to Drink while Reading Harry Potter

File this under ‘Shared Text’ and ‘Chicagwarts.’ The post below is taken directly from an email I received this morning from the University of Chicago Alumni Association (for my relations with and debts owed my alma mater, see Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower’ (2008), an article in the alumni magazine, and my interview with Marcella Delaurentis of ‘The Chicago Maroon,’ the College’s newspaper, also in 2008). Of all the book-drinks featured in Literary Libations, they chose Harry Potter’s, for what I think are obvious ‘Shared Text’ reasons. I cannot recommend the butterbeer recipe below because brown sugar is a poison but, if this is your poison of choice, have at it!

With Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a Bloody Mary.
With Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, a brandy hot toddy.

Those are just two of nearly 200 drink pairings that Amira Makansi, AB’10, suggests in Literary Libations: What to Drink with What You Read (Skyhorse Publishing, 2019).

The book also includes nonalcoholic pairings for young adult and children’s books. For the Harry Potter series, the choice is butterbeer, of course. Here’s how to make it.

1 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. water
6 tbsp. butter
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
¾ c. heavy whipping cream, divided
½ tsp. rum extract
4 (12 oz.) bottles cream soda

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Stir often until the mixture reads 240˚F on a candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and promptly stir in butter, salt, cider vinegar, and ¼ cup whipping cream. When fully incorporated, set aside to cool. When mixture has cooled, stir in the rum extract.

Combine 2 tbsp. of the brown sugar mixture and the remainder of the heavy cream in a medium mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream until just thickened, but not completely whipped. This should take 2-3 minutes.

To serve, divide the sugar mixture between four tall, chilled glasses. Add ¼ cup of cream soda and stir to combine. Top with the remainder of the cream soda and spoon the cream over the top. Makes four servings.

Read more about Makansi and Literary Libations in the Core.

The Original ‘J. K.’ a French Novelist?

The great lacuna in Potter studies is what Rowling read and loved in her French studies at Exeter and beyond.

Victor Hugo and Colette are the only authors we have for certain from her testimony and names in her work and Manon Lescaut is the only French story title she has mentioned as a favorite.

There is a famous French writer, though, Joris-Karl Huysmans, who was known by his first initials, i.e., ‘J. K.’ 

Never heard of him? Me, neither. From his wikipedia page:

Charles-Marie-Georges Huysmans(5 February 1848 – 12 May 1907) was a French novelist and art critic who published his works as Joris-Karl Huysmans, variably abbreviated as J. K. or J.-K.). He is most famous for the novel À rebours (1884, published in English as Against the Grain or Against Nature). He supported himself by a 30-year career in the French civil service.

Huysmans’ work is considered remarkable for its idiosyncratic use of the French language, large vocabulary, descriptions, satirical wit and far-ranging erudition. First considered part of Naturalism, he became associated with the decadent movement with his publication of À rebours. His work expressed his deep pessimism, which had led him to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. In later years, his novels reflected his study of Catholicism, religious conversion, and becoming an oblate. He discussed the iconography of Christian architecture at length in La cathédrale (1898), set at Chartres and with its cathedral as the focus of the book.

Là-bas (1891), En route (1895) and La cathédrale (1898) are a trilogy that feature Durtal, an autobiographical character whose spiritual progress is tracked and who converts to Catholicism. In the novel that follows, L’Oblat (1903), Durtal becomes an oblate in a monastery, as Huysmans himself was in the Benedictine Abbey at Ligugé, near Poitiers, in 1901. La cathédrale was his most commercially successful work. Its profits enabled Huysmans to retire from his civil service job and live on his royalties.

I wonder if Huysmans was well known to the Presence through her French studies at Exeter or travels in France and if she thought her life as a school teacher and sometime writer when she became J. K. herself would parallel his life as a civil servant cum author when she chose the ‘K’ for her faux middle initial.

The ‘Kathleen’ as grandmother’s name is not a reason per se because she had many other relatives, I’m sure, and teachers whose names she might have chosen. As her ‘Galbraith’ and “Potter’ “explanations,” the K-rationale rings hollow.

I am not a Francophone or Francophile as noted. So I asked Cory Faniel at La Gazette du Sorcier, “Is Huysmans someone Rowling is sure to have read, a French studies staple akin to Zola, Hugo, and Proust?” Cory responded promptly for his staff at France’s most important Wizarding World fan site:

Huysmans is not a big name in French studies as far as we know.

We had to Google him. He might be briefly mentionned when discussing L’Assommoir de Zola.

Note that no one in my team studied French Literature in France at University, so were are not completely aware of the details of programs on offer.

I reached out to Beatrice Groves as well. Nope; this French novelist J. K. is not an author with whom she is familiar.

Anyone out there a Modern Languages major with a concentration in French Literature care to comment? Is this J. K. an author that Rowling is likely to have read at Exeter? Any similarities between his work and hers, i.e., was this an association that she might have wanted a well read (in French!) person to make? It trumps J. K. Galbraith, no?

A J. K. Rowling ‘Beasts’ Revenge Theory

On the thread discussing ‘J. K. Rowling Still writing Fantastic Beasts 3 Screenplay,’ David Llewellyn Dodds, wrote, “What about the possibility of an analogue of ‘director’s cut’ in the form of ‘Rowling novels following movies’?” I started to write a reply but it soon became post length. In brief, I think this is a wonderful possibility and at least as unlikely as it would be both delightful and characteristic of Rowling the Subversive.

I trust David to correct me if I misunderstand what he is suggesting, which in my version goes something like this:

Novelists have their popular stories ‘adapted,’ which is to say ‘transformed, changed, and diminished,’ by movie makers. The original creators usually have little say in these medium metamorphases which are done by a screenwriter or a team of such, and, much more often than not, the new story is what most people remember of the work rather than the original creation and point which was the book. Nabokov was asked to write the screenplay for the first Lolita adaptation, he complied, they ignored his work (!), and he eventually published his ‘adaptation.’ Only Nabokov scholars, of course, have read it or are even aware of it.

So what do novelists get? They get a huge payday both in the form of payment for movie rights and from royalties (a successful film even if a bad or distortive adaptation, and, again, due to the opposing nature of the media, imaginative vs straight sense perception, all adaptations are inherently distortive and diminishing – will revive interest in a book indefinitely).

What they lose is larger public understanding of their work. Readers who come to the original work after seeing the film inevitably ‘see’ the film imaginatively in light of the screened images they have already consumed which supplants their capacity to envisage what the author has written. Hence the resistance of some novelists and their estates — think J. D. Salinger and Catcher in the Rye and the Tolkien estate — to Hollywood perversion of their creative visions.

Is there a way out of this bind except refusing the Tinsel Town galleons? Not really, especially if the author is beholden to charity commitments as Rowling is, or if the film rights to a work have been sold long ago as with Fantastic Beasts (with little thought perhaps given to its adaptation), or if an Estate faces family members who crave film gold and royalty revival (I think, forgive me, of the C. S. Lewis group, alas).

David’s suggestion, though, is that Rowling has a way of exacting creative revenge. Her reverse play, if I understand David, would be to take part in the screenwriting collaborative process and submit to all the changes and cuts the director and various Executive Producers insist are necessary. Something approximating her original vision makes it to the screen and she (her brand as well as her Volant and Lumos charities) gets a huge payout.

Then — and this is the defamiliarizing twist on the usual formula — Rowling publishes the novel versions of these stories. This publication-post-film-making has the following effects:

(1) A Dickensian ‘New Edition’ Payday: Dickens famously sold his novels in three chapter bundles as he wrote them, then repackaged and sold the complete book, and then came out with various ‘Collector’s Editions,’ all of which issues of the same book gave him a new income stream. Rowling, by publishing her truly original novels after the film screenplay collaborations, gets paid twice for her work. And, forgive me, these novels would sell the way the Harry Potter books did because they are Wizarding World stories from the hand of the One and Only.

(2) Exposure of the Screenwriting ‘Sausage Making’ Process: By giving us the true story, readers who have seen the movies (which, frankly, is ‘all readers’) will inevitably be saying as they read, “Oh, wow! That was isn’t the film! Why did they cut that out? That’s really important….” Rowling will exact revenge for all novelists who cannot believe what was cut from their stories in the film making and what made up in conformity with film-making formula (“A chase scene or two! In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!”) but who cannot complain because they took Babylon’s money in exchange for rights to their work. Writing or just publishing the true stories, ‘true’ in the sense of fidelity to the original vision of the author of course,after the films shows just how little of that vision survives the inane demands and story-butchery of film making. Which is genius, frankly, and a characteristically Rowling-esque subversive twist on the power holders. Think Hermione and The Quibbler.

(3) Revelation to Film Devotees of Media Reality: The follow-up novels, more importantly if much less obviously, might also expose to the more thoughtful reader the inherently diminishing and distortive effects of film adaptations. Movie lovers are — without exception in my limited experience — blissfully unaware of the iconoclastic quality of the medium they prefer, a story-telling medium that serves and reflects the materialist and inherently secular ideas defining the historical period in which we live. By reducing by transforming imaginative immersion to sense perception, all that films can communicate in the end is fear or emotional sentiment, hence the importance of physical beauty and the inevitable chase. Rowling’s reverse-play, by giving the reader of the true story a much greater experience than the film version, would be revealing the paucity of the movie medium.

Unfortunately, this last falls victim to the same trap that the usual sequence of novel-to-film gives readers. Rowling’s feast for the reader imagination and the much broader spectrum of interior experience and transformation in Newt Scamander stories will inevitably all be restricted in reader minds to their mental pictures from the films of what Newt, Jacob, Queenie, Tina, Gellert, Albus, and Company look like and behave.

There’s really no winning here, in other words, on that score; the Salinger Option is the only way to retain control and its ascetic quality is all but anathema in this time period.

But what a delight if Rowling would publish her Scamander-Grindelwald stories as novels ex post facto the film versions! We readers would get the real thing and Warner Brothers would be exposed as the corporate story prostitution factory that it is. I have to doubt very much Rowling will do this as characteristic a rwist as it certainly would be, but I can imagine few more exciting possibilities. Thank you, David, for the idea — and forgive me if this idea is not what you meant!