Archives for April 2014

Interview with ‘Summer’s Winter’ Author Robin Johns Grant

I was delighted to learn earlier this month that novelist Robin Johns Grant is a reader. Before she could say, ‘Nope’ or ‘No, thank you, I’m really busy’ I sent her ten questions about her novel Summer’s Winter which, for reasons you’ll pick up, will be a challenge and delight for serious readers of Harry Potter, especially those All-Pros who think about literature and spirituality and the nature of film and books.

Which is saying too much! On to the interview —

(1) Thank you so much for agreeing to our HogwartsProfessor 10 questions interview! Here’s an ice-breaker t-ball question for openers: How did you meet Harry Potter?

I worked in a college library as the books came out, so of course everyone around me was reading them. I tried to avoid the books because the idea of children going off to school to learn witchcraft disturbed me—but Harry was like a persistent suitor that you just can’t refuse. It was the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that finally pulled me in. First, I saw the fans around me (including fellow librarians and students) excitedly discussing what was going to happen in the seventh book, and I wished I could be a part of that. I love being a part of a shared community built around some book or movie I love—I’ve always been a part of some fandom—and I felt lonely and left out. Particularly because that period of my writing life felt dreary and uninspired. I was trying so hard to publish a novel and make it fit into some genre niche that I was losing the joy of story. It had become more of a dry process—look at the writers’ guidelines, choose a character, give her a goal, three obstacles to the goal, etc., etc.

Then I went to a Christian writers’ conference right after Deathly Hallows was released, and I was amazed to hear the attendees discussing the Christian themes in it. So I gave myself permission to read—and I was hooked. And I was so grateful for the books, because Harry Potter reminded me why I was writing—the pure joy of imagination, and connecting with other people through a fantastic world.

(2) Did anyone in your family or people in your church community think the books were a “gateway to the occult”?

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Guest Post: A Conversation (and Drink) with Aristotle

Ever wonder what Aristotle, whom Thomas Aquinas called simply “the Philosopher,” would say about life in these United States? About the possibility of living a fully human life in an increasingly autocratic democracy? About television? I have. Hence my excitement about this essay written by Joshua Sturgill, a student at St John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Enjoy!

A Symposium with Aristotle

It is said that one day the Caliph Mamun saw a bald-headed man with a long beard and broad forehead sitting on his private couch. In awe and with a trembling voice the Caliph inquired: “Who are you?”  The man replied, “I am Aristotle.”

–          9th century Islamic legend

For most of the evening, I had been reading in my room at a desk built from empty wooden wine crates and a thrift-store-find end table.  My old lamp poured light over pens and papers, a wine bottle still three quarters full, and an open copy of the Nicomachean Ethics. I was deep in thought, considering a particular question – an uncomfortable but intriguing question growing in my mind since I’d come across the phrase “the Philosopher will, more than any other, be happy.”  Certain modes of concentration cause a loss of connection with time and the senses.  I don’t recall how long I was in that suspended state when I was suddenly aware of a strange noise behind me.

It wasn’t actually strange; it was the quite usual sound of the sigh of springs in my reclining chair, which I hear repeatedly throughout the day.  What made the familiar sound so strange – for a moment, ominous – was that I’d been alone in the room a moment before.  Dread, curiosity and surprise erupted simultaneously, and startled me back to the present.  I reflexively turned to see the cause of the noise.  An old man, he wouldn’t have been very tall if standing but he seemed weighty, a broad-shouldered old man with a long beard and sand-colored robes was sitting casually in my chair as if waiting.  He stared calmly at me with eyes blue as the Aegean.

“Who…?” I began, but lifting his hand with a dismissive gesture, he brushed away the question.

“I believe you had something to ask me,” he said.

For a moment, I couldn’t even remember what I’d been pondering all evening.  I simply stared back at him in mild unbelief.  The old man smiled – a smile mostly in his eyes – and said, “Those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire.  But both may equally enjoy a glass of wine during the lesson.”  My brain coming ‘on-line’ so to speak, I immediately stood up to fetch an extra coffee mug and I poured him some of the Bordeaux I’d opened an hour earlier.

“Very good!” he said, “we’ll make it a proper Symposium, and have your question as the topic of our discussion.”  He took a drink of the wine, and settled back into the chair.  He seemed ready for me to begin.

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Mail Bag: Questions from Bookshelf Readers — in China?

I average an email a day from serious readers with questions, theories, and comments about the Hogwarts Saga and what I’ve written here or in my books about Harry’s adventures. Lately, I’ve been receiving mail from China. Which means that something I’ve written has been translated without my knowledge, or, more likely, we have some precocious readers of English doing some research.

Of course, when I receive notes like this one, I have to wonder.

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Kalo Pascha! Harry Potter Fandom Link Fest

Big Thank You’s to Rev George and James and the other HogPro All-Pros who kept me up to speed on events in the world of Harry Potter while I have been away from the blogosphere this past month. I’m back from wonderful trips to Stronghold Castle and Augustana College in Illinois, Pepperdine University and Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute in California, and beautiful Liberty, Tennessee, for Pascha celebrations with my family.

More on those adventures in the next few days — as well as letters from China — but “first, the news.” After the jump — Emma “spiritual, not religious,” Newt scheduled for three movies, Harry’s time under the stairs coming to West End, Casual Vacancy on teevee real soon, and the Tolkien/Rowling collaboration in China!

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