Archives for June 2014

The Silkworm 2: Shades of and Keys to The Hogwarts Saga?

Spoiler alert:  Don’t read this if you haven’t read The Silkworm and if you want to read it without having had key plot points revealed to you beforehand.

I’m guessing that it’s safe to assume that most readers of the Cormoran Strike mysteries are readers of the Harry Potter novels as well and that they chose to read these books because of their enjoyment of Ms Rowling’s previous work, to include Casual Vacancy. Or maybe despite Vacancy. Whatever.

Reading The Silkworm, consequently, it’s only natural that we serious readers of the Hogwarts Saga be sensitive to what we hear or experience in this detective novel that seem to be echoes from the Boy Who Lived’s magical adventures.  I want to make three observations for your comment and correction here, thoughts that will not include a list of fun correspondences (did you flinch when you read that you can “hear the rumbling of the traffic on Charing Cross Road’ from Strike’s flat? Me, too), but all of which, I think, put the Cormoran Strike novels in a new light.

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“Panem Today, Panem Tomorrow, and Panem Forever”

Read about the commercial that is a kind of film trailer here.

Cue John’s Alchemical Analysis in 5…4…3…2…

The Red Hen Returns — with a Remarkable Potter Tarot!

Joyce Odell, also known as The Red Hen, is a Potter Pundit of the first order, who, for reasons of her own, all but disappeared from Harry Potter fandom after the publication of Deathly Hallows. Which was a real loss. Those of us who recall the years between the appearances of Order of the Phoenix and the series finale as the peak time of serious reader engagement with the books, we remember the quirky but remarkably prescient insights of the Red Hen whose spectacularly long and involved posts inevitable deepened our appreciation of what could be happening at Hogwarts. Only Brett Kendall, I think, understood the relationship of the books to one another as clearly as Ms Odell did and I’m guessing even Brett tips his hat in deference to the Red Hen.

All that only to say that I was delighted to hear from her earlier this week and to learn that she has completed a fascinating project, namely, a Harry Potter Tarot Deck. The images are delightful, challenging, and a real treat for Potter fans familiar with the Rider-Waite deck. The cards can be seen at the links below. Enjoy!

The Red Hen’s introduction to the set

Full Deck Overview

Individual cards in detail

Silkworm 1: Kathryn Kent’s Plot/Narrative Distinction

Spoiler alert:  Don’t read this if you haven’t read The Silkworm and want to read it without having key points revealed to you before hand.

In chapter 10 of The Silkworm, Robin and Cormoran are in his office reading the weBlog of the red-headed writer-wanna-be named Kathryn Kent. Ms Kent is supposedly the mistress of Owen Quine, the famous author whose wife has hired private detective Strike to find. She refers to Quine as ‘TFW,’ The Famous Writer:

Great talk with TFW about Plot and Narrative tonight which are of course not the same thing. For those wondering:- Plot is what happens, Narrative is how much you show your readers and how you show it to them.

An example from my second novel “Melina’s Sacrifice.”

As they made their way towards the Forest of Harderell Lendor raised his handsome profile to see how near they were to it. His well-maintained body, honed by horseback riding and archery skills — [The Silkworm, ch 10, p 66]

There is more in this review of Kent’s weblog to which we will have to return, especially in discussing the choices of quotations for the chapter headings, but for starters I want to ask your thought on this passage with regard to two points.

First, this pedantic aside in a weblog is a piercing representation of the affected wisdom available online in personal weBlogs (and, yes, I recognize the face in the reflection, alas). The insecurity, the excitement with ideas, the eagerness to speak with authority — all there brilliantly encapsulated in three short paragraphs.

Showing-not-telling genius aside, at least for a moment, I think it likely that Ms Rowling here is also making a point that she wants to make with her readers and critics, many of whom praise her for the intricacy and cleverness of her plots. That’s not an empty bit of praise, of course, but it is not Rowling’s gift as an author. That would be her deft characterization — revelation of essence in short, quick descriptive strokes or conversation — and her ability to work the slow reveal in narrative exposition. The latter quality is exactly what Ms Kent spoke with her lover-mentor about and was sharing with her reader(s). Nice touch.

Next, I suspect that the red-headed Kathryn Kent is a snap shot of sorts of the nigh on desperate  J. Kathryn Rowling, then a red head, when she was writing Harry Potter (and other things?) before she was discovered. I suspect it might be a portrait of how she imagines what might have become of Jo Rowling if the remarkable series of chance events did not raise her out of obscurity (for conversation with that young writer, see the interviews posted here last week).

Or is that too far a stretch? I’ll be returning to this idea of embedded pictures from Ms Rowling’s autobiography in discussion of the title, which seems to be an argument that all fiction writing is author-distillation and, after a fashion, execution. For now, though, what do you make of this weBlog passage?

Stephen Colbert Defines Young Adult Fiction

See time point 2:20 on this video in his interview with John Green.