Archives for July 2017

PA PotterFest in Voldemort’s Hometown?

I received a note this morning from the lead person of the Edinboro Harry Potter Festival with some details about my travel and lodging (I’m speaking and hope to see you in the great northwest of Penn’s Woods this September!). He said in an aside that he was heading to Volant, Pennsylvania, about an hour down the road, for their ten hour ‘Potter Fest’ today. [Here is the Volant Fest Facebook page and a newspaper article telling all about it.]

Could there be a better town for a Potter Fest than one named ‘Volant’? There is a Potter County in Pennsylvania, “God’s Country,” but no Potter municipality or ‘Dark Lord Ville.’ Volant is the greatest by default. Curiously, the article and the Facebook pages don’t spell out the connection. ‘Volant’ is a name that plays an important part in the Hogwarts Saga.

Jo Rowling’s mother’s maiden name was ‘Anne Volant.’ Beatrice Groves, in her Literary Allusion in Harry Potter (p 138), quotes Rowling as having said that, because of the blow her mother’s death was to her, “she [Rowling] took the inspiration for Voldemort’s name from her mother’s maiden name because Volant (‘flying’) was the first French word she knew,” i.e., mort de Volant.

There is more to this choice than that — but there is that! I suspect someone in town gets the Dark Lord connection because the Fest is named “The Festival That Shall Not Be Named.” As it is planned in conjunction with a bar crawl down the small town’s Main Street provocatively called “Fantastic Drinks and Where to Find Them,” perhaps after a few Potter Potions the truth about Volant’s relationship with Lord Thingy will be spoken aloud…

Wish I could be there! Happy Harry Potter Birthday weekend, everyone, especially those celebrating at the Fests in Volant and Aurora, and the Literary Conference in London!



Deathly Hallows Tenth Anniversary (2) Looking Back and Looking Forward

From the Deep Vaults, a half-hour’s ride with Griphook into the bowels of Gringotts!

As I explain (sort of!) in the video above, in the run-up to the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ten years ago , I made a prediction each day for seven days. How did I do? I’ll let you be the judge.

The Seven Predictions

The day after the finale was published, I started posting discussion threads. In a week or so we were up to thirty. For a taste of that ‘day of release’ excitement, these conversations are a convenient short-cut.

The Thirty ‘Deathly Hallows’ Threads

And then there were the longer posts about what made Deathly Hallows great. I made lists of some of those posts much later in 2007 as a poor man’s ‘Year in Review.’

The 2007 HogPro Greatest Hits List ; Alternative: Top ‘Potter Stories’ in 2007 List

To loop this back to the beginning above, how about some silly speculation? In March, 2007, we learned the title of the last book and we saw its Scholastic cover for the first time. For laughs, check out the best guesses of the best thinking from the best Potter Pundits with respect to what the title and covers were about…

March 2007: ‘The Meaning of the title Deathly Hallows’

March 2007: Thoughts about the Deathly Hallows Book Cover

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Happy Anniversary, All-Pros! Thanks for liking this post and sharing your thoughts in the comment boxes below!

Deathly Hallows’ Tenth Anniversary (1)

Where was I ten years ago — July 2007 — when Deathly Hallows was published?

I was living in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania, just outside Allentown, in a farmhouse adjacent to the Glasbern Inn farm and property. Six of the seven Granger children were still with us, then aged six to seventeen, the oldest daughter having just left to start college at the Virginia Military Institute.

My plan was to be in London, England, on the day of publication. I’d been invited to speak at a big deal conference as a Featured Speaker with air fare and a room at the Savoy. I had been giving interviews to The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. I did a gig on MSNBC, the A&E channel was playing The Secrets of Harry Potter that eventually became a part of the Phoenix DVD extras and I was featured, and two of my books, Unlocking Harry Potter and Looking for God in Harry Potter (now How Harry Cast His Spell), and one that I edited, Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?, were in the Amazon Top 100. had become the weblog you know today in late December, 2016, and was hitting unprecedented and ten-times-normal traffic levels as media sources linked to the several-times-daily posts I was putting up.

I was pretty excited and wearing full Gilderoy plumage. I spoke to my daughter Hannah one weekend, the first phone call home she was allowed as a ‘Rat’ in VMI’s spartan immersion in cadre discipline. I told her my plans for London and my secret wish to meet The Presence Herself. Isn’t it possible that JKR will stop by the biggest fan conference in the same city as the book release?

My oldest daughter, a champion athlete and as deft rhetorically, decided that sarcasm was the pin she needed to burst my balloon.

“That’s great, Dad. You can read the book to your younger children the next time the seventh book in the series comes out.”

What she was talking about was my break with a family tradition. I guess to her, as an Orthodox Christian being initiated into the military caste culture, my desertion of post for individual advantage contra convention and expectation was about as low as I could go. [Read more…]

Is Harry Potter ‘Children’s Literature’?

Is Harry Potter Children’s Literature? “Of course it is.”

But is Kid Lit all the Hogwarts Saga is? Just as obviously, “No, there’s more to it than that.”

And what our thinking of Harry’s adventures as Kid Lit obscures is just as significant, maybe more so, than what that pigeon-holing or ‘literary classification’ actually tells us.

Join John for a quick discussion of a fandom and critical community meme that may have out-lived its use-by date — and share your thoughts for or against in the comment boxes below!

FYI — this is the last of the weekly VLOGs that will be posted at To receive them in an email or gain access to them, head over to and sign up! [Folks on that list have already received this week’s VLOG, ‘Is Harry Potter One Story or Seven Novels?’] Subscribing to Potter Pundits (it’s free) means you’ll receive the latest VLOG posts as well as the first invitations to sign up for the free online classes this August, the ‘Potter Pundit Summer School.’

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Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: In Search of the Shooting Script ‘The Round Up Post’

Cursed Child was the run-away best-seller for J. K. Rowling in 2016, but outside of thespian Potter-philes with pockets deep enough for travel to London and tickets, enthusiasm for the so-called ‘Eighth Harry Potter‘ has been short-lived. The Presence approved the story but it didn’t show many of her signature story-telling magic.

I’ll go out on a limb to make a prediction I doubt anyone will remember and say that 2016 will be recalled by fandom much more for the first Fantastic Beasts film than for Cursed Child. There’s a lot more to talk about, really, in speculating about where the story is headed and the artistry and meaning of Rowling’s return to the Wizarding World than there is in thinking about Harry Potter as a father failure and a Time Turner tsunami.

The real challenge in talking about Fantastic Beasts 1: Newt Goes to New York is that we have to try to isolate Rowling’s work from the Heyman-Yates mish-mash of a movie. As Rowling said Steve Kloves told her, the agony of making a movie out of a Rowling novel or script is “fitting the woman to the dress,” i.e., forcing the natural figure into the mechanical formula of blockbuster movies.

Can we re-create Rowling’s actual ‘Original Screenplay,’ the approved shooting script out of which Heyman-Yates cut 15 scenes that we know about? When the published ‘Original Screenplay’ does not include the sliced scenes — and doesn’t even match up with the movie as released?

We can, but it’s still a work in progress. Here’s a reminder of where we stand in the effort, our first stabs at interpreting the recreated texts and the underlying, re-invented mythology (Theseus!), and what we have left to do. Enjoy! [Read more…]