Luongo: Passing of ‘Game of Thrones’

I have passed on reading the R. R. Martin Game of Thrones novels or watching the teevee adaptations of them. I have done this despite the requests from audiences at talks and in private correspondence that I read, watch, and share my thinking at HogwartsProfessor on the written or filmed series. I’m just not interested enough to tackle the many long books — and I don’t even own a television.

Rev George, a long time friend of this blog and correspondent, thought I would enjoy Tom Luongo’s review of the last episode in Thrones, ‘The Passing of Game of Thrones.’ He was right; I haven’t any idea if he is correct in his assessment of either original or the adapted series, but Luongo reads the books from a perspective I admire and share to greater than lesser degree.

Game of Thrones was a story built on classic archetypal, mytho-poetic storytelling ideas. But with the goal of undercutting them, of taking a more post-modernist approach, to just show chaos without structure and purpose, no ending could ever be satisfying.

As consumers, when we start a book or a movie we can go on a journey into hell and back again as long as once we’re finished the ride was worth it.

The story has to illuminate fundamental truths, not spit on them.

And what makes the series finale such a failure was the unwillingness of the writers to at the last moment embrace some traditional storytelling conventions and anchor the chaos of Westeros in a lesson that can be passed from generation to generation.

By betraying the arcs of main characters like John Snow, Arya Stark and Daenerys Targaryen Weiss and Benioff set themselves up for the backlash they are getting now. And with good reason.

Heroic storytelling requires heroes to rise to their pivotal moments and, through their actions, create the opportunity for radical change. They are born out of and rise above the chaos of their times to make the hard choices and sacrifices necessary to preserve the world and build the foundation for the next one.

Stories are not reality. Stories are meant as reflections of the world we live in. They exist to help us make sense of the senseless.

Game of Thrones fails, Luongo believes, because the artists involved “have lost the plot of humanity’s struggle” simultaneously to resist the chaos Game celebrates (contra Tolkien) and to create an “institutional order …sufficient to act as a brake on humanity’s worst impulses.” This, he explains, is a function of the author and teevee savants being so “thoroughly ingrained” in “post modern Marxism” as to be oblivious of the evils of chaos and the human need for boundaries lest we be animals.

Read the whole thing.

I don’t know if what he says is true of the novels or their adaptation because I couldn’t tell if the many story references he makes to back his points are accurate or as crazed as what the Harry Haters have said and exorcists are saying about the Wizarding World. But I think his concerns are important ones, validly applied or not.

If you’ve watched the show and read Luongo’s review, let me know what you think!

D-Day and Harry Potter:The Longest Day

Last Thursday, 6 June 2019, was the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe in 1944. ‘Operation Neptune,’ usually known just as D-Day, remains the largest invasion from the sea against a fortified beach-head. It led to the liberation of France and eventually to victory on WWII’s Western Front.

D-Day is often called ‘The Longest Day’ because of Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 popular history of the invasion that had that title as well as the blockbuster film made in 1962 based on the book. David Martin wrote me on Thursday, 6 June this year, to suggest that Rowling deliberately made the longest day in the Hogwarts Saga the 50th anniversary of the invasion, 6 June 1994, as a kind of tribute. 

We should, of course, honor the heroes of D-Day – June sixth, 1944.  That day is sometimes called “the longest day” because of the great struggle and because of the uncertainty as the whole world waited for the outcome.  There is a classic film about D-Day with the title “The Longest Day.”

J. K. Rowling appears to have honored that day in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  One of the few specific dates given in the Harry Potter novels is the date of Buckbeak’s scheduled execution – June sixth.  (Prisoner, page 400) 

The year would have been 1994 – fifty years, to the day, after D-Day.  In Prisoner June sixth, 1994, is the day when Hermione used her Time-Turner to take Harry and herself back three hours.  Thus they experienced a 27 hour day – their longest day.

Since none of us mere Muggles has yet mastered legilimency it is doubtful that we will ever discover all the hidden meanings and references in J. K. Rowling’s books.

A fascinating possibility, especially in a book with so many Nazi-Death Eater correspondences that more than one critic has suggested the series is an extended WWII allegory (e.g., Voldemort is Hitler, the Weasley-Delacour wedding is the Anglo-French alliance, etc.). MuggleNet gives the date as 9 June on its calendar but the Lexicon timeline for Prisoner has it as 6 June 1994 as David writes.

What do you think? Is the 6 June 1994 longest day in Harry Potter a word-play hat-tip to the Longest Day invasion of Europe in 1994?

Ezra Miller: Life Imitating Art?

Ezra Miller is an interesting character — and I use that ch-word deliberately. His life seems a studied piece of improvisation, a staged and predictable performance in conventional, perpetual non-conformity. His sexual polyamorism and adventurism, his strident identification with and defense of anyone and everyone oppressed (except Christians, of course; “Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and it’s accelerating,” USCIRF Report, 2019), and his attention-demanding choice of clothing make him something of a historical glyph or cartoon capturing the Zeitgeist. I rather like watching the ‘Ezra Miller Show’ as it plays out, even if the series currently seems caught in a loop of re-run spontaneity; I enjoy his having been cast as the loner Credence Barebone, lost and confused about who he is and the meaning of his life as much as anyone. He plays the part really well.

Lately, though, I have been worried about Boy Wonder Ezra. He may have over-played the ‘bad boy’ hand, the guy who knows-better than the experts, with Warner Brothers, the movie studio responsible for the DC super-hero movies (as well as, y’know, the Wizarding World).

On 17 March, it was reported that Miller was disappointed with the script for The Flash film in which he plays the lead role. DC wanted a relatively light and engaging film like its recent successes with Wonder Woman and Aquaman; Miller thought they needed a more profound and challenging story — and said he would be writing the script?  [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves: The Goblin Problem

As an Orthodox Christian traditionalist and something of a perennialist, ‘Marxism’ is a trigger word for me. Be it the economic Marxism that in the form of Soviet and Chinese communism murdered at least one hundred million people in the 20th Century or the cultural Marxism that has been slowly “marching through the institutions” of universities, media, and government since the advent of the Frankfurt School in the 40’s and 50’s, I have no time for or tolerance of those who believe in ‘Socialism,’ the secular religion of millenialist faith in government and ‘progressive politics’ to cure human ills, or who look at the world exclusively as the stage of conflict between haves and have nots, oppressor and oppressed, the privileged and the disempowered.

I have significant and profound problems with the political right and even Classical liberalism as well, the other side of the materialist/individualist/rationalist nightmare ‘coin’ of our times, but with Marxists, the so-called ‘Hard Left’? I have to struggle to speak of them or with them as rational actors. The crimes of Marxists and the blood of their millions of victims cry out so loudly that the claims and cries of the Woke that they are speaking for “social justice” are nigh on impossible for me to hear.

Why do I make this confession of my traditionalist beliefs about Marxism? Because I have been struggling about how to present two thoughtful essays that Oxford Research Fellow Beatrice Groves has posted on MuggleNet about ‘The Goblin Problem.’ See Part 1: Rowling’s Goblin Problem and Part 2: The Sword Until Recently Known as Gryffindor’s for her as always insightful discussion of the issue.

‘The Goblin Problem,’ in brief, is that Rowling’s goblins seem to many to be transparencies for Jews. Their description and behaviors parallel in ways anti-Semitic caricatures familiar from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Dickens’ Fagin in Oliver Twist, and German National Socialist propaganda. This is bizarre, to say the least, because Rowling is a public defender of Jews in the UK and their struggle against the contemporary wave of anti-Semitism there and around the world. Could she have embedded such a glaringly ugly and demeaning depiction of Jews in her Hogwarts Saga?

Dr Groves argues cogently that this is a complete misunderstanding of the goblins and I think she has succeeded in simultaneously clearing Rowling, explaining the much more challenging and important meaning of the goblins, and presenting this problem, the reflex misinterpretation of her work, as a sign of how difficult this meaning is for readers to grasp in a time when corporate capitalists have all but eliminated craftsmen as a class or social fact. I am an uber fan of Dr Groves’ work and this pair of essays is some of her best work yet.

My problem? Dr Groves presents her case in the language of Karl Marx. [Read more…]

T. M. Doran’s ‘The Lucifer Ego’

I am a serious fan of T. M. Doran’s novels. I have read, enjoyed, and recommended everything he’s published since I stumbled upon his Toward the Gleam back in 2010. You can read my ’10 Questions Interview’ with him  about Gleam here and about his Terrapin here. Doran’s Iota is another excellent read.

When I heard that he had written a sequel to Gleam, consequently, I was all over it. I read The Lucifer Ego when it came out last summer and re-read it today. I recommend it to you for four reasons.

(1) Lucifer Ego is a Thriller-Mystery featuring a Great Trio of Characters — and The Lord of the Rings: Toward the Gleam told the tale of John Hill’s discovery of an ancient manuscript and his struggle to understand what it reports while protecting it from the wicked men trying to steal it. It is a barely disguised historical fiction turning on J. R. R. Tolkien and how he came to write LOTR with a great cast of characters to include C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and even Winston Churchill. We get glimpses of Tolkien, Lewis, and some of the Gleam characters in a few Lucifer Ego brief-flashback chapters, but the adventure in the sequel is contemporary England, France, Bosnia, and Germany and what the three new heroes, a paleoarcheologist, a psychologist, and an Intelligence agent for MI6, have to do to find the ancient manuscript. Hill/Tolkien had left it in a monastery but a mad monk had made off with it…

(2) Doran Can Write: Reading J. K. Rowling for two decades and discussing it with serious readers for almost as long have given me an appreciation of and taste for writers who are writing as much about other stories inside their own works as they are about the stories they’re telling in the surface plot. Rowling does this with her mythological story scaffolding, references to favorite books, and alchemical and Christian symbolism. Doran in The Lucifer Ego is all about texts ranging from Virgil’s Aeneid to The Lord of the Rings, which you’d expect, but also with interior stories characters are trying to figure out (the best being a children’s book called Beakie the Turtle) and a master villain whose psychological super power is creating narratives to manipulate anyone and everyone he meets to do his bidding. Like most good books, repeated reading reveals the careful drops and structuring you miss on the first quick page-turning.

(3) There’s a Message: Doran is someone who gets the spiritual crisis and the philosophical errors that define our age. He doesn’t beat you over the head with the meaning he wants you to walk away with, but, by having the bad guys act on ideas they believe and discuss and by presenting the good guys’ struggle with temptations both with respect to these ideas and their own internal issues, the reader confronts them, too, and, as Doran said in my Gleam discussion with him, 

I desired to expose these crooked ideas while, as Tolkien might have said, respecting the freedom of readers to reach their own conclusions. I wanted the malignant characters in the story to be more than one-dimensional, even if they were unattractive; in this mission, I struggled as Lewis described struggling with The Screwtape Letters. Like Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton, I wanted readers holding different beliefs to be able to ponder and reflect on the ideas in the story, while still enjoying a (hopefully) rousing story.

A writer and story craftsman who thinks seriously, presents challenging ideas in his novels, and yet one who respects intelligent readers sufficiently not to have to draw out the moral of the story in painfully obvious fashion — Doran is a keeper. And The Lucifer Ego is worth every minute you give it because of that care and respect, if Iota may be his best book in this regard.

(4) Good News and Bad News: I don’t think someone who hasn’t read Toward the Gleam will get half the enjoyment of the reader who has — which is just one more reason to get a copy of Gleam. The odd thing and good news was that, after reading the first book, I didn’t think a sequel was possible or even desirable. I looked forward to re-reading the book, as I do with everything Doran has written, but I was more than satisfied with the ending. With The Lucifer Ego and its three heroes, I again cannot see how they can continue the story, at least not with the ‘Manuscript that Becomes Lord of the Rings‘ backdrop, but I want very much for there to be more Lyle-Sam-and-Beatrice adventures.