Two Weekends, Two Virginia Magic Festivals and One Tired Professor

It’s definitely Harry Potter copyright-free Magic Festival season here in the mid-Atlantic, with the Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival hereafter ‘QCMM’) in Staunton, VA on Sept. 28-30, the Generic Magic Festival (hereafter ‘GMF’) in Roanoke, VA on Oct. 6th, The 7th Annual Harry Potter Conference at Chestnut Hill College, PA on Oct. 19-20 (and the associated Wands and Wizards Festival in the town of Chestnut Hill) and finally Scottsville, VA’s Wizarding Fest On October 27. All of these events, of course, began as bona fide Harry Potter Festivals, and all, except the academic conference, which has a Shield Charm based on its educational nature, changed their name after receiving cease-and-desist Howlers from Warner Brothers.

To my delight, my own institution decided to get a bit more into the act for the QCMM this year, sponsoring a reptile show on the main downtown stage and “Hufflepuff Village” (based in part on our shared yellow school/house color) on the main campus, as well as the academic presentations at “Beauxbatons Academy” that I coordinated. After two long days during that weekend, I trekked down to Roanoke yesterday to present a talk, be on a panel and record a podcast at their festival. This flurry of activity makes my missing the Chestnut Hill conference for the first time since 2014 (thanks to a conflict with my 30th college reunion) a little less depressing. I have had a great time giving and hearing presentations over the last 10 days, and I want to summarize some highlights here. [Read more…]

Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” is Lethal White’s Perfect Playlist Selection.

I don’t know how popular Taylor Swift is in the UK, or if JKR RG is a country music fan, but if either of those is true, I’d be willing to bet Swift’s  “White Horse” is is the song the author had in mind for her official playlist, rather than Andrea Ross’s “White Horses.” See my earlier post for links to both tunes. Ross’s song, of course, gave away fewer spoilers, and therefore was the safer choice for a pre-publication interview. For the same reason, I’ll explain why after the break, for the benefit of those still reading.

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“He Strangled it… Up by the Horse” Provides a Breath of Fresh Air: Louise’s First Impressions of Lethal White

I took time I didn’t have to read Lethal White last week, and I’m glad I did. As with the Harry Potter series, Rowling’s Galbraith’s books keep getting longer, but they keep getting harder to put down.

The most surprising thing to me was what a kinder, gentler volume this was–for a murder mystery, that is–with the gruesome factor and body count drastically reduced compared to The Silkworm and Career of Evil. There was a corresponding reduction in both cursing and casual sex. Every time I give a Harry Potter talk, I recommend the Cormoron Strike series, with the caveat that the recommendation is limited to the adults in the audience.  This volume, I would say, could be suitable for mature teens.

Spoilers below the jump.  [Read more…]

Rowling Offers ‘Lethal White’ Play List: Andrea Ross’s ‘White Horses’ For Robin

Go right to the source and ask the horse,

He’ll give you an answer that you endorse.

We here at Hogwartsprofessor have been chomping at the bit for three years waiting for Lethal White, and speculating about the title meaning since we heard it. Beatrice Groves has done a marvelous investigation of all possible white horse connections: from art, to Biblical imagery to poetry to archeology. Not having her knowledge–see my decidedly un-scholarly epigraph, above–I’m going to share something from “Mr. Galbraith’s” recent interview in the New York Times. The reclusive veteran thoughtfully provided a playlist for the novel.

There are eight songs or pieces of music mentioned in the novel that should be on the playlist: “Cutt Off” by Kasabian , “No Woman, No Cry” by Bob Marley , “Wherever You Will Go” by The Calling , Rihanna’s “Where Have you Been,” “ Ni**as In Paris” by Kanye West and Jay-Z and “Oliver Twist” by D’Banj , “Black Trombone” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, C Minor .

I’d add “So Long Marianne” by Leonard Cohen for Strike and Charlotte, “Heroes,” by David Bowie for the Olympic backdrop and “White Horses” by Andrea Ross , not only for the book’s leitmotif, but for Robin, and a romantic, innocent girl’s idea of adventure and freedom. (emphasis added)

After I got over my delight at seeing the phrase “Olympic backdrop,” I started looking up some of the songs.  When I googled “White Horses lyrics,” I landed not on the Andrea Ross tune, but White Horse, by Taylor Swift.  Check out these prophetic words:

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Super Lethal White Speculation Podcast! Reading, Writing Rowling, Episode 14: Cormoran Strike – and Harry Potter?

Tuesday morning, just after midnight or later in the day when your bookstore opens for business, we’ll all be reading Strike 4, aka Lethal White, the latest Robert Galbraith Cormoran Strike whudunnit. I have the day off from my Muggle job Tuesday and, no, I won’t be answering email or cell phone calls. It’s like a throw back to Midnight Madness parties and the anticipation of a first reading of a Harry Potter novel… and those are happy memories for Rowling fans, right?

I will, of course, be posting on a daily basis here about Lethal White from late on the 18th and the days following for at least a month. Until Tuesday, though, what are we to do?

Marietta College’s History professor and Potter Pundit Katy McDaniel, the host of MuggleNet’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast anticipated our frustration in the waning moments of the Great Wait and recorded a conversation among three Strike Scholars, Karen Kebarle, Louise Freeman, and myself, about all things Cormoran with special emphasis on what we can expect in Lethal White. It was a ‘wow’ meeting of minds and I recommend it to anyone wishing for an appetizer beyond the excerpt teaser published yesterday in The Guardian.

Dr. McDaniel describes the podcast conversation this way:

J.K. Rowling’s second literary career as Robert Galbraith acts as a commentary on her Harry Potter series and also sets out on a new literary path. With guests Dr. Karen Kebarle and Dr. Louise Freeman, Katy and John examine the connections between the Harry Potter series and the first three Cormoran Strike novels. J.K. Rowling’s artistic signatures appear in the detective novels, in particular via the classical literary allusions that appear in both. Do apparent correspondences reveal more than just that the same mind created both Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike (or the reader’s tendency to see connections everywhere)? An understanding of mythology and ancient literature helps us ponder where the detective series might be headed in the fourth book, due out in mid-September.

Some fans have made the leap from Harry Potter to Cormoran Strike, but others have not. Our conversation explores why this second series has received less popular and scholarly attention, as well as the compelling qualities of the novels – the characters and relationships, plotting, descriptions of modern London, and themes – that have drawn us to them. We also contemplate the larger story arc: Is this essentially a romance between Cormoran and Robin? Does Strike have a “Moriarty” foil who will eventually become important? What will we learn about Cormoran’s father and mother?

Predicting where J.K. Rowling is heading with the series is tricky, but close readings of the previous books, her social media clues, Lethal White’s synopsis, and Rowling’s slow narrative release in the Harry Potter books point us in certain key directions. Do you think we got it right?

If that’s not enough, check out my post ‘Lethal White: What We Can Expect‘ and my most recent speculations about the White Horse idea with which Rowling has been teasing us vis a vis Lethal White in ‘Heroin Dark Lord.’

On Monday I’ll share my Day-Before-Publication ‘List of Ten Things that Have to Happen’ and my ‘Off-The-Wall Prediction List’ of the things I’d love to see in Lethal White. Let me know what you think of the MuggleNet podcast — and stay tuned for an exciting week of Strike posts here at HogwartsProfessor!