Reviewer Copies of ‘The Chessman,’ Dolores Gordon-Smith’s Latest Jack Haldean Mystery Novel, Now Available

But they won’t be available for long, I suspect. I mean, a book that you want to read — yours, for free, the best of all prices?

ChessmanSevern House, the publishers of Dolores Gordon-Smith’s acclaimed Jack Haldean novels, is looking for American bloggers and librarians interested in a free copy of her latest book, The Chessman, in exchange for a review (read about the book here). If you’re a mystery lover or if you listen to MuggleNet Academia, you know Dolores Gordon-Smith, the latter-day incarnation of Agatha Christie. Her books are a delight and a cut above ‘fine entertainment.’ As you’d suspect in a series penned by a profound student of the genre and a world-class Potter Pundit, the Haldean adventures keep you in suspense to the last page and leave you thinking afterwards.

I have signed up for my Chessman reviewer copy, of course, and, if you are a book person that talks with or writes for other book people and you are as excited about this opportunity as I am, drop me a note [john at HogwartsProfessor dot com, right?] and I’ll put you in contact with the publisher. No pushing in line, please; though I doubt this offer will be good for more than a few days.

Mail Bag: Wands that Work, Star Wars Webinar, Snape as Role Model, and… Ron Weasley as Hat-Tip to Aslan?

f192990246Pretty full mailbag today with quite the variety of news, events, challenging ideas, and questions I’ve never heard before. Let’s jump right in with a report that you’ve been waiting on for at least a decade.

Okay, maybe that’s not for everyone. My cell phone, for example, has a rotary dial. I’m pretty sure my 20th Century Nokia is not going to cut it with ‘Alohamora!’

But here’s something for anyone who has seen a Star Wars film (I’m guessing that pretty much everyone in the Common Room today?). Dr. Amy H. Sturgis, profound Potter Pundit and the first one kind enough to answer my email (way, way back in 2002), is giving a free webinar on the greatest Sci-Fi film franchise ever. Here is what she sent me today about the wow talk she is giving online for free: [Read more…]

Mailbag: First Steps in Ring Writing, Medieval Modes & Methods of Reading, and the Knight of the Potter Panic

f192990246There are three letters this week in the HogwartsProfessor mailbag, all re-printed here with permission.

The first is about how to write a ring composition rather than just recognize it another person’s work:

Hello John.

Question for you. I have been working on a series of my own for the past five years on and off, and I’ve been putting a lot of work into the structure of it. Or rather, I’m working on developing the architecture and thousand other things it feels like. I have read Hero With A Thousand Faces, and enjoyed it. I know many authors who have prospered from the pages of that book including J.K. Rowling I’m sure.

RingI was hoping you could help me in some way. I’ve bought most of your books on Harry Potter and find them to be very interesting. I’m just finishing your notes on Ring Composition Theory.

Reading all this material has been a great help to me, but I must admit I’m not sure how to begin yet on how to apply Ring Composition to my series. I like building the framework for my work, but I could use your advice on how to begin.

This particular series I’m working on is very important to me. I’ve been studying different story structures for years, but I must admit some are simply superior to others. I look forwar d to your response.

Dear Rob, if I may,

You write:

[Read more…]

Mail Bag: How to Reach and Read On the Third and Fourth Levels of Meaning

f38696486A friend and serious reader who had just finished reading Deathly Hallows wrote me to say “thank you” for recommending he read to the end of the series before passing judgment — and to ask as a throw-away in his post:

How do we learn to read at the third and fourth levels?

That’s a reference to the four levels of reading first propounded by exegetes of the Hebrew Scriptures in ancient times, evident in Plato’s Divided Line, adopted by Aquinas and many others, and sealed to the Western Canon by Dante’s letter to Con Grande (read an introduction with very helpful chart to all that and Plato’s Cave, too, here and, for a ‘for instance’ of its application to a specific story, The Hunger Games, head over here).

If you’re up to speed on the four levels — and the posts behind those two links are a good afternoon of reading — then we can skip to the answer to my friend’s question: How do we learn how to read, how to think, at these levels?” 

Dear John,
The first and hardest step is grasping that allegorical and anagogical reading correspond to knowing with surety and knowing in wisdom (the first two levels corresponding with sense perception and with opinion). 
We know that we can see through tons of data to see the natural law or principle of which the phenomena are only instances. Knowing this principle and seeing the data as ephemeral occasions of it gives us scientia or sure knowledge. This makes the reams of data effectively a transparency, window, or allegorical figure of the principle that is not perceptible in itself. You cannot see the Law of Gravity but you know it from observation of, by seeing through the transparency of the behavior of all natural objects in space-time on earth.
chart001Sophia or wisdom is not a knowing that we acquire but one we become, a knowledge that transforms us into a temporal image of the Principle of Knowing, the Logos. All other knowing is only valuable insomuch as it leads us to this communion and elision.
If we first understand the corresponding knowledges to allegory and sublime writing — again, science and wisdom — and begin to read the world in light of these capacities (instead of remaining subject to surface sensory data and opinions shaped by the errors of our age), then ‘getting’ the depths of books written by authors who are wise or who write in wisdom shaped genres is a natural extension.

f36752102The rest is only learning the tropes of artistry — structure, symbolism, literary syntax — that are the means better writers have used to create the experiences that change us.
Getting the last, however, without seeing the world differently first… That is knowledge that will become cocktail party and blog post fodder to show how sophisticated a thinker and reader one is, an obstacle, another hurdle to spiritual maturity rather than an edifying, providential helper.
And — oh, yeah! — being a believer in a traditional, orthodox, revealed faith helps more than anything. It is the real experience of which reading is only the imaginative shadow. The Orthodox Christian Liturgy, for example, is when uncompromised by innovations only wisdom experience and the Eucharist the Logos incarnate Himself. Baptism and the daily asceticism and joyful sorrow of Orthodoxy is the means to photismos or illumination in the Holy Spirit, as you have discovered.


As you might have guessed from that last, this friend is a recent convert to Orthodox Christianity. Your comments and corrections on the means to reading effectively at four levels are coveted, as always.

Mailbag: Do You Have to See the Alchemy in a Story to Experience It?

f38703334I received a note the day before yesterday from a graduate student in the Russian Federation. Her questions about alchemy — do any readers see alchemical symbolism as they read? and, assuming not, obscure as it is to almost everyone’s conscious mind, how can it have the effect it supposedly has? — are subjects we’ve touched on before and perhaps should again. With her permission, then, here is our brief correspondence on this subject:

Dear Mr. Granger!

About two years ago you and me had a little email conversation about “Harry Potter” and Russian literature. I am now reading your book “The Deathly Hallows Lectures”, one chapter from which you kindly sent me back then.

I am currently doing my post-graduate program in Russian State Humanities University, Moscow, and my dissertation is built around “Harry Potter”, fan fiction in “Harry Potter” fan community in particular. Your books inspired me to analyze the perception Russian fans have over English cultural and literature traditions, symbols, images and levels of meaning, described in Harry Potter novels. However, the first thing that I need to understand in order to succeed in my research is whether English-speaking readers can see the symbols and literary references in “Harry Potter”.

f39171430What would you say about the amount of readers from fan community that can catch these symbols? And do you think they use this knowledge in those fan’s texts? Excuse me for this question as I am not sure if you are not involved in “Harry Potter” fan’s texts analysis or not.

My dissertation will be the first paper on the perception that Russian fans have over English cultural and literature traditions written in Russian. Your books are very useful for my research, which I am very grateful about! I often mention you in my reports on different philological science conferences.

Sincerely yours,

My response:

Dear Lisa, if I may (my keyboard does not have Cyrillic keys and I don’t dare attempt a transliteration of your last name; please forgive me),

Thank you for your kind note and for the interesting work you are doing.

In answer to your questions:

the first thing that I need to understand in order to succeed in my research is whether English-speaking readers can see the symbols and literary references in “Harry Potter”.What would you say about the amount of readers from fan community that can catch these symbols?

IdiotsVery few of the readers of Harry Potter consciously grasp the symbols in play in Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga. Which failing, of course, is why they work so powerfully. As C. S. Lewis wrote in The Literary Impact of the Authorized Version, “an influence which cannot evade our consciousness will not go very deep.” Some readers have cited the obscurity of Rowling’s alchemical imagery as a reason for doubting its importance; as I explain in ‘What Alchemy Does in Harry Potter,’ they have this exactly upside down — the difficulty of seeing it with the cranial mind is evidence of its being picked up by the cardiac intelligence or ‘heart.’ This is at least as true in the ring composition structure of the work, all of which parallelisms escape reader attention.

I wrote something about the power of subliminal suggestion for both advertising and literary effect that may be helpful, too: it’s called Shaping Souls Subliminally. Let me know what you think!

And do you think they use this knowledge in those fan’s texts? Excuse me for this question as I am not sure if you are not involved in “Harry Potter” fan’s texts analysis or not.

f39080678I’m guessing by “fan’s text analysis” you mean what we call ‘fan fiction’? If so, I’m sorry; as a rule, I don’t read it. Quite a few writers, though, have written me about the tools Rowling uses in hopes of applying them in their work. We can certainly see soul triptychs, alchemy, and ring scaffolding in Stephenie Meyer’sTwilight books and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games novels. So, yes, Rowling’s artistry is being used by admiring readers, if I cannot say they have been in fan fiction.

With admiration,

John, in haste, grateful for your note and work

Dear Mr. Granger!

Thanks for so quick answer! I will read the link (“Shaping Souls Subliminally…”) you sent me.

The content of your website will be very useful for my dissertation.

Of course you may post our exchange without changing my name. My full name is Elizaveta K. Timoshenko. The university where I am doing my post-graduate program is Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH), Moscow. This is the link to the university website:

f38696614I would also add that there are a lot of dissertations about “Harry Potter” in Russian (about some language aspects, youth subculture, postmodernism features, translation transformations), but my paper will be the first one devoted to the Russian fans’ perception of English cultural and literature traditions (based on Russian and English fan fiction in HP fan community).

It is sad to admit that there is no deep analysis of the texts, written by fans, in Russian Philology. Fan fiction is regarded as texts written by graphomaniacs that should not be taken into consideration.

Kind regards,