Reading, Writing, Rowling, Episode 10: Adeel Amini Discusses Re-Release of His Interview With J.K. Rowling in 2008

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 10: “Adeel Amini Discusses His Interview With J.K. Rowling in 2008”

I’ve explained in another post how important Adeel Amini’s 2008 interview with J. K. Rowling is. She says in it, flat out, for instance, that seeing the Christian content of the Hogwarts Saga is reading the books with your eyes open. It’s an astonishing piece of journalism from a prodigy reporter who only this year agreed to re-release the interview. Read my post for more about that.

From the MuggleNet page for the podcast With Adeel Amini:

What happens when a student journalist meets a famous author? Ten years ago, journalism student Adeel Amini spontaneously asked J.K. Rowling for an interview for the University of Edinburgh newspaper. Having spotted her in a coffee shop in 2008, he successfully landed the interview and produced a unique character study of our favorite author in the wake of Book 7’s publication.

Guest Beatrice Groves (author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter), John, and Katy discuss the revealing and distinctive interview on its tenth anniversary with Adeel, now the owner and editor of PressPLAY OK. We talk about how Adeel handled the interview and the unusual moment during which he was able to gain this level of access. His article provided much new information about Rowling’s thoughts on the Christian imagery in the books, her response to the media frenzy over her revelations about Dumbledore’s sexuality in 2007, and her earlier experiences with depression.

Adeel quickly took down the interview as a result of the furor over Rowling’s revelations about her struggles with mental health, and he tells us about that decision as well as why he has decided now to release the interview once again. Adeel’s interview reveals Rowling as a fellow human being who, like the rest of us, has struggles and concerns about what is happening in the world in the 21st century.

Join us to hear about Adeel’s reflections, ten years later, on his conversation with her along with our speculations about queer readings of the Harry Potter books (and Fantastic Beasts), Rowling’s continual revisiting of the wizarding world and subsequent creative efforts, and her relationship with her fans and the media.

Let me know what you think!

Harry Potter and Joyce’s Ulysses? Reading Harry Potter as Literature

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 9: “’Harry Potter’ and the Prisoner of the Academy: Reading ‘Harry Potter’ as Serious Literature”

Katy McDaniel, host of the ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast at MuggleNet (on which program I am a featured guest), writes about the latest show:

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of people considering the Harry Potter books “just” children’s literature, or bestsellers with little literary merit. This week’s episode confronts the issue of academia’s view of great novels vs. popular novels and how different approaches to literary criticism might help us to see the Harry Potter novels as both.

Professor Konchar Farr explains the characteristics that make novels popular as well as the standards literary critics use to assess whether a novel qualifies as a classic. We consider why novels by women and children’s literature tend to be overlooked by academia and how that may be changing.

Dr. Konchar Farr’s book The Ulysses Delusion examines why James Joyce’s Ulysses always appears at the top of book critic lists when few people have read it and it does not make the lists of readers’ favorite books. She argues that we must pay attention to readers’ assessments of literature; Harry Potter fans demonstrate that readers can love books and critique them at the same time.

Readers’ creative responses to the wizarding world (through fan fiction, performative critiques, and social activist groups like the Harry Potter Alliance) illustrate the power that comes from deep reader engagement with novels. Professor Konchar Farr’s forthcoming edited volume examines the Harry Potterseries from a variety of literary critical perspectives that take the novels seriously as good literature.

The next generation of scholars who grew up reading (and loving) the Harry Potterbooks yet also see them as important literature are adding their voices to academia. How are they bringing academic attention to popular novels like Harry Potter and what theories are they finding useful?

Listen to that conversation here. Please also join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com) or Twitter (ReadWriteRowl)! We’d love to hear from you!

Reading, Writing, Rowling: Episode 8 Dirt and the Dark Arts – Tackling Taboos in ‘Harry Potter’ (Beth Sutton-Ramspeck)

From the MuggleNet.com write-up of this month’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast:

At its core, a story of good winning out over evil, Harry Potter is full of the dark arts and the unforgivable.

In this ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ episode, Katy and John talk with Associate Professor of Literature Dr. Beth Sutton-Ramspeck (The Ohio State University in Lima) about Rowling’s “literary housekeeping” in the Harry Potter series. Bringing her knowledge of Victorian literature to her analysis of Harry Potter, Sutton-Ramspeck explores the complex array of attitudes toward filth, innovation, artistry, and the unforgivable in the wizarding world. Challenges to taboos, creativity and innovation, and images of dirt and cleanliness in the Harry Potter books help further Rowling’s vision of social reform and urge readers to consider their own roles in playing out their destinies.

How does the term “mudblood” automatically convey its profanity? What’s the significance of the Burrow’s clutter and the Dursleys’ sparkling clean house? Does J.K. Rowling celebrate rule-breakers or show the dangers of violating social norms? Why do the most creative uses of magic tend to come from Death Eaters and Voldemort?

Consider with us how characters’ eyes provide evidence of mind-control, whether the Imperius Curse is really more unforgivable than the use of Amortentia or Obliviate, and how rule-breaking can become a seductive lure to the exercise of power over individuals. We debate the implications of these questions for the key theme of free choice versus destiny in the Harry Potter books.

Please join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@ReadWriteRowl)! We’d love to hear from you!

The Adeel Amini-J. K. Rowling Interview: Ten Years Later, Available Once Again

There have been few very-good-to-excellent interviews with J. K. Rowling in her twenty years of meetings with reporters, even fewer that have resulted in meaningful profiles of the author, given us answers to questions we didn’t even know we had, or provided insights to her work and her craft of writing. Off the top of my head, the very best have been Lev Grossman’s 2005 article for TIMEVal McDermid’s 2014 talk with ‘Robert Galbraith,’ Ian Parker’s New Yorker piece,Mugglemarch,’ in October, 2012, Ann Pratchett’s Q&A with her live at the Lincoln Center that same month, and Adeel Amini’s article from March, 2008.

These all share two qualities: the interviewers were respectful but not toady, willing to say to Rowling, “No, that’s not right” — and the interviews are for various reasons very difficult to access. Grossman’s article did not reveal a lot of what made his talk with Rowling a landmark event (he discusses why on his weblog and in our MuggleNet conversation). McDermid’s talk has never been transcribed to my knowledge and the Lincoln Center event is only available in four and five minute snatches on YouTube.

And then there’s the Amini interview.

Ten years ago Adeel Amini was a student in Edinburgh who was in his words a “clueless BAME journalist” (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic). He saw Rowling at a Starbucks and asked her for an interview. She agreed and they made a date to meet and talk four months later.

Incredibly, Amini had not read the Harry Potter novels.

More incredible? In speaking with Amini and a friend who had the books memorized, Rowling revealed things about herself — her faith, her psychological history, her writing projects, her thoughts about “fundamentalists,” her relationship with Fleet Street, her books, even what she meant when she said, “I’ve always thought of Dumbledore as gay” — that you would have thought required at least a quart of Veritaserum and gin to extract from her.

Amini was a wizard. And a prodigy.

The interview that Amini wrote up as an article for the Edinburgh Student was a bombshell and instant classic. Amini posted a pdf on his website — and then it disappeared. Only longish quotations from it were available online (this LeakyCauldron piece was the best reference). As the “Dean of Harry Potter Scholars,” I was asked via emailon a regular basis for almost ten years if I had a copy secreted away.

I didn’t have a copy. No one I knew had one, either. I know because we asked each other. It became something of a proverb, the thing you know you read somewhere Rowling had said that brilliantly made your point — and cannot find on Accio-Quote or through prolonged Google searches. That was “an Amini quotation.”

And then one day early last month Adeel Amini’s profile jumped up on my LinkedIn page. I was asked by the social media genie if I wanted to send an invitation to him to connect. “Damn right I do,” I remember thinking. He responded promptly, positively, and we began a conversation about his sharing the interview again — and his talking about it. He’s scheduled now to do a Tenth Anniversary ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast on MuggleNet with me, Beatrice Groves, and host Kathryn McDaniel.

What had happened? Why was the article MIA for the better part of a decade? Read about it in the preface Adeel wrote for the Medium piece. In a nutshell, it was because he felt that Rowling was not well served by the global media’s focus on her having told him that she had once been suicidal and in desperate need of CBT therapy. Though the article was his potential Golden Key to open every media door in the UK, proof that he could deliver a spectacular interview with the world’s top celebrity, Amini pulled it from public view.

This week is the tenth anniversary of the article’s appearance.  Adeel has put it back up, he says, because:

For me, sharing the full original text of this interview is giving something back to Harry Potter fans who have been so kind over the years. It is also a reminder that my admiration for Jo Rowling has never once waned. There may have been stances I disagreed with it, routes I may not have taken, but there’s no doubt she remains one of the most inspiring and principled women I’ve ever met….

I still can’t convince myself to read [the article] again (mainly due to passages I’d be mortified by today) but in finally republishing this piece after 10 years I hope that I can repay some of that grace while reminding people – especially Potter fans – who they fell in love with to begin with.

As I said, incredible. Read the article and let me know what you think — and what you want me to ask Adeel when Katy, Beatrice, and I sit down to chat with him later this month.

Fantastic Beasts Ring Composition: Reading, Writing, Rowling Podcast

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 7: “The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in ‘Fantastic Beasts’”

Host Katy McDaniel directs the discussion of structure in Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay, a discussion featuring Brett Kendall, the Potter Pundit who broke the chiastic code of the Harry Potter series in 2003, and myself, in the Ring Composition corner (if those actually circular rings had corners). The patterns of Rowling’s work when coupled to the baseline mythological story she is re-telling are our best bets for guessing where we’re headed.

Join Katy, Brett, and me on a fun trip into the world of speculative possibilities and most likely story finishes in ‘Reading, Writing Rowling’s Episode 7,The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in FantasticBeasts“!