Dickensian Cryptonyms: Is Lockhart a Pullman Stick-Figure?

Probably not.

Over at the Barnes and Noble Book Club (please join the discussion!), a violist admitted not caring much for Mozart — and how this tick gave her some sympathy for the problem Professor Bloom and Ms. Byatt may have in ever appreciating Ms. Rowling’s books. I found her posts and the consequent exchange on that thread both edifying and challenging. Barnes and Noble.com is great.

In the spirit of “true confessions” on that thread, I have to admit here a blind-spot or taste problem with reading an author many of my friends admire. I have been unable to get past the first chapters of any of Philip Pullman’s books after reading several interviews with him in which he proclaimed his atheism as the true faith — and that C. S. Lewis was a writer children should not be allowed to read because of the transparancy of his evangelical message. (Pullman critics in the UK call him the “UnLewis” because of this opinion, after a character in Lewis’ *Perelandra* called the UnMan. Note the opening of the *His Dark Materials* books being a child in a wardrobe…) I have heard two men I admire, Philip Nel at KSU and Vincent Kling at LaSalle University, both Rowling admirers, sing Pullman’s praises. I just can’t get my head around the disdain Pullman feels for a writer I admire, disdain rooted in a belief that Lewis was a Puritanical, misogynist and allegorical writer. There are plenty of reasons not to like Lewis (Tolkien liked to share these reasons with Lewis and his friends) but Pullman’s seem just an atheist’s prejudices about a Christian artist.

But isn’t my inability to enjoy Pullman’s books, what Nel calls “the Gold Standard” for children’s literature and no doubt more to Professor Bloom’s liking in terms of prosaic aesthetic heights, just the mirrored image of his prejudice: a Christian’s disregard for an atheist’s artistry? I’d love to think it was just a matter of taste, as in not *liking* Mozart, but I’m almost convinced this is a failing more like religious believers who cannot read and enjoy Harry Potter because they still believe in their heart of hearts that the books are gateways to the occult. Maybe this is why I have a hard time getting upset with these folk, even when they call radio stations to tell me on-air that I’m hell spawn. [Read more…]

Harry Potter and the Money Making Machine: Harold Bloom continues his assault on Potter Mania

A friend sent me a Newsweek url this morning to ask me, “just what is it about Harry Potter that Harold Bloom can’t stand?” It is a good question. America’s leading literary critic of the last three decades has made repeated references to the “slop” of writing in these books and cited the books as evidence of a growing “sub-literacy” in popular culture.

Check out the delight with which this critic of Harry Potter cites Bloom in his essay, Harry Potter and the Money Making Machine, that appeared in The Herald (UK):

The Harry Potter books are, as entertainment, inoffensive. But they’re not literature; they’re middle-brow pot-boilers. I will not presume to go as far as the great Yale professor, Harold Bloom, author of The Western Canon, who said of J K Rowling’s work: “The writing was dreadful; the book was terrible. As I read, I noticed that every time a character went for a walk, the author wrote instead that the character stretched his legs’. I began marking on the back of an envelope every time that phrase was repeated. I stopped only after I had marked the envelope several dozen times. I was incredulous. Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.” [Read more…]

Hogwarts Professor Sabbatical: Online March Madness at Barnes and Noble.com’s Waiting for Harry Book Club

What a weekend! I go to a clergy conference in California way out in the boonies (can you say “Oregon”? Well, close) and HogPro crashes the day I leave because the domain name wasn’t renewed. Why not? The company sent the invoice to my Washington snail mail address which doesn’t forward letters to us anymore.

Down we came. Thanks to all of you who wrote and a big “THANK YOU!” to Erick, who, as always, figured it out and brought the site back to life. Phew.

Today’s big news is that, after flying West Coast to Gulf Coast to East Coast (big country…) via Continental, I spent the afternoon dedicating, autographing, packaging, and mailing all the copies of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader that were pre-ordered beginning back in the summer. A big stack of books, lemme tell you. Mary had to make two trips to the post office – and the post office folks weren’t happy to see her either time.

Oh, well! I hope that all of you who get your books this week – from Aukland, New Zealand, to London, UK and what seemed like every United State in between – will write me to say you received your book in good shape. I look forward to reading what you think in notes I can post here and in reviews you post at Amazon and BN.com.

Speaking of which, I will be posting daily at BarnesAndNobles.com’s (BN.com) Book Club Waiting for Harry all this next month, March 2007. If it’s anything like the old BNU discussion groups I did from 2003 to 2005, it promises to be very busy and more fun than you should be able to have writing about books online. I’ve already posted on Literary Alchemy and Narrative Misdirection — and I’ll definitely get the other Three Keys of the Five up there before the month is through.

Come join us! The gang is really going after Horace Slughorn (Evil! or P!Hero?) and I just finished reading a monster post about Professor McGonagall as a Black Hat (no joke!). Can Scar-O-Scope be far behind? I look forward to seeing you there and reading your thoughts in the com-boxes. No Skiving Snack Boxes, please!

If you’d like me to autograph and mail out your copy of Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader or WKAD? or HKHP today, just go to Zossima.com and order it. Mary has told me I won’t get any lunch at noon until I’ve signed that day’s orders so it will get to you promptly (as head of Zossima.com Shipping & Receiving, she’s quite the task master).

See you at Barnes & Nobles’ Waiting for Harry Book Club!

Rowling Confesses Desire to be an Alchemist

This just in — albeit from 1998! The web mavens at Hans Andrea’s Harry Potter for Seekers recently highlighted this money quotation from an interview with Ms. Rowling in the UK that was published soon after Chamber of Secrets was released. The full article can be read at accio-quotes.com right here.

The quotation:

“I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I’ll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories’ internal logic.”

To all those skeptical readers who have asked me with denial in their voices, “Has Ms. Rowling ever said there is alchemy in these books?” I now say, “Yes, she has.”

Not that the books themselves didn’t scream “Alchemy, anyone?” from the cover of the first book on, but what a delight to have this unexpected and undeniable confirmation! Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader, of course, features an in-depth discussion of Ms. Rowling’s use of alchemy throughout the series and how it points to certain plot points in Deathly Hallows.

Orders for Unlocking Harry Potter made today at www.zossima.com will be mailed on Monday of next week, with autograph and all that. If you are new to the idea of literary alchemy and what Ms. Rowling, alchemist wannabe, is about in her use of alchemical images and themes, read ‘The Alchemist’s Tale’ in Touchstone magazine (taken from my “Best In Show” talk at the Nimbus HPEF gathering in 2003). I’ve also written here about the alchemical meaning of the title, Deathly Hallows.

Let me know what you think and what questions you have in the comments boxes below. An alchemical weather report for Deathly Hallows is already up!

Dumbledore Spotted: Stoppered Death the Solution?

As a rule, I am several weeks behind on Fandom news. I don’t visit the websites that update every half hour with new still pictures of the naked Daniel Radcliffe or the cover of the Goblet DVD just released in the Netherlands (“what does that hippogriff head mean?!”) so, unless a friend sends me a note or one of my cadets asks me a question, I’m clueless about the larger media world of Potter-mania.

I gave a talk last Thursday called “The Five Keys and Seven Predictions for Deathly Hallows” at LaSalle University in Philadelphia where at least one serious reader had heard that Ms. Rowling had just renounced Dumbledore’s real death. I tried to explain “Stoppered Death” to her quickly but made a mental note to check Travis Prinzi’s website, www.SwordofGryffindor.com, when I got home.

Sure enough, Travis had posted something on this a week or so ago. The original article is here with commentary here. The meat of the subject is this:

Harry Potter fans around the world cannot help but be excited over Dan Radcliffe’s latest interview. In an interview that appears in today’s edition of The Sunday Times, Dan Radcliffe talks about being Harry Potter and he also talks about his roll in Equus, but the real reason Harry Potter fans are excited is because this interview includes a small bit of a conversation that Dan Radcliff had with J.K. Rowling. Dan shared this information with The Sunday Times:

“Jo came down to the set at one point and I said, ‘Oh hello, why are you here today?’ And she said, ‘Oh I just needed a break from the book – Dumbledore’s giving me a lot of trouble.’ And I said, ‘But isn’t he dead?’ And she said, ‘Well, yeah, but it’s more complex…’ I was like, [briskly] ‘OK, I’m not gonna ask anything else!” [Read more…]