The Adeel Amini – Jo Rowling Interview

[Note February 2018: AdeelAmini.com no longer exists. The longest excerpts available from the interview are inside this report at The Leaky Cauldron. In case it too goes away, I have copied and pasted longer sections by topic from the Leaky report in the comments boxes below this post.

Nota bene: I contacted the writer of the TIME magazine ‘Person of the Year’ article on Rowling in 2007 to ask if she knew to whom Rowling was referring in her “eyes open” comment. She very generously and promptly responded that it was Connie Neal, author of What’s a Christian to Do about Harry Potter? and other books. She also gave me a link to the talk Connie Neal gave in which she made the “lost evangelical opportunity” comment Rowling admired. Case closed!]

Read the full text here. We’ve discussed much of this interview’s comments before (the importance of Dumbledore’s single-sex attraction incident, her colloquial use of the word ‘fundamentalism,’ etc.) but the whole thing is, as always, much better than the excerpted parts.

There is one passage, though, I hope you will take home and show your friends:

Moving on to a more contentious issue, Rowling has categorically said that she does believe in a higher power, a statement reinforced by her childhood church-going (“Till I was 17,” she clarifies). It must be difficult to reconcile her religious beliefs with those that denounce Harry Potter as anti-Christian, I wonder aloud. Rowling’s expression does not change a fraction. “There was a Christian commentator who said that Harry Potter had been the Christian church’s biggest missed opportunity. And I thought, there’s someone who actually has their eyes open.”

I can think of ten writers who wrote that “missed opportunity” line, several of whom aren’t Christians, but, as one of those commentators, I’ll tell you it is grand to read Ms. Rowling thought this was the “eyes open” understanding of her books.

I should note, too, the fact that this sentence was not mentioned in any of the previous reports about the interview throws light on the blind-spot in Daily Prophet coverage of Harry Potter. All we have read about this interview was homophobia and stupid Christian fundamentalists. Not one mention of the author pointing to the spiritual content of the books and their explicit and implicit Christian meaning!

Comments

  1. Arabella Figg says:

    This is an incredible interview! One of the best and most mature in subject and scope. Apparently it took a Rowling-friendly, non HP-reading “Muggle” to get deep into Rowling herself, rather than rehashing plot/character questions.

    Hurrah for Rowling and the “missed opportunity” statement–we can all clap paws and dance about. It was also interesting to read of her comments on girls’ body image; I didn’t know she’d spoken on this and that it was a controversy. What a role-model.

    I look forward to rereading the interview and commenting further. And I’ll be passing it on. Thanks, Professor!

    Thudders never misses any opportunity for a treat…

  2. John, thanks for the link. I found it somewhere and had already saved it, but still haven’t read it all the way through. (I had read, or tried to read it, when the scans were posted over at TLC). So I did read that quote but with all the other things she talked about in that interview it was easy for it to get lost.

    Whenever she says things like that I find myself wondering just what she has read (your book, perhaps?), because that isn’t the sort of thing that gets reported in any of the newspapers.

    And yes, I will be printing out this particular article–the whole thing is full of all sorts of interesting insights.

    Pat

  3. Gladius Terrae Novae says:

    I just saw the part where she said Dumbledore became basically “asexual and celibate!” She also said he lost his moral compass at this point and realized it. I find this very reassuring, as it seems to mean that he was not a REAL gay, and that she was not promoing that lifestyle. It greatly restores my faith in her Christianity, and yet deepens my regret on her comments on American politics. Not a good place for such a good, and conroversial, author.

  4. Arabella Figg says:

    At first I was bothered by Rowling’s political comments, Gladius Terrae Novae, concerned about their impact, but have unbent about it. Really, have you ever met an American who had no opinions of foreign nations’ politics/leaders? And what percentage even expresses them knowledgably?

    Many American authors comment on such things outside their works. Rowling’s controversiality has mostly been in the realm of religious views (Christians) and literary quality (academia).

    Whether her comments will affect perceptions of the books…I doubt it. I think most can separate a fictional work from an author’s personal views; although I think her personal political views permeate her books. Just who was that “President of a far distant country,” described as a “wretched man,” at the beginning of HBP, the one whose call the Prime Minister awaited? If you go within the books’ timeline, it could be Clinton; if you go with when she wrote it, it could have been a jab at Bush. If she was referring to an American at all.

    Rowling has a lively, intelligent mind and I expect we’ll hear many more of her personal views. Our country, what we do and who leads us has global impact. I’d bet most under 40 wouldn’t think twice about her comments.

    The kitties certainly never think twice about mine, because they don’t listen to them in the first place…

  5. I found the place where Ms. Rowling read the comment about the books being the Church’s “biggest missed opportunity.” It was in the Time magazine write-up of her being chosen as a runner-up for Time’s person of the Year. The article does not name “the Christian defender” cited:

    It turns out that Rowling, like her hero, is a Seeker. She talks about having a great religious curiosity, going back to childhood. “No one in my family was a believer. But I was very drawn to faith, even while doubting,” she says. “I certainly had this need for something that I wasn’t getting at home, so I was the one who went out looking for religion.” As a girl, she would go to church by herself. She still attends regularly, and her children were all christened. Her Christian defenders always thought her faith shined through her stories. One called the books the “greatest evangelistic opportunity the church has ever missed.” But Rowling notes that there was always another side to the holy war. “At least as much as they’ve been attacked from a theological point of view,” she says, the books “have been lauded and taken into pulpit, and most interesting and satisfying for me, it’s been by several different faiths.” The values in the books, she observes, are by no means exclusively Christian, and she is wary of appearing to promote one faith over another rather than inviting people to explore and struggle with the hard questions.

    [2/2018 — The Christian Defender is Connie Neal.]

  6. From AdeelAmini.com: The Diary

    10 March 2008
    Had the absolute pleasure of interviewing the very lovely Ms JK Rowling t’other day. You can read the interview by going here

    03 April 2008

    And I suppose I can’t really end this entry without a word on the entire JK Rowling furore that occurred after my last post, i.e. when the international media decided to take a choice snippet from it and plaster it across their front pages. While it did expose me to the admittedly fickle, and often remorseless, nature of journalism, I do feel it necessary to clarify my own standpoint of what happened in that interview room. As the interview states, Rowling seems very much content with her life at the moment, and deservedly so – the ‘suicidal’ comment was indeed an aside, a throwaway thought, presented in such a manner that it would be clear to anyone listening that she is truly past that awful stage of her life. Instead of blowing the issue out of proportion – for front-page news it most certainly isn’t – it is important to recognise how she has come out at the end of it all. On a personal level it is an incredibly inspiring achievement, and I sincerely hope that anyone reading the interview who has suffered a condition even remotely similar can take heart in the fact that there is definitely something positive on the other side.

    Amini describes himself as: “a 22 year-old writer and comic from Bradford, West Yorkshire, currently based in Edinburgh.

    Following almost four years of a riveting English Language degree, Adeel decided to take to the stage and generally spout caustic nonsense at anyone willing to listen. For some strange reason people have been letting him perform on a regular basis at comedy clubs in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, where he continues to milk his racial heritage for all it’s worth.

    When not embarrassing himself and others on stage, Adeel can be seen as a screenwriter and film journalist, heard as a radio presenter, and avoided as a lady of the night. You’ve been warned.”

    No wonder the interview was so good.

  7. Adeel Amini Interview Excerpt: On Gay Dumbledore

    On the matter of Dumbledore, Jo candidly states the following:

    “I had always seen Dumbledore as gay, but in a sense that’s not a big deal. The book wasn’t about Dumbledore being gay. It was just that from the outset obviously I knew he had this big, hidden secret, and that he flirted with the idea of exactly what Voldemort goes on to do, he flirted with the idea of racial domination, that he was going to subjugate the Muggles. So that was Dumbledore’s big secret.

    Why did did he flirt with that?” she asks. “He’s an innately good man, what would make him do that. I didnt even think it through that way, it just seemed to come to me, I thought ‘I know why he did it, he fell in love.’ And whether they physically consummated this infatuation or not is not the issue. The issue is love. It’s not about sex. So that’s what I knew about Dumbledore. And it’s relevant only in so much as he fell in love and was made an utter fool of by love. He lost his moral compass completely when he fell in love and I think subsequently became very mistrusting of his own judgment in those matters so became quite asexual. He led a celibate and bookish life.”

    Clearly some people didn’t see it that way. How does she react to those who disagree with a homosexual character in a children’s novel? “So what?” she retorts immediately “It is a very interesting question because I think homophobia is a fear of people loving, more than it is of the sexual act. There seems to be an innate distaste for the love involved, which I find absolutely extraordinary. There were people who thought, well why haven’t we seen Dumbledore’s angst about being gay?” Rowling is clearly amused by this and rightly so. “Where was that going to come in? And then the other thing was-and I had letters saying this-that, as a gay man, he would never be safe to teach in a school.”

    An air of incredulity descends on the room as if Rowling herself still can not believe this statement. She continues: “He’s a very old single man. You have to ask: why is it so interesting? People have to examine their own attitudes. It’s a shade of character. Is it the most important thing about him? No, it’s Dumbledore for God’s sake. There are 20 things that are relavant to the story before his sexuality.” Bottom line then: he isn’t a gay character; he’s a character that just happens to be gay. Rowling concurs wholeheartedly.

  8. Adeel Amini Interview: On “Fundamentalism”

    Regarding the Harry Potter book banning issue Jo says quote:

    “I can cope with a bad review. No one loves a bad review but a useful review is one that teaches you something. But to be honest the Christian Fundamentalist thing was bad. I would have been quite happy to sit there and debate with one of the critics who were taking on Harry Potter from a moral perspective. In a sense we have traded arguments through the media. I’ve tried to be rational about it. There’s a woman in North Carolina or Alabama who’s been trying to get the books banned-she’s a mother of four and never read them. And then- I’m not lying, I’m not even making fun, this is the truth of what she said-quite recently she was asked [why] and she said ‘Well I prayed whether or not I should read them, and God told me no.’ Rowling pauses to reflect on the weight of that statement, and her expression one of utter disbelief.

    “You see, that is where I absolutely part company with people on that side of the fence, because that is fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is, ‘I will not open my mind to look on your side of the argument at all. I won’t read it, I won’t look at it, I’m too frightened.’ That’s what’s dangerous about it, whether it be politically extreme, religiously extreme…In fact, fundamentalists across all the major religions, if you put them in a room, they’d have bags in common!” she laughs loudly before sobering. “They hate all the same things, it’s such an ironic thing.”

  9. Adeel Amini Interview: LeakyCauldron Report Detritus

    In this lengthy interview, Jo confirms she is indeed compiling information on the “Scottish book,” or the encyclopedia involving the world of Harry Potter as she says “…I am working on it in fact. I just don’t want to have to work to a deadline, but I am slowly piecing it together.” The article mentions that the children’s book that Jo is currently working on as well is still not finished and one that is for adults “may never see the light of day at all.” Jo declined to elaborate further on these books noting “The minute I say anything, immediately my life becomes more complicated.” She does go on to say that she “aways wanted to write a novel about a stand-up comedian. That is not what I am writing though, so if something comes out next week, that’s not me, I’m not doing it! But for ages, I’ve had a real thing about it.”

    In a wide ranging conversation, Jo gives her thoughts on such things as dealing with depression and the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (“I would recommend it highly”), fame and recognition by her readers (“people coming up to me in Starbucks are always charming, Always”) and whether she reads her own books (“The only one I’ve gone back and re-read since publication is the seventh book which is my favorite.”)

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