What’s so funny ‘bout Peace, Love, and the Order of the Phoenix? Point of view and reader reaction

According to the great philosopher Obi-Wan Kenobi, a great many of the truths to which we cling depend upon our own point of view. This nugget of wisdom has been clearly illustrated to me lately as I’ve been reading aloud Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to my nine-year- old. I really hadn’t expected so much laughing from him as I read this one. Granted, there are some great Fred and George moments, and he is a big Fred and George fan, but I don’t really think of OP as being funny. It is, as we’ve discussed here at great length, the “black” book, the nigredo of Harry’s transformation as he begins to be stripped of his father substitutes with Sirius’s death. The Wizarding Wheezes humor, particularly appealing to pre-teen boys (setting off fireworks indoors, stuffing people in toilets, and puking seem much funnier to that age demographic) do serve to lighten the mood, and I guess they can be really laugh-out-loud funny if one is at the age to be deeply impressed by people who can burp the alphabet.

    That difference of reaction I understand, and I’m glad that his amusement has brought more of the humor to the forefront through this darker phase of our journey together with the boy wizard; what caught me up short was when we were reading “Snape’s Worst Memory,” a chapter I had actually been dreading (with “Career Advice,” my favorite chapter waiting just after to encourage me). I just did not look forward to reading that painful Pensieve scene, which I found unpleasant even before Deathly Hallows and its reassurance that Snape truly does deserve pity rather than contempt. Much to my horror, as I read, with some discomfort, of the Mauraders’ taunting of Snape, my sensitive, kind-hearted son actually laughed. I was appalled, and even snarled, “It’s not funny,” as defensive of Snape as Lily Evans is.

[Read more…]

‘Inside Higher Education’ Notes Trends in Twilight Scholarship: Lovable Quacks or Sneaky Smugglers

Last week’s issue of Inside Higher Education features a very interesting article about the scholarly attention being paid to Twilight. There is considerable mention of Twilight and History and comments from editor Nancy Reagin and contributor Janice Liedl.  It’s a well-written article, though, sadly, no mention of Spotlight and its excellent analysis of the Saga’s worth in critical studies . (Someone please post a comment to that effect. It might look weird coming from me). It’s also a much better article than this one from a local paper in which sentences I never spoke were inserted into my mouth, my name and the book’s title are wrong, and I’m called “co-author” rather than “contributor,” an important distinction.

Still, it is intriguing to notice the way Twilight scholarship is treated here. Though both these articles at least purport to be favorable in their tone, they indicate the two “safe” ways of viewing Twilight studies: [Read more…]

More ‘Hunger Games’ Bird Thoughts: Katniss and Prim as Dead Duck and Brilliant Mockingjay

No piece of critical writing is every truly comprehensive, covering every possible base. In a March post on bird images in The Hunger Games, I hit some of the highlights of bird connections with the two segments of the trilogy we have thus far, knowing that I wouldn’t get every single reference, of course, but happy to see that we had some great conversations on our feathered friends in Panem.

This week, however, a bird connection occurred to me that I had not pondered before, and it seems like one we might want to address. I wasn’t even thinking about HG, strangely. We were doing a memorial service for Civil War soldiers on a particularly chilly evening, so I wrapped my daughter up in an old fur cape, cast off from a college theatre department, which looks charming with her 1860s garb (in our neck of the woods, we tell folks it’s bearskin, though I guess it’s mink). The poor thing is pretty bare in spots, and, as Isabella was patting the soft fur, she noticed an old, rusty straight pin stuck in the hem. Thankfully, we got it out and discarded before anyone needed a tetanus shot, but it started me thinking about Mrs. Everdeen pinning Katniss’s old Reaping outfit on Prim.

That’s a very poignant scene, in my mind, as Katniss is so concerned about Prim’s shirt coming untucked, what she calls a “duck tail.”  At first, I thought this just a throwaway, a moment of tenderness and levity as the girls quack at each other before the Reaping, but, as I pondered it further,  I noticed that it is the sight of Prim’s “duck tail” that specifically incites Katniss to volunteer. It’s the trigger that sends her “flying” to the platform to take Prim’s place. The bird connections here may be far more complex and meaningful than an untucked blouse, as the duck is replaced by the Mockingjay.

[Read more…]

Chronicles of Narnia Set Second-Most Expensive Sale in December 2009 for AbeBooks

AbeBooks is a great resource for new, used, and rare books. Some real treasures apparently change hands through its website, which recently posted the list of its ten most expensive sales for December 2009.  Some of the listmakers are a little surprising, including several non-English titles (and somebody really is that interested in Dutch medals? Who would have guessed?). Much to my delight, second on the list, pulling in a whopping 8,132 dollars, was a complete original set of the Chronicles of Narnia. Aside from the obvious value (to me) of being in the original order, there is something very appealing about having the same set Lewis would have had from the publishers. But even if I had eight grand to toss around, is this how I would spend it? I’d probably still read my well-worn editions (the last set published in original order), both to my childen and on my own frequent returns to Narnia.

 I suppose many of the books in the vast piles around my home and office are valuable. Perhaps the only person who will really care is the executor of my estate. As far as I am concerned, books are valuable for what they mean to me, rather than for what their monetary exchange rate might be. The ratty paperbacks with my comments scrawled in the margins of them are priceless to me, though a collector, like Madam Pince, would shriek in horror at the sight of them. Of course, I do take care of my books, banning certain volumes from the “reading room” (that one with the tub and sink in it) and making sure that the more elderly meembers of the collection get treated with extra respect and care.

[Read more…]

Newsletter for C.S. Lewis College

A few days ago, I received a kind email from Peyton Beard, who is Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs with the C.S. Lewis Foundation. He had seen last month’s post on the C.S. Lewis college and was nice enough to send along a link to the foundation’s newsletter, which includes loads of information and pictures of the new college. With Mr. Beard’s permission and encouragement, I am posting the link to the newsletter and to the Foundation’s website.  Both of these excellent resources are truly valuable tools for any Lewis reader. Some of you may also want to get on the mailing list for updates. I know many of us will watch eagerly the development of this exciting academic endeavor. It’s wonderful to see that corporate sponsor Hobby Lobby is putting to good use all the money my mother has spent in their stores!