New Book Covers for Hogwarts Saga: The Japanese and Thai 2020 Editions

I am not a Harry Potter collector. I did buy a Harry Potter plastic plate at Nimbus 2003 in Orlando for my then two year old son, but, besides that, all I have bought from Rowling, Inc., has been her books and books by Potter Pundits and profiteers about her books. I have the Latin and Greek (ancient, not modern) translations, I confess, and can say in my defense I have twice used the Lapis Philosophi in teaching upper level Latin.

Anyway, lots of books and none of the myriad translations and anniversary or special editions in English or other languages.

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter in both Japan and Thailand. The publishers in those countries have put out an entire new run of the seven book series (eleven in Japan because they made each of the last four books into two volume editions) with exciting, vibrant covers. has posted all the cover illustrations for the Japanese series here and for the Thai set here with information about the illustrators, etc. I do not know what the old set looked like but these are quite good. I posted here in this post the two book covers that left me scratching my head and having to look twice to figure out the scene illustrated (many of the wonderfully stylized Thai covers fall into this category).

Let me know what you think! Better than Grand Pre or the Bloomsbury covers?

Rowling Donates £1 Million to Charities on Battle of Hogwarts Anniversary

In terms of Rowling’s net worth, of course, £1 million is peanuts. She once owned a yacht, just as a ‘for example,’ worth $28 million dollars (which she supposedly sold at a $10 million loss).

I begin with that note to anticipate nay-sayers wanting to downplay this characteristically generous and thoughtful gift on Rowling’s part. This is £1 million on top of the many millions she gives annually to Volant Charities and to Lumos — and the incredible income tax burden she bears without complaint or dodges (she pays 50% of her earnings which made last year’s bill £48.6 million — that’s $60 million, folks).

This gift will make a tremendous difference in the lives of the homeless and those suffering from domestic violence during this quarantine. And that is something we all should acknowledge, a gift to those in need for which we can be openly appreciative sans snark.

So, hats off and three cheers on this Battle of Hogwarts Anniversary for the thoughtfulness of The Presence. Thank you, Mrs Murray, for the good example.

Forced Confessions (Benson & De Vere)

I wrote last August that perhaps the best alternative to thinking about a Cormoran Strike novel we do not have would be reading and discussing the Benson and De Vere courtroom drama and detection thrillers by John Fairfax, the nom de plume of William Brodrick. There are, as I wrote then, some fascinating parallels between the Strike and Benson books and Galbraith/Fairfax:

The points of correspondence?

  • Brodrick had written six novels with a character, Father Anselm, and in a genre-melange largely of his invention. These novels had won him an international audience and all the awards the industry bestows. He adopts a transparent pseudonym, ‘John Fairfax,’ to take up a new character, William Benson, in a different if related genre.
  • Each of the Benson novels are satisfying stand-alone court room dramas told against the back-drop of the lead character’s mysterious personal history, to which story the attentive reader is given clues in each book.
  • While Benson is the star of the show and his mystery is the over-arching mystery, he has an assistant, Tess de Vere, who is a more than capable barrister herself, has her own personal enigmas the reader has to work out, and their relationship is strictly professional with hints that it will become ‘more than that.’
  • Benson is damaged goods, though. He is a lawyer licensed to plea in the Old Bailey, yes, but he is also a convicted murderer who pleaded guilty, did hard time, and is still very much in recovery from that experience. De Vere and Benson, according to the author, are on parallel and separate journeys of redemption that may intersect at times.
  • The man’s name is ‘Benson,’ right? Can you hear Shanker’s nickname for Strike there? ‘Bunsen’?

I’ll allow that the last point is a little weak.

The good news is that, unlike Rowling/Galbraith and Strike5, Brodrick/Fairfax has already announced the third Benson and De Vere novel title and publication date: Forced Confessions will be available on 5 March 2020.

Between thesis writing and Covid-19, alas, my best laid plans for prolonged discussion of the first two books before the publication of the third have all gang aglay. (Except for this one post.) I have ordered Forced Confessions, however, and look forward to reading it and to discussion here after I do.

Please join me in that and, if you haven’t already, read or re-read (or listen to) the brilliant first two Benson novels, Summary Justice and Blind Defence!

Rowling Says She Had Corona Virus?

Read the whole thread here.

This is perhaps the single most important tweet The Presence has made since returning to Twitter because it seems to have disarmed the Horrible Herd of Social Media Puritans, who, up to this time and since Rowling’s transgender rights tweet last December, had been standing by to shout “TERF!” and “Transphobe!” in response to anything she posted. The news that she had had something like Covid-19 symptoms (good disciple of UK taboos, she chose to stay home rather than receive a confirmed diagnosis — thereby “saving the NHS”) simultaneously empowered the faithful to express their love and concern with best wishes posted from around the world on the thread.

And she came back and is posting on Twitter almost daily — a mixed blessing, I think, but a notable event. Your thoughts?

Guest Post — Of Time, Terra, and Narnia: The Forgotten Ideas Behind C.S. Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov (Chris Calderon)

Of Time, Terra, and Narnia: The Forgotten Ideas Behind C.S. Lewis and Vladimir Nabokov

By Chris Calderon

Popular culture is often unkind. Once you reach its level, you soon discover all that counts is how well a complex subject can fit into this or that pigeonhole. In that sense a good working definition of pop culture is a place to put things so that you can forget them because its better that way, safer. Even beloved literary icons aren’t immune to this problem. C.S. Lewis’s reputation has become like that. He’s a name on the tip of the tongue who wrote a few kiddie books a while back and was something of a fundamentalist; that is all. The same thing happened to Vladimir Nabokov. All anyone can remember him for was writing a perverted book, and for some reason Stan Kubrick thought it would make a good film. Then there’s Jo Rowling, just another welfare queen who got lucky with another set of kiddie lit; “Life is very long”. That’s about as far a popular understanding can go, and it never deals with any of these subjects at all.

It can’t help readers understand that, thanks to the efforts of critics like Michael Ward, we now know that Lewis was a closet Berkeleyan Idealist, and that the good Bishop was perhaps his second “Other Master” after George Macdonald. Nor that few except a handful of close readers where able to say the same about the author Lolita. The thought and writings of George Berkeley form one of the most interesting thematic links between two writers who are never considered in the same aesthetic space together. There’s a story to be told about that link, and it has to do with a solitary dreamer. His name was John William “J.W.” Dunne, and he’s almost like a figure in a story, even if he was real.

Dunne was an aeronautics engineer. He was the very model of a modern day respectable. It would almost be true to say he represented the ideal picture of the norm for modernist Britain. Then somehow the table was upended. Dunne may have lost the respect of his neighbors and cohorts, though it remains for you to decide just what he gained in the end. Respectability came to an end for Dunne with a series of peculiar dreams. The first involved a stopped watch that didn’t malfunction until at least a day after Dunne dreamed that it did. The second was more dire. In his sleep, Dunne saw himself standing on an unstable strip of ground that was beginning to crack. Light was emerging from those tears in the earth, and he knew to go near any of it meant incineration. He could make nothing of this dream until the eruption of Mt. Pelee became the Pompei of the 20th century.

The same experience kept repeating itself. Dunne would see an event in his sleep, and later that event would sometimes repeat itself in real life. JWD was not a mystic. By training he had a degree in physics, and liked to keep track of the work of scientists like Einstein and Arthur Eddington. In addition, while he was practical, it was this same critical thinking streak that, paradoxically, made him an intellectually convinced Anglican. What he had on his hands amounted to little else except a repeating phenomenon with no other word to describe it except miraculous. Dunne was the sort of methodical thinker who couldn’t leave it at that, however. Like Lewis, he devoted a meticulous study to the subject as it occurred, and brought all his scientific acumen to bear on it. The result was An Experiment with Time, a text with an influence on both VVN and CSL. [Read more…]