The Life and Lies of — Bertolt Brecht?

Amnon Halel, whose notes to me from Israel always throw new light on the Hogwarts Saga, sent this last week about a possible source for the title of Rita Skeeter’s acid-pen biography The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. Mr. Halel wrote:

When I read the title The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows, I thought of John Fuegi’s famous biography of Brecht: “The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht (1994). Both books are sensationalistic biographies that are hundreds of pages long, full of contempt for their subject, and each uses some  facts and evidence mixed in with strong biased interpretations and bad intentions to prove the man is not a hero but a liar.

I didn’t find any comparison or connection of these books on the Internet and I wonder what do you think? Is it just coincidence?

I asked Amnon to write up this catch as a post himself but he asked me to do it in return. Here, then, is a short survey of this fascinating possibility:

[Read more…]

Mailbag Query: Seeing Thestrals And Seeing Death

Mr. Granger: In Deathly Hallows, Ms. Rowling writes that Harry witnessed his mother’s death.  If this is true, why doesn’t he see the thestrals until after Cedric dies?

I believe Ms. Rowling has answered this in an interview or her web site; please do a search at JKRowling.com and Accio Quotes!

My quick answer, probably reflecting what I’ve read with my own thoughts stirred in, is that the ability to see Thestrals, a transformed vision in a Saga largely about seeing correctly and at greater depth, is a function of how the mind changes in its ability to grasp profound and difficult meaning — represented neatly by the mythic creatures suggestive of death, the Thestrals — after a confrontation with life’s ending.

Harry experience of death as an infant was not changed by what he saw, at least not internally, hence it is Cedric’s death in the Hangleton graveyard which opens his eyes, if you will. Great question — and please let me know what you find in your search for Ms. Rowling’s answer. [For more on the eyes of Deathly Hallows and Coleridgean transformed vision in imaginative literature, see chapter 5 of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, ‘The Seeing Eye.’]

Mailbag: Three Hallows Spotted in Genesis?

I hope you enjoyed the Hedwick inspired Spotted Dick! Today’s question is  — Is there a Biblical root for the three Hallows?

I was reading up on the Bible and found something and it seemed that Harry Potter correlated to it. I was wondering of your opinion of whether or not it is something significant and JK’s meaning for using it in the books. In Genesis 38 there is the story of Judah and Tamar where he is about to sleep with her and she asks him to give her something as a collateral to make sure he sends her the goat that he will owe her. She asks for his “signet-ring, his cloak, and the staff”. The Deathly Hallows are way too similar to these three things for me to think that JK Rowling did not use those three objects as some allusion to the Bible.

What do you think?

My first impulse, forgive me, is to say, no chance.” But this is more likely than I thought. For those of us not familiar with Genesis 38, here is the text in question. Note especially verse 18:

[Read more…]

Deathly Hallows (Part 1): A Reader’s Movie Notes

I really struggle with writing movie reviews.

I don’t know about you, but I roll my eyeballs at film criticism written by serious book readers in which the reviewer just doesn’t get beyond a throw-away acknowledgment that screened images and printed text are different media so the stories are necessarily different. Reading all the changes made in the jump from page to celluloid, be it in the Potter and Twilight franchises or in Narnia and Middle Earth, especially when these changes are noted with disapproval, disappointment, and a dismissive dismay at what the film-going reader experiences as something like heresy or sacrilege, leaves me marveling that anyone in the 21st Century still doesn’t understand that the movie experience is not and cannot be the reader’s experience of story. (Prof. Baird Hardy, of course, gets it just right.)

[Read more…]

‘Ring Composition’ and Pundits’ ‘Smart Talk’ Highlight HogPro Deathly Hallows Speaking Tour

If this is Veterans Day, I must have the day off! I am home for a few days break in the ‘Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Speaking Tour’ and, while I am loving the home cooked food and sleeping in my own bed, I can honestly report that all the places I have spoken in the last three weeks – from Augustana College on the Mississippi River to Church of the Holy Cross above the Chesapeake Bay, from the cool Emmanuel Community United Methodist Church  in Wisconsin in the north to the wonderfully warm University of South Carolina — have all been so welcoming and kind that I didn’t want to leave for the next date. I’ll write a proper ‘thank you’ with stories from the tour when it’s over, but, until then, here are two observations as a welcome to newcomers and a note to old friends I’m neglecting…

(1) I’ve covered close to 5,000 miles by plane and car and spoken at great schools and at beautiful churches, a library, even an independent Book Store. Everywhere I’ve talked and no matter what the subject at hand was on a given night, the buzz at evening’s end was about Ms. Rowling’s writing in rings, both as the structure of her seven story cycle and as her template for the chapters of each book. The reason I’m traveling so much is because of the upcoming Deathly Hallows (Part 1) Warner Bros movie release and the fact that I’m the only person to have written an entire book on the artistry and meaning of Hallows, namely The Deathly Hallows Lectures. What has folks talking, though, isn’t the alchemy of the finale, the eyeball symbolism, or Christian content of Harry’s victory over death and the Dark Lord at King’s Cross, it’s the heretofore unrecognized traditional template for storytelling that Ms. Rowling used for the series and every novel in it. I have written up my talk on this subject with all the necessary charts and images that can be downloaded here or purchased as a short book; overlook the many typos please — and prepare to have the way you look at the world’s best selling books changed forever.

(2) Because I was as surprised and delighted as any Harry Potter reader to discover that there was anything as significant as the stories’ fundamental structure left to be revealed more than three years after Deathly Hallows’ publication,  I was not surprised that this topic became the focus of my conversation with audiences on the current tour. What has surprised me is how many people listen to the Leaky Cauldron’s ‘PotterCast’ and the ‘Potter Pundits’ segment Travis Prinzi, James Thomas, and I do on that program. It seems every talk I have given has been followed by at least one person referencing the program during questions or telling me during ‘Gilderoy Time’ (book autographing exchanges) that they love the Pundits and our new book, Harry Potter Smart Talk. Smart Talk has six new essays from the three Pundits as well as transcripts from our most popular shows, reading which collection Melissa Anelli wrote in her introduction to the book is like finding “the Ivory Tower in Hagrid’s Hut.” As one reviewer wrote,

The formal essays by the individual pundits are excellent in the same way [as their podcast conversations are]. They are fascinatingly informative and profoundly probing, but the writing style is lively and anything but dry. … and these guys really know their stuff – not just what they bring from their respective academic fields, but also just about every detail there is to know from the Potter books.

I’m speaking in Marion, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, next week (details below the jump) and I look forward to meeting you there! My thanks to everyone I’ve spoken and stayed with on the tour thus far for their enthusiasm and their kindness to me — and my thanks to readers here for their patience with me during these travels and the big gaps between posts.

[Read more…]