Harry Potter at Home: Noma Dumezweni Reads Aloud Chapter Two of ‘Stone’

‘The Vanishing Glass’! Check out Chapter Two’s reading by Noma Dumazweni here: https://www.wizardingworld.com/chapters/reading-the-vanishing-glass

Harry Potter at Home: Daniel Radcliffe Reads Aloud the First Chapter of ‘Stone’

J. K. Rowling gave her permission last month for teachers to read the Hogwarts Saga aloud to children in Zoom and Skype virtual classrooms during Covid-19 lockdowns of schools. WizardingWorld.com has now joined the online reading aloud show with programming of its own.

Their first offering is actor Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Warner Brothers adaptations of the Potter novels, reading Chapter 1, ‘The Boy Who Lived,’ of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Check it out here: https://www.wizardingworld.com/chapters/reading-the-boy-who-lived

It’s quite good, production values aside. I don’t think there will be a great swelling of demand for Radcliffe to read the entire series aloud a la Jim Dale and Stephen Fry but I rather enjoyed the dramatic reading, especially the Dursley pieces. Your thoughts?

Hat-tip to Suzanne!

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.

HarryPotterFanZone.com 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?

Mary Shelley’s ‘The Last Man’ — A Plague Novel for Pandemic Readers

There are quite a few reading lists for those at home during Pandem-Mania 2020, especially for those readers on furlough from work-at-the-office as well as those confined to home and unemployed who want their imagination to feed on apocalyptic stories of plague, pestilence, even influenza. For a sampling of these lists, see here, here, here, here, and here.

I am neither staying at home nor unemployed; my Muggle job that pays my bills whilst I write my thesis is in a grocery store which the state of Oklahoma has deemed an “essential business” akin to marijuana dispensaries and abortion clinics and unlike casinos and churches. It has been, consequently, a relatively unstressful time for me as my daily routine has only been changed in how I must dress at work (face mask required) and the atmosphere of fear the grocery store customers bring to their shopping. I wish that these small troubles were the rule for HogwartsProfessor readers during this unprecedented lockdown and pray that it ends soon, ends well, and that the country is back to work and free of this contagion.

I did order a copy of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s The Last Man and read it. Forgive me if this confession is disappointing to you but I had never heard of the novel before seeing it one of the lists above and I consider myself a great fan of Frankenstein. I have written three posts at this website on the alchemy and chiastic structure of that novel and have spent more time than I should perhaps in private meditation on its relationship with Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner,’ a poem the young Mary Wollstonecraft overheard at its first reading by the poet to her parents.

In brief, The Last Man is the first person narration of Lionel Verney of his experiences in the United Kingdom from the years 2073 to 2100. It has only just survived in print rather than flourished as has Frankenstein largely because it is assumed to be Shelley’s portrayal in fiction of her life with Percy Shelly and Lord Byron, and, more recently, because it seems to be the first post-apocalyptic novel to reach print and a major audience (cue cat-calls and counter-claims). I confess to being largely indifferent to both these critical concerns; my hope in purchasing the Dover facsimile reprint of the 1826 first edition was that Mary Shelley’s reflection on life in the time of plague would be as challenging and insightful as her critique of biological and medical science in Frankenstein.

I was disappointed in this hope, alas. The plague does not appear on the scene until Chapter 2 of Volume 2, page 130 of a 341 page book and only in Volume 3 does the action of the story turn entirely on the effect of the disease on the country and the principal characters. The writing is wonderfully or interminably florid depending on your taste for such things, the far-distant future is envisioned as being almost exactly as life in the Edwardian period except for the Wollstonecraft wish-fulfillment fantasy of the monarchy being disestablished (and the rightful king eventually becoming the country’s savior by election…), and the relationships and fates of the heroic Adrian, Lord Raymond, Lionel and their wives and loves are, again, melodramatic in a way that only Romantic era writers would attempt and that only those with a taste for what approaches camp will enjoy.

I recommend it, nonetheless, beyond my enjoyment of this kind of writing which idiosyncrasy you may share.

For one thing, the conceit of how Shelley finds the manuscript of a first person account from the future without aid of a Time Machine is absolutely first rate. It’s all shared in the introduction, which you can read online here in only a minute or three, so I won’t ruin it for you. 

For another, any three volume publication of this period, not to mention one written by an artist of the proven alchemical and chiastic structure and style concerns of Mary Shelley, is an exercise book for careful reading by serious readers.

And religious and medical professionals — not to mention politicians — do not come off well in this book, at least during the plague time of the novel’s last two volumes. Shelley rips into the idols of democratic government and progress with no mercy given. The Romantic disdain for scientism and exoteric religious ritual is a pre-modern assault on modernity’s empty positivism and serves as a corrective, even a disinfectant to the excesses and corrosive ennui of postmodernity. Those critical of institutional responses to Covid-19 by church, science, and state will find that Shelley is something of a prophet in The Last Man

Last, Constantinople is won from the Turks by crusading Greeks. It doesn’t end well for the Great City or the invaders, but, still, for an Orthodox Christian reader and closet Byzantine, this temporary victory was almost worth the effort to get there — it is the story pivot, believe it or not — and the disaster of the unfolding plague that follows.

I hope in the comment boxes below that you will share your thoughts on The Last Man  if you have read it. Failing that, please let me know what you are reading of English literature’s vast stream of plague novels.

And, failing that, go ahead and share your experiences of the lockdown. I only ask that, if you choose to ‘go there,’ that you try not to share your feelings about those who are entirely on board with the shutdown of the economy if you are not and vice versa. I’d much rather read about what you’re reading and thinking than your acceptable window of righteousness defined by social distancing compliance and hypochondriac over-kill. De gustibus.

Rowling Finishes Strike5 — Big Hint? Aleister Crowley’s Horoscope Header!

The Official Announcement this afternoon on twitter:

It has been a busy day at the neglected Rowling twitter feed. Careful observers will note that she re-tweeted a posting from American comedian (and hard core leftist and atheist) Patton Oswalt a few hours before this book announcement and that she changed the header and cameo on her page as well.

Nota bene: her global social media following post TERFing controversy has grown on the twitter platform by 200,000. So much for the disappearance of Rowling fandom…

Three quick notes that we will discuss here at greater length in the next week:

(1) Nick Jeffery has ID’d the horoscope in the header as the natal chart of Aleister Crowley.

I’d love to think she is trolling us here at HogwartsProfessor because of the Baphomet posts I put up earlier in the month (in which I explained that she isn’t a Satanist or Crowley disciple), but have to think that it really is a pointer to the return of Jeff Whittaker in Strike5, in parallel with Career of Evil, and that a la the death of Harry’s godfather in Order of the Phoenix, we will be seeing the death of Cormoran’s step-father in his fifth adventure. Whittaker is the ardent satanist and Crowley devotee in the series. Good news for Shanker fans!

(2) Rowling is back on twitter, it seems, with the first real postings of note — with the exception of 19 December, of course — since January 2019. The sabbatical seems to have been a New Year’s resolution along the lines of, “I won’t post again until I have submitted the Strike5 manuscript.”

‘Da Tweet’ on transgender overreach? That may have been a family passion, it turns out. See Dr Neil Murray’s private twitter account, @Slowfinger45, for his several re-tweeted postings on transgender matters here, here, here, and here (there are more; hat tip to Nick Jeffery again for discovering both Murray’s ‘Fat Cops’ rock band — husband plays the keyboards, hence ‘Dr Slowfinger’– and his hidden twitter account).

I wonder, though, if the new cameo picture of her with hand over mouth isn’t a joke of sorts, a signal to her Universal Studio handlers, that she isn’t going to be speaking her mind here about social justice and political issues; Patton Oswalt is covering the impeachment hearings for her…

(3) I have been re-reading the Strike novels this past week, and, half-way through Lethal White for the umpteenth time, I realized who killed Leda Strike. It was Uncle Ted. More on that tomorrow and in days to come! Let the full bore conversation about Strike and speculation about the new novel begin!