Stanford Review: JKR Not a Transphobe – And It’s Not a ThoughtCrime to Say So

Maxwell Meyer has written an opinion piece for The Stanford Review, ‘Stanford’s Independent Newspaper,’ under the headline: ‘A Harry Potter-themed Stanford dorm panics over “transphobic, anti-semitic, and racist” J.K. Rowling.’ His Stanford University dormitory, it seems, has a Harry Potter theme with its students being sorted into the famous four Houses at Hogwarts. This year that meant special comment had to be made during orientation to distance this theme from the radioactive opinions of J. K. Rowling. Meyer reports that

student staff read the following statement during our first virtual house meeting:

“We want to acknowledge that J.K. Rowling has made many transphobic, anti-semitic, and racist statements over the past year. Her beliefs do not reflect our values as a house, and we want to make it clear that we do not tolerate comments like hers in this dorm. Our theme… is intended to make this space safe and fun for you this quarter.”

His editorial first makes the straightforward points of showing the absurdity of the claims that Rowling has ever made “transphobic, anti-semitic, and racist statements.” He then puts these claims into the context of the “moral panic” of our times and challenges the Stanford University community to stand up to the know-better bullies on campus who are policing thought and restricting the open exchange of ideas: [Read more…]

Troubled Blood: The Secret of Rowntree

Rattenbury, the yapping terrier in Lethal White, had a name that turned out to be a hidden key to the novel’s murder mystery. In brief, there was a historical real-world murder case featuring a Rattenbury on which the patricide of Strike4 could have been modelled. See Louise Freeman’s Rattenbury the Wonder Dog: The Secret of Lethal White’s Yapping Terrier for that fascinating story.

It turns out that Rowntree, the Ellacott’s aging chocolate Labrador retriever, also has a name with significant meaning. To English men and women, especially those in Yorkshire, the name ‘Rowntree’ has the same association that ‘Hershey’ or ‘Nestle’ has for Americans and non-Brits; it is the name of the largest chocolate confectionery concern in their area.  Here are my three quick-thoughts on this subject: [Read more…]

The Chessmen in the First Potter Film

What a delight! Thank you to Viktor for sharing this find; I had no idea the chessmen in the film version of Philosopher’s Stone had such a great backstory. Read more about these pieces — their history and where to find a replica set — at the British Museum blog page, ChessEquipments.com’s Lewis Chess Set page, Etsy, or at LewisChessPieces.co.uk!

Does anyone think the film’s chessboard pieces “miles beneath Hogwarts” resemble the Lewis chessmen?

Hogwarts Legacy RPG Delayed to 2022

I’m skeptical that there are many (any?) HogwartsProfessor readers that are ‘really into’ role playing games on their computers, but in that supposition I am probably only revealing how naive and misinformed I am. Lev Grossman and his twin brother Austin, after all, not only play and review these games, but, in Austin’s case, design them. There is a literature nerd/RPG geek overlap out there.

So, for all you neglected RPG playing Serious Readers in the audience, here’s a News Flash from GamesRadar.com: ‘The Harry Potter themed role playing video game scheduled for release this year, Hogwarts Legacy, has been postponed until 2022.’

I was fascinated to see in the ‘sneak preview’ video above that ‘Legacy’ is set in the late 19th Century Hogwarts. The announcer notes that this is a century before Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s time at the magical castle cum wizarding school and decades before Newt Scamander and Company walk the hallowed halls. In case you’re wondering, as I was, if Albus and Aberforth Dumbledore might make cameo walk-ons, they could only do so as children too young to be students (older brother DDore is born in 1881). Set in the past as it may be, 1800s Hogwarts seems to have the same freedom from racial and sexist bias as the one we experienced imaginatively in Rowling’s late 20th Century Septology.

If anyone out there is a ‘gamer,’ please share in the comment boxes what we should know and why we should care about Hogwarts Legacy as well as its delay until 2022!

Requiescat in Pace, Christopher Little

Christopher Little, the literary agent to whom in 1985 the unknown Jo Rowling submitted three chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in hopes of gaining representation to publishers for the book, died on 7 January “after a long illness,” a euphemism for cancer or AIDS. Little succeeded in finding a home for the oversized novel — Stone being twice as long as the accepted length for stories aimed at the ‘Age 9-12’ bracket for whom Rowling claimed to be writing  — at Bloomsbury’s small children’s book division. It had been turned down by all the major publishers in the United Kingdom, but Little persisted. The rest is history.

The folk tale of Christopher Little as Rowling’s representative did not have a happy ending: Rowling and Neil Blair, a lawyer at the Little Agency, broke legal contracts with him in 2011 to set up The Blair Partnership (a bit of foul play rectified by a large payout to Little the following year). That departure was the birth of Rowling, Inc., in which the global financial interests of the Author Become Juggernaut are aggressively represented by barristers and bean counters so that Rowling, as she once put it, unlike Agatha Christie, does not wind up “fleeing the tax man”  every year until her next book comes out. The fairy tale of the princess discovered and well-served by Sir Cadogan ended with her dismissing him with enough money to buy a new horse and castle. 

Little took the break hard but weathered on gamely with millions of pounds in the bank; the year after his break with Blair and Rowling, he merged his agency with that of Curtis Brown.  He died on 7 January at home with his family.

The Presence has not broken her Twitter silence of more than a month to acknowledge her first representative’s demise five days ago. One hopes she reconciled with the man before his death and has privately expressed her condolences to the Little family and to the Agency that had the courage and good judgment to believe in her when she was a nobody. 

Regardless, rest in peace, Christopher Little — and thank you for all you did to advance J. K. Rowling’s career as a writer and to steward the Harry Potter phenomenon from its birth, growth into a mania, to its adult life as the Shared Text of the 21st Century.