E-Mailbag: Islamic Influence, Industry Internships, Leather!

Subject: Classical education, Harry Potter, non-Western influences?
Greetings John,

I do have a few questions that I hope you would take the time to answer.

1.  After reading through “Harry Potter’s Bookshelf” (which really gave me a renewed appreciation of Western literature), I was wondering what you have to say about JK Rowling’s relationship with what we might call a “classical education” ( Trivium and Quadrivium) and its effect (if any) on Harry Potter. I assume that this is a tradition that you are intimately familiar with, thus I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

2. Are there any books based on the Trivium and Quadrivium that you might recommend?

3. JK Rowling, as you have illustrated in your book quite well, is writing as an author steeped in the Western canon. However, do you see any influences of, for example, Islamic literature/values in her writing? I ask because if we note that Rumi is said to be the best-selling poet in the US (at least according to TIME magazine) , I do not think it would be much a stretch to assume that she read him (It is also quite interesting to note the irony that the best-selling poet in America is a Persian speaking scholar of Islamic Law from Afghanistan). Or is the influence of Islamic literature in Harry Potter only limited to offhand mentions of flying carpet bans?


Dear Wesamuddin, if I may,

Thank you for your kind note! Here are brief answers to your thoughtful questions —

(1) Ms. Rowling’s education was “classical” only in the sense of her studying classical languages, most notably, Latin and Greek, in her UK public High School and at the University of Exeter. The sort of study described by Sayers in her ‘Lost Tools of Learning,’ the Trivium and Quadrivium you mention, with its memorization, logic, and rhetoric stages as well as the specific subjects would be quite alien to her, I’m afraid. If this is true, I’m obliged to say it’s effect or influence on Harry Potter would be minimal.

(2) This question leaves me scratching my head. Do you mean “based on the T & Q” as something like a story structure or form? I cannot think of anything written that attempts this. On the other hand, as it is the rule of learning for six or seven centuries, I’d have to say that the literature of the High Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation cultures in Europe are “based” on it as it shaped the minds of poets, playwrights, and novelists through the Enlightenment.

(3) I don’t know enough about Islamic literature to even venture a guess! I don’t think it very likely given her background and I’ve recently read a book that tried to force the pieces on such an influence with an author who almost certainly had nothing but disdain for anything ‘Mohameddan.’ Ms. Rowling probably doesn’t think of Muslims as Tolkien did if some do read her books, especially the last three, as an allegory of the War on Islamic Terrorists.

Thank you again for your kind note!



Subject: Publishing Inquiry

Mr. Granger,

If you have a few moments, I would like to pose a few quick questions to you about your work as a writer and publisher. I am very interested in pursuing a career in publishing after graduation, and I am currently searching for summer internships.

First, how have you enjoyed working at Unlocking Press?

In your opinion, what types of qualities do publishing houses look for when hiring or filling internship positions?

Last, do you have any suggestions for smaller, independent publishing houses who may be looking to hire students for a summer internship? As a sophomore, I understand it is difficult to obtain an internship at the larger publishing houses, so I am focusing my current search on independent and university presses.

Thank you so much for considering my questions during this busy holiday season.

Merry Christmas,

Dear AB,

Thank you for this note!

I own Unlocking Press and it is a two person operation: I write books and solicit manuscripts from writers I admire and my wife and I create the InDesign files from these manuscripts that LightningSource/Ingrams publishes and distributes, principally through Amazon. You can read about this sort of micro-publishing in Aaron Shepherd’s Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit.

From your note, though, it sounds like you are determined to pursue a career in conventional publishing houses. I cannot say much about them except that I have published with Tyndale and Penguin — and that, for authors at least, the money is much better with self-publishing. I doubt, because of the growth of eBooks, that there is much of a future for the larger houses or even the macro independent publishers. For what it’s worth!

To your questions, the ad hoc nature of Unlocking Press, which is a publishing co-op for like-minded writers producing high quality texts rather than a corporation with hierarchical tiers, means we cannot do things like hire interns. I am clueless about the process, alas, and if I knew more than I do, I suspect I would be doing you a disservice by sharing it and encouraging you along the conventional publishing path. I just don’t think there’s any future in it.

Best wishes to you, though, in your pursuit of a good job!



Subject: Another book

I just finished reading Looking for God in Harry Potter and wanted to know if you had a follow up sense the last book and movie have been released?

Sent from my iPad

Yes! It’s called The Deathly Hallows Lectures enjoy!





Also, Do you think the Harry Potter books should be available in leather bound like all other great literary books? Easton Press should do that with Ms. Rowling’s approval of course! At least I think they should. I would certainly buy them!

Fun idea! Please write Ms. Rowling and suggest it!

(The decision is almost certainly in the hands of her publishers, however, so until Bloomsbury and Scholastic get into the collectible market don’t hold your breath for an English language version of the Hogwarts Saga in ribbed leather!)

Exactly what is the best way to contact her? 🙂


Alas, the best way is through her publishers! See her website for details — best of luck!


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