Mail Bag: Weeks and Weeks of Lov-e-ly Links!

Please accept my apologies for the long absence from blogging. Look for my fall speaking schedule here in the days to come!

I do get the greatest mail from friends and readers, which I feel obliged to share. Make the jump to find your way to JRRT’s talk in Rotterdam to Hobbit fans (1958), Rowling’s revelations about Celestina and the Pine Marten, Lev Grossman notes and a review of Magician’s Land, and notes about some fascinating college classes on Harry Potter and other YA literature.


  • Joanne Rowling’s Patronus? A Pine Marten, of course!

  • Lost Speech of J. R. R. Tolkien to first Hobbit Convention (1958!) found and about to be published — Hat tip, ChrisC!
The Tolkien Society Press Release can be found here (both Post article and T. Soc. have a promotional video featuring snippets of Tolkien’s voice delivering the lectures, and it’s pretty interesting, in fact):”
  • “Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter: Tales of the young wizard instill empathy, a study finds”
  • Why English Departments Should Embrace the Reading of Young Adult Fiction

  • New Harry Potter college course: ‘What if the Hogwarts Saga is Real?” Appalachian State University

  • Cultural reference to Harry Potter and education: Hat tip to Steve L!

  • “Did you happen to see this article about author Lev Grossman, author of a fantasy series, on the impact which the Chronicles of Narnia had on his life? I thought you might appreciate what he had to say.” Hat tip to David!
    First Magician’s Land review — good not great (the review, that is) —
  • MuggleNet Academia’s Keith Hawk on Harry Potter Canon — with notes from Lev Grossman and others:

  • Daniel Radcliffe’s Play List!
“He’s out promoting an independent film, “What If,” which was originally called “The F Word.” So you know it’s terribly clever.”
  • From the Rowling files: The Celestina Warbleck story
  • “Actually, I’d like to direct your attention to Tom Simon’s blog. He’s a fan of both Tolkein and Lewis and any number of other fantasy writers, and has posted some really entertaining essays online. He has also compiled some of these into eBooks. His blog can be found at:”

  • Orlando Furioso author’s Birthday — and a special offer to celebrate!


  1. John, Thank you for posting these various links to what is happening in the Potter/ Fantasy lit world.

    Lev Grossman’s article had the most impact on me personally in his personal insight on the effect of C S Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia on his life as a child and as a writer. I agreed with his comparisons between Lewis and Tolkien and their vast different style in writing.

    I’m personally right with him on how Lewis’ saga impacted his childhood, although as I grew older I wandered away from Narnia and fantasy lit until (of course) a hugely “unknown” writer named J K Rowling came along and turned the fantasy literature world upside down at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.

    But this quote from his article hit me.
    “But I bristle whenever fantasy is characterized as escapism. It’s not a very accurate way to describe it; in fact, I think fantasy is a powerful tool for coming to an understanding of oneself”.— Lev Grossman

    While I do feel there are elements and portions of story within fantasy lit that can lead one to “escape” the mundane or the strife of the real world, I tend to look at most fantasy lit that particularly is written in our modern times as Lev puts it, “a powerful tool for understanding”…. not only oneself, but also the struggles and tragedies of the culture and the present world around us. Perfect examples are not only found in Harry Potter and Rowling’s multiple political/social/religious elements within Harry and his friends journey through the seven book saga, but how many examples can we throw in with the other three big kids on this block, namely the Hunger Games, Twilight and Divergent.

    Through all the great backstory and hidden and personal meanings placed within these and other works by the writers, we almost always seem to come down to the “Last Battle”…….”the final siege”…..that points to things happening in our present…..”Middle-Earth”.

  2. Dave,

    I think you raise a very important issue when you bring up the topic of escapism. My own experience, based on engaging with fan communities, in and out of Rowling-Inkling niches, is…somewhat disconcerting, really.

    Here’s what I mean. One of the things to be said for a site like Hogpro is that it manages to engage the fans to critical and often sophisticated thinking about literature or fiction in general. I always get the impression that most commenters here treat fiction with the kind of intelligent consideration it deserves. However, I don’t know whether or not this is the norm. For every Lev Grossman who can discern the various facets that make up a work of fiction, there seems to be a very great majority of fans who can only seem to relate to fiction on it’s most basic surface level, such as constantly being concerned with the romance relationships of the characters, or obsessing and nitpicking over the “realism” of various scenes (all the while forgetting that fiction, by it’s nature, is fundamentally “unrealistic”).

    What worries me about this level of the fan base is how the use, read, or take in works like Potter or Middle-Earth. They really do seem to use fiction as a form of “Escape” in a negative sense of the term. It’s “Escape” minus the balancing follow-up of “Recovery” of a clearer view of reality. The fans I’m thinking of now seem either oblivious to the rhyme or reason of fiction in general, or else they somehow easily seem to confuse the relation between fiction and real life in an unhealthy way. Also, the kind of so-called fans I’m thinking of seem to lack the critical discourse that can be found on places like Hogpro. Instead, they seem to have created what author Stephen L. Carter referred to as “The Culture of Shut Up”, where snark and flame warring carries the day:

    My basic worry is that that type of culture will carry the day in the world of literary and general art criticism. If such a thing were to happen, we’d have lost the ability to either think about or appreciate art. That must sound paranoid, I’m sure, it’s just something I find easy to get concerned about is all.

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