‘Alchemists Everywhere!’ A HogsHead PubCast

Part 1 of the conversation I had with Travis Prinzi about literary alchemy is up at The Hog’s Head. Mr. Prinzi, author of Harry Potter and Imagination, and I have been talking publicly and privately for years about alchemical symbolism in Ms. Rowling’s fiction but this PubCast exchange centers on the remarkable explosion of excellent work — and also the most popular series of novels in print today — all of which feature traditional alchemical story scaffolding: not only Harry Potter, but Twilight and The Hunger Games as well. We try to explain why this is happening and why the alchemical formulae work across widely divergent genres, auctorial focus, and themes as well as they do. Tune in!

NPR Bashes Twilight: Anyone Surprised?

National Public Radio’s ‘Monkey See’ weblog yielded to popular requests for a reading of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga and the result is predictable. It is “a necessary but painful exercise we are obliged to do,” yields to “the woman really cannot write,” which brings us where you probably knew we were headed eventually “Bella Swan is not a proper feminist or likable person.” The three literary pigs of aestheticism (wordsmithing is all), deconstruction (political correctness), and literary taxonomy (genre revulsion) are all on display — and the inability of anyone using these tools to explain the popularity of the books or even to contemplate seriously the possibility that the woman actually is delivering the goods readers wants is demonstrated. [Read more…]

The Streak: A Father, a Daughter, and Shared Texts

Harry Potter is mentioned once in this NYTimes article about a father and daughter whose relationship until she left for college was defined by reading together every day for at least ten minutes. But their story is only a little about Harry and a lot about the bonds people who read aloud to one another share in the activity of their imaginations, Coleridge’s “poetic faith,” which is very close to if not continuous with the inner heart.

I’m thinking of starting a ‘Streak’ tonight with my youngest boy or my wife. I hope you will consider starting one with someone you love, too.

Guest Post: Elizabeth Hardy Takes ‘A Bird’s Eye View: Birds in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games’

“O The Cuckoo, she’s a pretty bird,

And she warbles as she flies,

She never says cuckoo,

Til the fourth day of July”

“The Cuckoo” Traditional Appalachian song

A Bird’s Eye View: Birds in Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games

The music of Appalachia is woven though with references to birds and their songs, echoing through the tunes as the notes warble out through the forests and meadows of the ancient mountain chain. As a product of what was once called Appalachia and still retains many of its physical and cultural characteristics, Katniss Everdeen lives in a world permeated by the sight and sound of avian creatures, so it is natural that her story should be one filled with birds serving a variety of functions both practical and symbolic. [Read more…]

‘Twilight’ Dissed by ‘Focus on the Family’?

Chuck Colson, once Watergate conspirator, now Evangelical Christian spokesman and leader,  endorsed the Harry Potter series on his nationally distributed radio program, BreakPoint. He gave a big thumbs-up in November, 1999, at the release of Prisoner of Azkaban to the magic of the books, their  morality, and the opening Ms. Rowling created to the tradition of Christian ‘High Fantasy’ in English Literature.  Legend has it that one of the more significant supporters of his Prison Ministry programs called to say he was withdrawing his support if Mr. Colson didn’t retract his Potter endorsement — and retract he did, first with a brief radio announcement and eventually with a full scale warning to parents, the position he maintains today. (A sample of the negative feedback Mr. Colson received in 1999 can be found here.)

I think we’re seeing something similar in recent comments on a Focus on the Family radio program about Twilight. Let’s take a quick look at the Focus history of Twilight reviews, the backlash from Conservative Christians (TM), and the response of a literature professor to the consequent back-pedaling on the radio. [Read more…]