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A Rowling Thank You: “Entering Literary Worlds”

I received a letter this morning from the 17 year old webmaster of a Potter fan web site in Argentina ( He attached a letter from Ms. Rowling in response to one of his own, a letter which apologized for taking so long to respond and which closed this way:

“We do not enter literary worlds; they enter us, so I hope very much that Harry’s world will be with you forever, as it will be with me. I shall always treasure the readers who were generous enough to share their feelings with me in the way that you have, and I thank you, again, for taking the trouble to write.”

No doubt a sincere sentiment. What I found worthy of note, of course, was her almost throw-away observation about “literary worlds.” She reverses the conventional understanding of reader-entering-text to assert that world-enters-reader. I think this is worthy of attention for understanding her books rather than just “understanding what Ms. Rowling thinks” (the ever swelling celebrity focus within Potter studies, alas) for three reasons: [Read more…]

Chicago Maroon Interview Questions

Marcella Delaurentiis, a student reporter for the University of Chicago’s newspaper, The Maroon, sent me a list of questions last night for an article she is writing about my talk there on Halloween. I attach my answers here with the letter in which they are imbedded. Your comments and corrections, of course, are coveted. [Read more…]

From the Hogwarts Professor ‘Lost Posts’ Vault: “C. S. Lewis as a Goth with Cleavage? C’mon… The Half-Blood Prince JKR Interviews” (2005)

I am buried in final preparations for my mini-tour of the Midwest this week and writing Harry Meets Hamlet and Scrooge, a book I say I am writing in this old post, so I won’t be writing any giant pieces on Epigraphs or Elizabeth Goudge until I get back. I found this post in my WordPress dashboard, however, that you might find amusing. It is the post I wrote on the original Hogwarts Professor web site (not a web log) after the Grossman and Spartz-Anelli interviews had been published in the summer we first read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It doesn’t have imbedded links but if you want to look back and have a good laugh at predictions made with confidence that didn’t turn out, this should make your day. Have fun!

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CS Lewis as a Goth with Cleavage? C’mon

The Remarkable Joanne Rowling Interviews after Half Blood Prince‘s release

The fanfare surrounding the release of the penultimate Harry Potter adventure, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (HP6), on 16 July may have drowned out the explosive news released in the days following Midnight Madness Parties around the globe. The five interviews given by Joanne Rowling, however, one each to Time magazine and the NBC television morning show, The Today Show, and three others to children fans of the books, have much of fandom reeling and Harry Haters crowing. This isn’t the Joanne Rowling anyone thought they knew except perhaps for those who always knew she wasn’t a “goodie-goodie.” [Read more…]

The King of the Golden River – Ruskin

Another tale of three brothers, subtitled ‘The Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria,’ this fairy tale by the very young John Ruskin (1841) should get you in the mood for Tales of Beedle the Bard. I couldn’t find a version online with Dumbledore’s commentary so I hope we can fill it in. My bet is that Ruskin, as a serious reader of Coleridge and as a Romantic in recovery from consumption, wrote this with the Dantean three layers: narrative line, moral line, and almost invisible alchemical artistry to transform our vision in a kind of esemplastic epiphany. Let me know what you see, especially in the description of the glacier and the transparency of nature.

The King of the Golden River

By John Ruskin [Read more…]

How Does an Author’s Celebrity Affect Reader Response?

No, I still don’t want to discuss the merits of Ms. Rowling’s law suit against the publishers of Mr. Vander Ark’s Lexicon. That is a subject for the judge trying the case — and everyone who thinks they know how it will turn out and what that ruling will mean in the long term is kidding themselves and, frankly, wasting their time in an especially unedifying way.

On the other hand, on a site for serious readers, I am obliged to note trends in criticism of Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. Linda McCabe sent me a link this morning to an article by a notable writer about Ms. Rowling and her lawsuit that suggests that a backlash against Ms. Rowling is building and that this will affect understanding of her books for years to come.

That — and how much our beliefs about an author color our understanding of his or work — are subjects worth talking about. Do we love or loath Harry largely as a function of how we feel about Ms. Rowling? [Read more…]