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Guest Post: ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and the Loss of Literary Belief (Calderon)

Mockingbird bookGo Set a Watchman and the Loss of Literary Belief

Chris Calderon

“You think she’s racist?” That’s the question I might have asked if Go Set a Watchman had been released instead of its critically acclaimed rewrite, To Kill a Mockingbird. If Watchman had been released in 1960 and I’d been around at the time, I might have said I was in the hands of a very immature novice, one who may or may not share in some of the prejudices of her characters; it’s kind of hard to tell (I would have hypothetically said).

For the record, I don’t actually think that Nellie Harper Lee is in any way a segregationist. Her best and only work displays a mind that is too mature for such nonsense. This is what makes the shortcomings of a book like Go Set a Watchman all the more glaring in light of what it would become. In reading Watchman, it’s possible to tell what makes it a mediocre work in comparison with the powerhouse that is Mockingbird.

WatchmanI also notice a trend in the lengths some reviewers were willing to go in order to defend what’s really just an over-glorified first draft. I think an examination of both the draft and the response of certain readers, as well as a look at the peculiar circumstances surrounding Watchman‘s publication can shed light not just on the quality of Watchman as a novel, but also what it says about how modern audiences and even publishers look at the very concept of fiction.

An Overview

In terms of story, Go Set a Watchman is fairly straightforward. It tells the story of twenty-something Jean-Louise Finch, a displaced Southerner living in New York and perhaps a failed Bohemian (there really is nothing approaching the little rabble rouser nicknamed Scout, and what little there is proves to meager to save the proceedings) during a visit back to her old home town of Maycomb, Alabama. [Read more…]

Shared Text: The Advent of ‘Parable Novel’ Mania

I was asked last week by a major periodical to share what my current thinking was about the Harry Potter novels. The editors were curious if I had anything ‘new’ on my mind about these books that they could publish in the run-up to the release of the first ‘Deathly Hallows’ film, at the beginning of the end, if you will. I’m not sure if they’ll be interested in publishing what I’m thinking these days, but I thought I’d share with you the preliminary notes I sent them. My thesis is this: Ms. Rowling’s success (and the success of Harry’s progeny, the books that probably wouldn’t have been published or found the audience they have except for Harry) has turned the literary world upside-up, with allegorical and serial ‘Young Adult’ books restoring the novel to its original popularity, power, and relevance. [Read more…]

Hogamanay, Scottish New Years = A Clue to the Meaning of Hogwarts?

Before we get too far from New Year’s Day, here is an interesting possibility. Could the ‘Hog’ in ‘Hogwarts’ be more heavenly than porcine? According to Robert Trexler, friend of this weBlog and authority on George MacDonald, there is a possibility that ‘Hog,’ at least in one Scottish celebration, Hogamanay (“New Year’s” to us), the ‘Hog’ means ‘holy.’ He writes: [Read more…]

Fred Blundun: Deathly Hallows Finish Revealed in Goblet’s Quidditch Cup Final

Happy New Year, Gregorians! I’m taking a break from Christmas Pig today and thought this Guest Post was in order for several reasons. First, it not only points to several HogwartsProfessor touchstones — the ‘Hanged Man’ tarot card, ring composition, and the theory put forward by Emily Strand and Caitlyn Harper that Quidditch matches reveal the meaning and ending of the novel they are in — but combines them. What better way to start the New Year than with a little three-dimensional chess?

Second, that combination highlights the fun of reading J. K. Rowling a challenge specific to her stories. There are embedded puzzles, plot clues, and alchemical, astrological, and tarot notes sounded through-out, especially in the cryptonyms — but when are what might be a connection actually be an over-reach? It helps to remember that I was ridiculed in 2002 for suggesting Rowling was writing in the English tradition of hermetic literature, an idea that was really only accepted when the 1998 interview surfaced in 2007. What seems an overreach or fantasy, may be substantive.

Third and perhaps most important, I want to introduce Fred Blundun to HogwartsProfessor readers. You’ll be reading more of his finds in the coming year!

That being said, here is Mr Blundun’s theory that the World Quidditch Cup Final in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a snap-shot pointer to the finish of Deathly Hallows, a connection he made while reflecting on a post here about the Hanged Man tarot card

I think I have found another reference to hanging in the Harry Potter books: the Irish Seeker is named Lynch, a word meaning “(of a group of people) kill (someone) for an alleged offence without a legal trial, especially by hanging”.

I think there’s a general parallel in this match: Lynch and the green-robed Irish team correspond to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Krum and the red-robed Bulgarian team correspond to Harry and his allies. Lynch’s name brings to mind the Death Eaters’ unjust murders. Krum’s first name, Viktor, is for Harry’s eventual victory.

The point of all this: Harry intuitively understands Krum’s decision to catch the Snitch and end the game despite Bulgaria being one goal short (“He wanted to end it on his own terms, that’s all…”). This foreshadows Harry’s own decision to open the Snitch and end his life despite still being one Horcrux short of making Voldemort mortal.

Some more possibly intentional parallels, some of which may be a huge stretch:

  • Immediately after catching the Snitch, Krum is seen rising into the air, “his red robes shining with blood from his nose” – a reference to the blood magic that becomes the key to Harry’s victory at the end of Deathly Hallows?
  • Following Ireland’s victory in the match, the Irish players are seen “dancing gleefully in a shower of gold descending from their mascots”… but this leprechaun gold will evaporate in a few hours, much like the Death Eaters’ apparent victory in The Flaw in the Plan.
  • Meanwhile, after his collision with the ground and subsequent trampling, Lynch can’t stand on his own and is clearly very out of it  – mirroring how Voldemort collapses at the start of The Flaw in the Plan, and is then unable to harm others with magic due to Harry’s sacrifice?

Again, this made my day because it connects the tarot card image with ‘Lynch,’ the ring idea of the center reflecting the story latch, hence Goblet foreshadowing Hallows, and the Strand-Harper idea of Quidditch as signifier. That’s a treat…

Your New Year’s challenge is to review Lethal White with the question, ‘What signifier does Galbraith give us in each of the Strike mysteries that appears in the fourth book that may point us to the ending of Strike7?’ Enjoy!

Beatrice Groves: Easter Eggs on J.K. Rowling’s New Website – Part 1

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post looking at the Easter Eggs on the new J. K. Rowling Stories website and what they tell us about the author and her influences. Join me after the break for the first of two posts, and enjoy…

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