The Wonderland Interview: Context, Confirmation, even Cars

Per Pallas Athene, we have word that the Emma Watson/J. K. Rowling interview in Wonderland magazine is now available in full and can be read at in its entirety until the copyright lawyers make them bring it down (not even a link to the source?). Reading the interview as it is published rather than just from the controversial excerpts brings context to those “Ron and Hermione were a bad idea as a Couple” and confirmation of criticism made here of Ms Rowling’s asides earlier this week.

Three quick thoughts:

(1) Read the Interview online while you can. As I wrote here earlier this week, excerpts are always a distortion of the original and this is the product from which Miss Watson and Ms Rowling wish us to make our conclusions, even we are interested in such things.

(2) Confirmation of Ms. Rowling’s Perspective: Ms Rowling’s comments as excerpted were, in essence, that she wrote the Ron/Hermione pairing as an act of “wish fulfillments,” for “personal reasons” rather than literary ones, and she goes further in this regard by commenting at some length about how much Hermione is the sort of girl she was as younger person or, at least, how she was perceived by others.

I know that Hermione is incredibly recognisable to a lot of readers and yet you don’t see a lot of Hermiones in film or on TV except to be laughed at. I mean that the intense, clever, in some ways not terribly self-aware, girl is rarely the heroine and I really wanted her to be the heroine. She is part of me, although she is not wholly me. I think that is how I might have appeared to people when I was younger, but that is not really how I was inside

It was a young relationship. I think the attraction itself is plausible but the combative side of it… I’m not sure you could have got over that in an adult relationship, there was too much fundamental incompatibility. I can’t believe we are saying all of this – this is Potter heresy!

What I will say is that I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione with Ron.


I know, I’m sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.

I don’t know. I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.

Yes exactly.

And vice versa.

She invites us to understand the books through the lens of her psychological condition and evolution and weigh the merits of the action inside the drama — good pairing, bad pairing — on the scale of her having had the right reasons for this conjunction. Objective (?) standards of compatibility outweigh subjective “literature” ideas or auctorial motivations such as stubbornness and “wish fulfillment.”

I say again — “Hogwash.” These new insights are much more subjective than the traditions and inspiration of the canon pairing, and, worse, invite us to the tempting and inevitably barren means of interpreting any work of literature, poem, play, or novel, namely, psycho-biography. It has its place, certainly, but when The Personal Heresy takes the first place then our efforts to grasp what makes a work transcendent and meaningful are wasted because the psychological and relative, the personal, are the captives of time and space individual relatively, as subject to change as an author’s understanding of his or her own work. Let the work speak. And if the author chooses to share her opinion, if it is about her own appreciation of her work at a distance and how she’d re-write the work if given a chance, it can be assigned safely the same value as any other serious reader’s fan fiction.

(3) The Fantastic Beasts Story: Now this was exciting. I am much more interested in the new film than I was before reading this.

I wanted to ask you about the script that you are writing for Warner Bros. for Fantastic Beasts…

Warner Bros. came to me ages ago and said they wanted to do something with Fantastic Beasts. I could see the potential in it. I knew something about Newt [Scamander, the fictional author of Fantastic Beasts] having written a little something for Comic Relief. I had imagined a little bit of back story for him…

So when Warner Bros. came to me and said they wanted to make a film out of the book I had this simultaneous feeling of “it has a lot of potential,” and another feeling of slight panic that “I know some things about Newt and I don’t want you to ruin that for me!” because I knew who he was. So then I went away and sort of dwelt on what I knew about Newt, not intending to write a script but just trying to collect my thoughts so that I could at least give them the backstory I’d imagined, so that their vision was true to what I knew.

Then I really did have one of those moments that always make you phenomenally excited as a writer; but also that you know is going to end up being a ton of work. I thought, “Oh my God, a whole plot’s just descended on me!” But I wanted to do it as I was really excited about it. I wasn’t really thinking about writing the script myself, I thought, you know, I’ll give them this plot and then – fatally – I sat down and thought “I just wonder what it would look like…” and wrote a rough draft in twelve days!

Having just said that I really don’t want to hear from an author about what s/he thinks of their work’s meaning, this part of the interview gave me hope for the Newt Scamander project. First, because this story affirms that the new story line is a part of what was known before, i.e., of her original Hogwarts Saga inspiration, and that it ‘came to her’ much like the first storyline. I’m hopeful that this means it will be less faux heroic postmodern twaddle, consequently, about prejudice being the worst of all evils (is it in the Top 10?) and more about the hard choices for immortality we neglect or make every day, heroically or in pedestrian fashion.

The Dance Scene comments? I wrote about this scene, one of the very few inspired bits of film making in the Warner Brothers franchise, when the first part of the Deathlt Hallows two-fer premiered. Read about the John Ford — Martin Scorcese inspiration for the Harry-Hermione dance number here.

I was also cheered to read that Ms Rowling does not drive.

Does inspiration ever strike you at really inconvenient moments? Like when you are driving the car or you are taking the children to school and you just think, “not now”?!

That is why I don’t drive, I swear to God. I cannot drive. People look at me and think, ‘how can you be a woman of forty-eight and not drive a car?’ But I know myself and I know how detached I am from my physical surroundings.

There are five 21st Century activities that separate us from a transformed vision and authentic theocentric human life: classroom education, following current events (‘news’), watching screened images of any kind (film, video, tee vee), eating processed food especially sweeteners and dairy, and driving a car or even being driven about on a regular basis. But driving is much worse than riding.

Why? Well, that essay on the supports of our neo-iconoclasm and super nominalist zeitgeist will have to be the subject of another post! But it was cheering to read that Ms Rowling doesn’t drive.

Your comments and corrections — even the ones that just call me names (“How galling!”)– are coveted, as always.


  1. Louise Freeman says

    Sorry, John, not sure I buy your argument or Rowling’s. If she had been motivated purely by wish fulfillment, Hermione would have wound up with Neville. He’s the one who winds up the most balanced combination of brave, smart, kind and loyal… not to mention pretty fine looking…

    But considering how much of my weekend will be devoted to driving (with NPR news on) watching televised Olympics, eating ice cream and oh, yes, working on classroom lesson plans, it is quite possible I am beyond hope.

  2. I’ve said this before; but from what I read or hear of JKR in interviews – and I have read and heard a lot – it is clear that she is not capable of having written the Harry Potter series – especially not the Deathly Hallows.

    It was the interviews which put me off reading the books for so long – since because the author was such as shallow, un-smart, lightweight, it seemed clear that the books could not be much good.

    So on the one hand the HP series is a obviously work of genius, on the other hand JKR is obviously not a genius. This is confirmed by the stuff she wrote after HP.

    And not only is the HP series a work of genius – it is profoundly Good; yet JKR is not a Good person – her moral and political views are fashion-driven, shallow and silly at best, but often selfish and vicious. She proved herself a shameless and self-serving liar in the fake biography of Robert Galbraith.

    And yet we have the King’s Cross chapter…

    I can only conclude that Harry Potter was written by divine inspiration – as the best books so often are. The best authors, such as JRR Tolkien, are quite clear about this, and take credit for their hard work but not what is best in their writing.

    An attitude of humility and gratitude for having been made the conduit of divine inspiration is proper and necessary – yet JKR trying to make the process of writing HP, and indeed all her writing, into a cross between afternoon-TV psychodrama and a session on the psychoanalysts couch.

    She is even going to the length of claiming she could have done better than yield to the enticements of the Holy Ghost (as she did) in plotting and writing HP. What Pride!

    It is painful to behold.

  3. From Quartz, online magazine: Notes on Fan Fiction including ‘Kindle Worlds’
    Harry Potter fans wrote the happy ending that J.K. Rowling regrets she couldn’t

  4. John,
    I have now made a blog post giving my analysis of the full Wonderland interview.

    In a nutshell, I feel that Jo Rowling has shown support for both the Ron/Hermione and the Harry/Hermione ships. So both sides won and we should call for peace in the fandom.


  5. Chris Calderon says


    I read your blog post. After giving it some thought, I can at least say though I may not agree with your argument, I definitely understand a lot, if not everything, of why readers of books, or moviegoers would have reactions like yours.

    In fact, I’m sort of fascinated by the kind of arguments fans make about their favorite stories just as a phenomenon, one I’m guilty of myself though I’ve never been drawn into any kind of shipping argument, even of the H/H-H/R debate.

    For me, it’s mostly a gut instinct thing. Like for instance, I like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere as a whole, I just think some bits of the showdown could still use a bit of work. Nothing major, it’s just that there is one element that is given a steady build up throughout the novel and then is handled almost as a throwaway when what is supposed to be the big moment finally arrives.

    It’s in elements like that, and in terms of how symbolism relates to and determines story that I usually throw my hat into the ring.

    In terms of Rowling’s testimony, well, what gave me pause was she said she wrote the ending the way she did for “personal reasons.” I remember thinking, “Well, mayn’t those reasons have to do with matters of Faith?” I think the case can definitely be made, at least. In terms of the symbolism, I agree with Stephen King when he says “stories pretty much make themselves”, and that how stories go may be determined by the symbolism at work.

    Whether the Rowling’s ending as it now stands works, then I’d say, based on the symbolism, it more or less comes together.

    If all the above sounds loopy as hell, I can’t blame you. My only defense is to read whatever you can on Coleridge and his theory of Imagination vs. Fancy. One book, by Owen Barfield is called “What Coleridge Thought”. Another is “Nineteenth Century Studies; Coleridge to Matthew Arnold” by Basil Willey, which contains the best account of Coleridge’s Imagination Theory that I know (one that fits in nicely with the work of Lewis and Williams.

    An internet link to Willey’s book can be found here:

    It’s probably not much, but at least it’s some kind of start.

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