Monthly Archives: January 2008

Remembering Harry: Rowling grieves for lost wizard

 “It has been the worst break-up of my life – far worse than splitting up with any man,” Rowling said. “But it has also been wonderful to stop and draw breath and think, ‘My God, look what’s happened with an idea I had 17 years ago on a train’.”

Rowling grieves for lost wizard | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Books

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The Right to Read the End First

With each new Harry Potter book release it would begin again—angry complaints that someone had “spoiled” the book for someone else. Not by leaving it out in the rain (as did one of my students in 1998 with my copy of the first book), but by making mention of something in the book in a public forum that was seen by others as spoiling their reading. Along with this came less than complimentary comments about those who read the end of the book first.

This came to mind upon reading Alison Morris’s post, “Are You Prone to Peeking?” and the associated comments. I appreciated Alison’s gentle query; a none-peeker she was curious about those who did. As an occasional peeker (more below), I was relieved that she only asked and did not place judgement on those who did. Unfortunately, too many others do.

So first of all, when and why do I peek? I do so when I am worried, when I’m racing through the book barely paying attention to any of the writing, only the plot, to find out if the characters are okay. I admit that I did page ahead just to see that Harry was okay at the end of that final book. I didn’t want to know how or why, just that he was okay and that Hermoine and Ron were too. I cared about them, a lot, and the idea that they wouldn’t survive their grand adventure troubled me greatly. I very quickly knew as I began reading that I needed that worry set at rest so I could get into the book to enjoy the adventure, to find out how they made it safely to the end.

I hadn’t thought about it, but I suppose there have been occasions where I’ve looked ahead, as some commenters on Alison’s blog described, to see if the book was one I wanted to finish. That is, I might find it slow going and rather than immediately quitting, I might check further along to see if something there made it worth continuing.

Now, what bothers me so much about this issue is that some make it a moral issue. They write about it being a bad thing to do. Some get furious. Authors who feel they have carefully created a particular reading experience have expressed their discontent when readers do not take the route they had in mind.

“I [J.K. Rowling] loathe people who say, ‘I always read the ending of the book first.’ That really irritates me,” she said. It’s like someone coming to dinner, just opening the fridge and eating pudding, while you’re standing there still working on the starter. It’s not on. “Harry ‘s fate known to millions, yet still secret.” MSNBC July 24, 2007

Just as I think it is perfectly fine not to finish a book, so I think it is okay to read ahead if you need to. After all, once the book is in the hand of the reader, it becomes theirs. It is no longer the author’s, the publisher’s, the bookseller’s, or the librarian’s (temporarily as it will be back in the library again, of course). I really like Philip Pullman’s concept of the democracy of reading. That reading is a private act that we readers are in charge of.

Nor do we have to read it [the book] in a way determined by someone else. We can skim, or we can read it slowly; we can read every word, or we can skip long passages; we can read it in the order in which it presents itself, or we can read it in any order we please; we can look at the last page first, or decide to wait for it; we can put the book down and reflect, or we can go to the library and check what it claims to be fact against another authority; we can assent, or we can disagree. “The War on Words”, Guardian, November 4 2004

And there is Daniel Pennac’s Rights of the Reader with #2 being the right to skip. I’d go further and say readers have the right to skip about…to the end and back to the middle… wherever they want to go. Every book does not have to be read in a linear way.

So, please, don’t think I’m being bad, rude, unethical, or something else when I chose in my private act of reading to not read a book the way you did. Authors, please do not be offended if I read the end…it really just means you’ve done something right…made me care enough about your characters to want to know they end the story okay! The democracy of reading rules!

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Thoughts on Newbery: Author celebrates surprise book award

Ask author Laura Amy Schlitz what it feels like to win the Newbery Medal, and you’ll get a succinct but emotion-laden answer.”I’m drunk with joy,” Schlitz said gleefully in a recent telephone interview from her home near Baltimore.

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “Children’s Corner: Author celebrates surprise book award.”

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Freedom of Expression: The Art of Peter Sis

sis_install_5.jpg

This looks like a truly wonderful exhibit. (I’m going on Saturday.) “On view are illustrations, animated films, and public commissions, including original drawings from The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, Sis’s new graphic novel.”

The exhibit runs from January 24th to March 8th at the Mary Ryan Gallery here in New York, 527 West 26th Street. (If you go to the gallery page and click on the link for the exhibit, you will then get a nice collection of images from the exhibit.)

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Er, Eoin Colfer?

I’m trying to wrap my mind around this:

Dwarves zipped in suitcases steal from Swedes – Telegraph

(Found the link from Peter in the comments for this bookwitch post — which has nothing to do with the above that I can tell.)

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Brian Selznick in the NY Times (again)

 Nice feature on Brian Selznick in today’s New York Times: Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Books – New York Times.

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Park on Pratchett

With Moist, Pratchett manages a neat trick. All of the other characters (save the villainous Lavishes) comment on how charming and resourceful he is, and then Pratchett makes him appear charming and resourceful to us as well. This is no small feat; it’s like a ballplayer pointing to a section of the bleachers before knocking the next pitch there. Writing is supposedly about showing, not telling, and Pratchett has gone ahead and done both.

Ed Park discovers Discworld

(Thanks to Jenny Davidson for this.)

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Robert Fulford’s Church

“The arts won’t make you virtuous and they won’t make you smart, but they are nevertheless my faith, firmly installed in the part of me where some people put religion,” writes Robert Fulford in  My church: the mind’s ‘theatre of simultaneous possibilities’.

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Reading Aloud Sir Gawain to a Four-Year-Old

Thanks to bookslut I came across a blogger who is indeed reading the new translation of Sir Gawain aloud to his four-year-old.

At chez Salt-Box, I am the one who reads “chapter books” to the Little Man, as opposed to books he can read by himself, or longer picture books or comic books, which anyone is allowed to read to him. As a result, A Santa thoughtfully made to the Little Man and me a joint present: Simon Armitage’s new translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which we’re now about 40% through after polishing off the Iliad* Monday morning.

Read the whole post at The Salt-Box.

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Reviews, D— Reviews, and Amazon Reviews

Very interesting discussion about amazon reviews over at this PW blog: Reading the Book: A Novel Approach to Reviewing.

Thanks to Judith Ridge for the tip.

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