Below is the window of a bookstore in Akureyri, a lovely town in northwestern Iceland. If you can’t figure it out, the windows are full of the four Hogwarth’s house crests. And here are some photos of their release activities for the final book.
Daniel H. Nexon, a professor of government at Georgetown University, has some extremely interesting things to say about Harry Potter in the world. Thanks to a post at Hogwartsprofessor I found his notes for the keynote he gave recently at the Prophecy 2007 conference. Among other things Nexon sees Harry Potter, “… not merely a reinterpretation of folklore, it is a, functionally speaking, contemporary folklore. And more than that, it is folklore on a global scale. Or, as I’ve argued in various settings, Harry Potter is cultural globalization: it is part of the creation of transnational common currency of narratives, personages, themes, and other circulating commonplaces.” I also found this very interesting article of his, “How Harry Potter Explains the World.”
After reading Christopher Hitchens’ review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in today’s New York Times Book Review, the Round Table on Harry Potter (with Orson Scott Card, Lois Lowry, Hank Green, Roger Sutton among others weighing in), you can listen to a podcast of the editor, Sam Tanenhaus, and children’s book editor, Julie Just, discussing “the Harry Potter phenomenon.” During the very interesting conversation, Just explains why she thought Hitchens would be a worthy candidate to review the book.
On child_lit someone noted how extraordinary it was to be part of a world of readers that Saturday, July 21. To be aware that millions all over the world were all reading the same book you were. Incredible …. And so I am now fascinated by the way so many of us are experiencing this particular story. We often read and then extend our readings by talking about a particular book. Sometimes we see a movie of it too. And sometimes we may also read or see interviews with the author about the book. Hear them talk about their books and read from them. But I feel this is somehow different (or maybe just more). To have the story of Harry Potter heightened by Jim Dale, Rupert, Emma, and Daniel; by the online conversations, the release parties, Rowling’s interviews — all of this is turning it into a very interesting new kind of story I think. Does anyone else feel this way or am I just getting carried away?
After writing this in a post to the ccbc-net list serve yesterday I received an interesting email from Marc Aronson who suggested that this was what sociologist Benedict Anderson called the “imagined community.” One compelling example Marc offered was that of large numbers of people reading a particular part of a religious work all over the world at services on a particular holy day. Completely unfamiliar with this idea and curious to see if I could find a bit more about it in terms of books and reading, I did a little looking around and found this article about bloggers being an imagined community and this conference built around the idea, “The notion of the imagined community in our program title, of course, refers to Benedict Anderson’s concept of the nation as a particular kind of imagined community, in which experiences of commonality, and a sense of the self as being part of a wider national community, are to a large extent facilitated by shared practices of reading mass mediated texts.” Unfortunately, I truly don’t have the time to go down this path, but if anyone knows more and/or has some sources to explore, please do provide them in the comments. And, of course, if you just want to weigh in on the idea, please do that too!
Here’s a very interesting blog for those interested in further exploration of some of the scholarly issues around the series.
Is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a good piece of writing? This is the current discussion on child_lit and a fascinating one it is. Some subscribers think so because of Rowling’s prowess in plotting and worldbuilding. Others think not because of her prosaic sentences. And so I wonder, where do I stand on this question? For that matter, would I nominate it for the Newbery if it was eligible?
I might. Using some of the Newbery criteria, here are some half-baked thoughts on why (and if you are still worried about spoilers, I suggest not reading any further):
Rowling has create a wonderful story for children. It is a witty and completely compelling fantasy world full of mundane and great magic. It has characters that children will completely identify with and care about deeply. It has a roller-coaster of a plot. Yes, there are certainly bits and pieces that Rowling has collected from elsewhere (Tolkien, Lewis, Goudge, and others are very distinct influences), but the book is not derivative; it stands very much on its own. In the end is almost as much a domestic magical story as an epic one.
So now, since I can’t nominate Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, tell me of some eligible stories of magic that you think I should consider.
Every day there is more and more to learn about the Potterverse (did I get that right?). For years there were the fan sites, fan fiction, and the movies which all stretched and expanded the original books in inventive ways.
I read book seven the day after seeing movie five. And I did notice when the descriptions of characters deviated from what I had just seen on the screen. Recently Rick Riordan wrote, “One thing I had trouble with (which has nothing to do with the book): for the first time as I read a Harry Potter book, I could not get the images of the movie actors out of my head. I kept seeing Daniel, Emma and Rupert – which I didn’t really want. Before, I’d always formed my own images of what the characters looked like, but the movies are just too hard to ignore.”
Now, most fascinating to me, we’ve got Rowling herself answering questions here and there about what happened to her beloved characters after the end. And she says she can’t wait for the theme park due to open soon in Florida.
So the story about the Boy Who Lived has gone out into the world in a way unlike any I can think of before. I mean, when has an author done what Rowling has done the last week or so? I’m not faulting her at all; I think it is great fun to hear what she, their creator, knows happened to all of them (although her speaking of them in the present tense is a tad odd). But it seems just so unusual.
What with two more movies to go and the theme park not to mention Rowling’s encyclopedia, the evolution of Harry Potter into a unique narrative continues. Blimey!, as Ron would say.
Much as I love the Harry Potter books I do think that Rowling’s efforts to multiculturize them are clunky. While watching the Order of the Phoenix movie the other day, Roxanne and I muttered to each other “Who is that?” as a handsome black man, dressed in African garb and called Kingsley, spoke up at the Order of the Phoenix meeting. When he reappeared in the final book I realized we’d obviously just forgotten about him, probably because he didn’t do enough of significance for us to remember him. This all came to mind when reading Uzodinma Iweala’s insightful piece in today’s Washington Post, “Stop Trying to ‘Save’ Africa.” It seems to me that Rowling is as well-meaning in what she did with Kingsley as those Iweala writes about. Please read it.
And then there is the Native American reference on Page 216 of Book VII. “The mother, Kendra, had jet-black hair pulled into a high bun. Her face had a carved quality about it. Harry thought of photos of Native Americans he’d seen as he studied her dark eyes, high cheekbones, and straight nose, formally composed above a high-necked silk gown.” Since there was no further mention of her or anything Native American what was the point? Debbie Reese asked about this on child_lit and wrote about it on her blog, “Native Imagery in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Please read it too.
Finally, Debbie points to a provocative 2005 article by Keith Woods, “Harry Potter And the Imbalance of Race.” Please go read it and then come back and tell me if he’s on target or not.
Harry flies from book to book,
Brigette from Fairfield, USA
More winning poems from the AbeBooks poem contest are here.