|Art by 3petits-plaisirs. Source.|
As someone trained in literature and an amateur writer myself, I noticed things like simple diction, trite turns of phrase, and tendency to rely on adverbs. But I've never been a fan of the high-brow literary school of critics—why can't plain but clear writing, as much as beauteous writing, be an effective stylistic choice?—and when I try to imagine HP written in a florid post-modern voice, it loses an essential quality I can't quite put my finger on.
This writer thinks it highly unlikely that famous Harry Potter (I should really stop quoting Malfoy) would have been nearly so famous if he had been written by a stylist of literary aspirations, particularly one aiming at hooking adult readers along with the youngsters. There's nothing wrong with simple writing; it's a good way to reach young audiences, and it's the only way to reach a broad audience.
Christie also had great things to say about Dumbledore and Muggles and Christmas—heartily recommended. Meanwhile, Masha, having been cheated (by me) out of the chance to be the first to argue with Michael O'Brien (if calling him "a naughty dragon-hating Muggle" counts as arguing), set her sights on John Granger instead:
None of us have the wish or temperament to argue against [magic or dragons]; but that doesn’t mean I won’t be bringing up the problematic aspects of Harry’s magic (there are plenty), and I think a good long discussion of this whole ‘incantational vs. Invocational’ [Granger's] argument has to happen at some point as well, which will be fascinating! Well be talking about the character of the characters, about Rowling's worldview, about the role of men as fathers in the books... Do [the books] inspire readers to see the world in rich possibilities or do they tie readers down to a secular-relativistic worldview in which evil is decidedly banal and suburban and good is its very near twin??
...as well as reminding us that "even if all the books bother you, it’s ok to be delighted by sections, just as it’s ok to be appalled by some things, even if you love the series overall. No author gets it all right!" I wholeheartedly concur.
And now, onto this coming week!
* * *
Read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, chapters 2-4
|Photo from Shelagh's page, as linked above.|
Looks good, Shelagh!
Recipe: (Shelagh's) Knickerbocker Glory. Magic or Muggle, you'll need a whole mouthful of sweet teeth to down this tall-glass concoction, made with fruit, ice cream, fruit syrup, whipped cream, wafers, glazed cherries, and in some variations, even jelly. I'm not sure I could handle jelly, myself... even strawberry ice cream is a bit much for me... but it definitely looks like an exciting parfait.
I'm not sure I'd want to eat after Dudley, though. Cooties!
Potential Discussion Points (but by no means all the potential):
1. Harry has his first communication with a snake in Chapter Two: The Vanishing Glass. From henceforth, snake imagery in the series will—as I recall—be a very traditional, Book-of-Genesis kind of thing. Here, however, a lonely ten-year-old shares a friendly moment with another caged, controlled creature, and manages to unwittingly offer the boa constrictor a bit of helpful magic.
One of the recurring motifs in the books, and here I do owe this point to Prof. Granger, is the idea of doppelgangers—twins, mirror images, shades; pairs set up for striking similarity and/or contrast. They pop up everywhere, and Dudley is arguably Harry's first (of many), but this bored snake is a very early, very striking one. Harry sets the snake free from its confinement and mistreatment much as Hagrid sets Harry free from his. And the connection between Harry and the boa, innocent in itself, foreshadows a darker doppelganger, some sinister facts that aren't quite revealed until the last two books.
2. Voldemort. If I type 'flight of death' into Google Translate and get it turned into French*, the result is vol de la mort. Apropos, no? Of course, we're already being introduced to the fact that the Wizarding World is afraid even to speak that name. I can sympathize. I'm not fond of saying 'Satan' either—one doesn't want to draw diabolic attention, after all. But "You-Know-Who" and "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" are admittedly kind of awkward and evasive, and when great big men like Hagrid jerk and wriggle at the very sound of the syllables, things have gone a bit far.
|Art by FrizzyHermione. Source.|
3. Both Petunia and Vernon Dursley give short, spiteful little rants upon being confronted by Hagrid, to much the same effect, if in their own voices. You're a freak from a family of weirdos, Harry, and we swore we'd stamp out all that dangerous nonsense. It's interesting to see the subtle differences between how Petunia handles things—or would handle them, if she were in charge—and how Vernon does, however. Petunia grew up with a witch; she knows when not to run. All Vernon knows is control, and he goes dangerously near crazy when he begins losing grip on his own idealized normalcy.
4. "Yeh've got your mom's eyes." It's the first time Harry hears these words. And since we're going cautious with spoilers, all I'll say for now is that it won't be the last.
I love The Keeper of the Keys—it's a favorite chapter of mine; with Hagrid, his pockets full of sausages and dormice, and with Harry's unexpected first experience of having someone call him by his name with affection—
"An' here's Harry!" said the giant.
Harry looked up into the fierce, wild, shadowy face and saw that the beetle eyes were crinkled in a smile.
—it's the reader's earliest introduction to the Wizarding World through the protagonist's eyes. And Hagrid is such a big lovable cornball fellow, with magic clinging to him like the raindrops on his coat even though he's not technically supposed to do any... I don't care what you call the prose. This chapter is just delightful.
* * *
About spoiler warnings: Please include them in discussion posts if you're about to cover a later plot development, for the sake of Christie and others who haven't read the series from the front cover of SS to the back cover of DH yet.
Ready to discuss? Hop in!
* The spell for translating vernacular to French should be, I think, "Pretatio Franci!" Since I had to use Google Translate to get the Latin instead of actually consulting my resident Latinist (he's at work), however, use carefully or you might suddenly find yourself unable to speak anything but French. Or something equally unhelpful. I don't think you'll find yourself on the floor with a buffalo on your chest, but you never know.