Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 8-9

Hail, fellow Hogwarts students, and hang onto your drippy black candles! We're going down to the dungeons for this one, and there's nothing more Gothic than a Hogwarts dungeon, so it should be creepy. Watch that those tapers don't blow out!

Before we do, though—The Harry Potter Book Club met live for the first time last Monday:

Me, Masha on Skype, Christie

And it was awesome. We talked about Snape and spoilers and the possibility of doing some other book clubs when we finish with Harry... all of which will, I believe, be revealed in time. ;)

Meanwhile: this week, Masha spoke of loving Lockhart and other Rowling caricatures, Hermione's breaking character, Hogwarts' slipshod student management, and the relationship between wizards and everyone else:
...also, as Christie's mentioned, J.K. Rowling seems to be presenting common decency as exceptional goodness pretty often as it relates to any interaction between wizards and anyone else, be they elves or muggles. I'm not sure if it's to create in the reader an awareness of how deeply flawed the wizarding world is, or if it is supposed to be viewed by the reader as exemplary. Thoughts here??
And Christie has been down with a cold (wish I had thought to send her some Pepperup Potion), but I'm going to move forward; Chamber of Secrets is pretty action-based and, compared to some of the other books, easy to write about in a concise fashion. At least, I think so. Christie might scold me later. ;P

And now, for next week's reading!

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This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 8-9

In honor of Nearly Headless Nick's five hundredth deathday, here's a link to the Rowling-penned ballad depicting his death (page down to get to it). A taste:
It was a mistake any wizard could make
Who was tired and caught on the hop
One piffling error, and then, to my terror,
I found myself facing the chop.

Potential Discussion Points:

Art by Keith James
1. The Deathday Party. It's a brilliant little piece of Gothic spoof-comedy, from the screeching saws to the rotted food to the Headless Hunt. Nearly Headless Nick is a bit of a tepid personality, but it's impossible not to feel sorry for him when the gleeful Sir "Properly-Decapitated" Podmore is around.

Art by VivalaVida
2. Squibs. Designated by Rowling to mean a non-magical child born to magical parents, the original definition includes, according to the Oxford:
3 informal a small, slight, or weak person, especially a child.
and according to the World English Dictionary:
2. a firework that does not explode because of a fault; dud
...both of which could be relevant to Rowling's usage.

We meet two Squibs in the Harry Potter series (the other is a spoiler yet); in Filch's case, the janitorial job may have been some of the same kindness, Dumbledorian or otherwise, that allowed the expelled Hagrid to stay on as Keeper of the Keys and Grounds. Unlike for Hagrid, however, being constantly close to magic he can't do seems to have soured Filch (either that, or he was a nastier person to begin with. Or both.) Secondary school students cannot be expected to kindly treat someone who is constantly threatening and punishing them beyond the bounds of reason, but their instinctive distrust and hatred only feeds into Filch's lifelong bitterness. From an obvious sense of inferiority, he sought out the Kwikspell course—which looks like something marketed for $19.99 by infomercial on cable TV—but perhaps he might have become less brutal, lived more peaceably, if he had simply gone out and lived among Muggles from an early age.

Art by matisnape
3. Moaning Myrtle was my first introduction to a Harry Potter book—I happened to pick Chamber of Secrets up off a department store shelf one day, flip through it, and land on Myrtle splashing in the toilet. I doubt that image was responsible for my eventually sneaking into the children's library to pick up the series I'd heard such mixed good and evil of, but Myrtle has always been one of my favorite minor characters, simply because she's so comic. Granted, if you take her life and afterlife seriously at all, it's quite sad—not the sort of thing I can laugh over—but junior high Jenna somehow finds her setting and dialogue excruciatingly funny.

Oh, and here's a song about getting flushed by her wizard rock namesake, The Moaning Myrtles. (I wish I could've found a video for "Wrocking Around the Bathroom Stall", which is set to "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and is my favorite TMM song, but I couldn't; you can listen to it over on Grooveshark, though.) Wrocking from the U-bend:

4. Professor Binns, history, myth, and boredom. This time spoofing the general perspective on history classes, Rowling gives us a teacher so locked into dry routine and dryer lecturing that he never even notices his own death. History doesn't have to be boring, however, as the entire classroom wakes up when the lesson becomes relevant. Binns will never be this interesting again, so here's a picture of him entering through the blackboard:

Ghostly professor, sleepy class. Art by SusiKISS.

5. Gothic humor and horror. That pair runs these two chapters. Humor leads out with the Deathday party, the salamander, Peeves, Moaning Myrtle, etc.. Horror follows behind with the murderous voice in the wall and the petrification of Mrs. Norris. The creepy message daubed on the stone wall, with the petrified cat hung beneath it, sounds like something straight out of a horror movie—and it's a sign that the book is going to keep getting darker.

Which it will.

Oh, and I don't like spiders either, Ron.

Go forth and talk Potter!


  1. *scoldscoldscold*

    Ha, no worries! I've had half of it written out for quite a while, I just have to finish it. Did you get my text? Well . . . there's good news along with the bad (broken air conditioner), and that . . . I was hired for that job I was telling you about! Yay! I'm working Mondays through Fridays now as a secretary at a Catholic childcare center and loving it (only two days in)!

    More later! xo

    1. YAY! Congratulations on the job!!! I'm so glad for you. <3

      Looking forward to your post! I'm impressed that you've even got it half written between colds, job transition, and broken air conditioners.

    2. Congratulations on your new job, Christie! I hope it stays loveable and your air conditioner gets fixed soon :/

  2. The deathday party. I remember reading something Michael O'Brien wrote on it & thinking, "Okay, all the good points you might have been making about the Potter series were just destroyed by your whacked out eisegesis of the deathday party." Wherein he essentially claimed that here Rowling was giving a recapitulation of the Black Mass & this proved her work had satanic implications.

    1. Black Mass???? Yeesh.

      I don't know much about the Black Mass--will probably have to do some research on it for a certain spoilerific bad-wizard-doing-bad-things scene in the last third of book four--but to compare it to the Deathday party? Where there's no blood, no living-human magic, and no pleasure in the goings-on by the sympathetic characters? That seems like a streeeeeeeeeeeeeetch.

  3. Umm, George..please tell me you're making that up. Or else give me a citation so I can find it and read it and laugh and laugh..;)

    I can't even being to figure out where he'd get that idea. At all. I mean, not even close..And he should know better, 'cause Catholics LOVE deathday parties, we have them practically everyday..I mean, granted, Rowling's ghosts don't really party the way the saints do - I didn't see a lake of beer ANYWHERE in that dungeon :( If he argued for her faulty understanding of the afterlife, I'd be bored, but I'd concede the point, but all I can see of the Black Mass is the color-scheme, and by that criteria..well, things don't look too good for me either ;)

    1. It's been awhile ago. I've been googling around and haven't found the specific reference yet. I thought I first saw something on John Granger's site oh it's been several years now I think and a link there led me to an article by O'Brien that put forth the Black Mass idea. I don't have much time right now to search it out, so it might be awhile more till I can do a better search on it.

    2. Yeah, there's nothing even a tiny bit ritual-y or masslike about the party, either; it's just a party, with people milling around the food table (except the people are dead and the food is rotten). Maybe Nick gives a short speech at one point? Maybe the parody element of dead dudes celebrating their death with rotten food is supposed to echo the parody-mass thing, because. . . they're both a kind of parody? Except the DD Party is NOTHING LIKE A MASS, so how does that even come into it? I am baffled. And curious.


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