Harry Potter Book Club: Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 13-15

"His eeeeeeeyes are as greeeeeeen as a freeeesh pickled toooad
His haaaaair is as daaaaaaark as a blackboooooooard"

Ahem. I think I'm going to be singing that all day. While blushing for poor little Ginny. Here's somebody's lovely orchestrated edition, so you can be singing it, too:

As that plays, here's a recap of last week's posting:

Masha provided recipes for Pepperup potion and "a slow-brewing elixir for lowered inhibitions and reduced internal chatter", the latter of which sounds like just the thing for me. It's too bad I haven't got any of those ingredients in my house... not one. Apparently I need to replenish my stock. (Or maybe just plenish it; I've never had Siberian ginseng.) Anyway, Masha's post also contains some good thoughts about Parseltongue and caricatures and whether to give the Potter books to children:
I can see reasons for pause in the series, as there are in most books, depending on the individual child's needs, temptations, and maturity. Would I be more likely to tuck away Potter and prominently display The Hobbit..yes, I would, but it would be because I love The Hobbit, it's a better book, and one of my favorites, and parents are always going to encourage their favorites. It's just a fact of nature. But while I can see aspects of the books that are very problematic in the formation of youthful morality, I don't see enough to deny a child the books. Yet.
And I say: Well put. I'm too tempted, because the books are so often attacked and misguidedly denounced, to overcompensate with unequivocal praise. Masha's point is a good corrective.

Christie got caught up, offering one post about ghosts and Deathday party and another about potions and Parseltongue. From the latter:
About the Parselmouth gift being the domain of dark wizards, I feel the same as I do about his suitability for placement in Slytherin.  Though the wizarding world is stubborn in its prejudices, I insist that the evilness (or goodness) of a thing, a created object or a genetic gift, is in how it is used.  I'm pulling strongly for Harry, here.  I sense and understand his fear.  It is true that the Parselmouth gift is one often used for evil.  But that makes me even more determined to see Harry use it for good.  The ability to speak to snakes, like most things, is not intrinsically wrong.  So it's unfortunate his classmates see it as such.
Ah, the ability to make fine distinctions. Humans are so bad at it. And yet, for justice's sake, it's imperative. Harry doesn't know why he can speak to snakes, or how; half the time, he doesn't realize he's doing it, and the one time he did knowingly have a conversation with one, he was just being compassionate. After all, snakes are God's creatures, too. But pre-teen Hogwarts is all HARRY'S TRYING TO KILL US. Easy does it, kids.

* * *

This Week in Reading Harry

Read: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapters 13-15

Potential Discussion Points:

1. Dangerous books. Ever since the Teacher wrote "Of making many books there is no end" inside his own book—if not before—authors have been putting meta-commentary on literature inside literature. Rowling's strikes me as incredibly funny:
"Some of the books the Ministry's confiscated—Dad's told me—there was one that burned your eyes out. And everyone who read Sonnets of a Sorcerer spoke in limericks for the rest of their lives. And some old witch in Bath had a book that you could never stop reading! You just had to wander around with your nose in it, trying to do everything one-handed. And—"
The number of times I've wandered around the house with my nose in a book, trying to do everything one-handed... Hahaha. Also, limericks! That would be embarrassing. Especially considering that limericks tend to range from naughty to filthy. I read one of the "man from Nantucket" ones once, and it pretty much soured me on that particular poetic form, mainly because I've never been able to forget it. Worst mental images ever.

2. Valentine's Day. Of all the holidays in all the calendar, Valentine's Day has got to be the worst. I hated it when I was single, primarily because I was single, but when I got married I discovered that while candlelight dinners and romantic evenings are nice anytime, they're really not improved by infusion of lurid pink and being situated in crowded restaurants (both Lou and I recoil in horror from the very thought of going out to dinner on February 14.)

That holiday, commercially appropriated and cheapened far beyond the saccharine point, is an apropos choice for a little more Gilderoy Lockhart party of awkward. Especially since our Gilderoy is "five-time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile award." What with Snape "looking as though the first person to ask him for a love potion would be force-fed poison" and grim singing dwarfs with wings and harps, this section is beautifully comic.

And now, because I can't resist, some Harry-themed valentines from around the interwebs:




Source. Yes, these last three are all from the same place.
There are more where they came from, too.


Along the same lines, I'm totally giggling about the mandrakes getting all moody and secretive and trying to move into each others' pots. Well. Apparently I'm still in junior high.

3. Poor Hagrid. Between Tom and Fudge... how mean. And unfair. That is all.

4. T.M. Riddle. Here's where the book's mystery—which is pretty awesome—really ramps up. I love it that Riddle is called Riddle here, while Harry's trying to figure him out. And speaking of that mystery, there are so many clues dropping in these chapters. I kept thinking "I want to write about that, but [SPOILER spoiler spoiler MEGASPOILER!!!!!!]"

5. Choosing classes. Presumably some of these kids are writing home for advice, and Neville got barraged whether he asked or not, but Hogwarts, never the sort of school to burden kids with much adult oversight, plunges them into choosing their own classes. Which they're mostly too young and confused to do, and they display that in brilliantly childlike ways. Dean Thomas' tactic sounds as logical as anyone else's.

6. Deus ex Ford Anglia. Clearly Mr. Weasley didn't just enchant the car to make it fly; he made it family-loyal, like a puppy. Cute.

You guys. Someone QUILTED the flying car.
7. Worst Nightmarish Ways to Die. Frankly, SPOILER SPOILER's brush with death in this book is nearer the worst thing I can imagine, but Ron's trails it by an extremely narrow margin of dreadful. Poor boy has hated and feared spiders since big brother Fred turned his teddy bear into a spider while Ron was holding it, and now Ron, along with Harry, nearly gets killed by a swarm of horse-sized spiders. HORRORS.

Art by JamusDu.

8. Dumbledore. "However, you will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it." I love Dumbledore. He sounds like a war general here, or maybe just like a good teacher who also happens to be a really cool and powerful wizard. His odd juxtaposition of mighty protectiveness and shockingly open-handed freedom are on frequent display in these early books, combined with an almost omnipotent sense for what's going on in his school and a plot-benefiting tendency to not know—or not reveal—the big important answers until after the fact. I'm looking forward to more Dumbledore in a week or two.

* * *

Your turn!

...okay, Hagrid, really? I know you wanted to reveal some things, but you thought it was safe to send two twelve-year-old kids and a cowardly dog into a nest of acromantulas? Way deep in the Forbidden Forest? Really?!!!


  1. I KNOW!! The whole Dumbledore omniscient-within-Hogwarts thing is fascinating...I mean, It sort of makes you wonder what sort of magic he's got going there..and sort of (paired with the memory of Riddle/Dippet, if maybe he has a closer, personal connection to the school (not entirely different from Riddle's, really, because of SPOILERS) and if that emotional connection can be emphasized into a magical connection..because the previous headmaster seems to be Lacking that sort of awareness.

    I also sort of appreciate the fact that magical or enchanted items - like the car, gain a personality along with unusual power..it fits so well..a little bit of a cop-out here, but a delightfully fitting one - and OMgoodness Hagrid, no wonder everything things you're a killer! Worst decision ever.

    I'll send you some of the potion..secretly, because I don't think alcohol is supposed to be shipped..if I EVER manage to get anything in the mail Again! You'll love it!

    1. I would LOVE some of the potion!!!

      Cool theory on the emotional connection to Hogwarts. I could totally see that, and Harry himself could probably pull off something like that in the long run. Fan fiction idea! Hahah. ;)

    2. Fan fiction on that would be GREAT!!

    3. I think I've mentioned this before, but to my mind the fact that enchanted objects develop personalities along with their new powers is one of the things that really separates Rowling's magic from being just 'sufficiently advanced technology.' If it were just 'okay, now the car can fly' or 'okay, the wand doesn't work,' then there really wouldn't be any structural difference between that and, say, an anti-gravity generator or something. But the fact that the car gets angry when over-exerted, or retains a puppy-like affection for its old owner is something that technology, however advanced, simply couldn't believably do.

      The fact that the films almost utterly failed to convey this is one of the chief reasons I don't like them very much.

    4. BTanaka, I love what you just said. All of it.

  2. Oh, Hagrid. I love you, but your decision-making skills are so very poor sometimes. . .

    I'm trying to think of the most recent book I could never stop reading! I remember having a memorable four days the first time I picked up Crime and Punishment I'm reading one of Margaret Anderson's biographies right now and it's pretty good, but it hasn't prevented me from performing (most) daily activities. I think the last book to have a really strong Bath Effect was Kindred by Octavia Butler. It's a time-travel story. A REALLY GOOD time-travel story. With possibly the best "grab you by the collar" opening paragraph IN ALL OF HISTORY.

    Re: Parselmouth -- it's too bad there couldn't have been at least one herpetonerd on campus to come to Harry's defense by pointing out that actually, science teaches us that SNAKES ARE AWESOME. If he followed Harry around hoping to listen in on the conversation, it would even fit in with the "Harry's Unwanted Fan Club" theme! Even if the association between snaketalking and Voldemort / Slytherin were completely entrenched in Wizarding culture, there's no reason why Muggle-born students should be any more afraid of snakes than the general population, or any more freaked out by Harry talking to them than they are at McGonagall turning a toaster into a chipmunk or anything else they do on a daily basis.

    1. Yeah, there IS no reason for Muggle-born student panic. Except for the irrational way things spread among groups of people in general and groups of children in particular. But a herpetology buff would have been nice to have around these past few chapters. Hey, Hagrid, I would think that would be right up your alley!!

      So, guess I need to read the Octavia Butler book...

    2. It's really, really good. Fair warning: time travel is to the slaveholding US South; the story isn't nearly as unrelentingly grim as it could have been, but it's no happyfuntimes pleasure boat, either.

      I feel like Rowling kind of forgets that a significant minority of Hogwarts students are From Muggle most of the time. It's probably not a bad move given how much storytelling she has to do, but it does get us into these odd situations where everyone but Harry has adjusted WAY FAST to the worldrules for no clear reason.

      This is way off topic, but I'd like to see fanfic dealing with post-Hogwarts family relationships in mixed Muggle/Wizard families. I mean healthy ones, like (I assume) the Grangers. Pretty much the only close-up looks we get at mixed families are unhealthy ones, like Lily and Petunia Evans, and [SPOILER]'s family. But I can't imagine Hermione's parents not wanting to brag on their awesome daughter, throw her a party when she finishes her Magic A Levels, keep family friends updated on her accomplishments in the Christmas letter, etc.. How do healthy families negotiate the wizard secrecy thing?

    3. Totally..'cause, right now, the implication is that they just drift apart and never really see their witch/wizard children post Hogwarts, because all sorts of secrecy and the worlds are just too different or whatever, but it's not healthy or believable at all. And that would make great fan ficiton!!!

    4. Yes! Snakes ARE awesome! I'd be so jealous of Harry if I were at Hogwarts...

      The whole 'muggle-borns acclimate too fast' thing bugs me too; there's really no reason why, for instance, Hermione should be afraid of hearing the V-bomb, since as far as we know she had never even heard the name until a few months before she went to Hogwarts, at the earliest. My own explaination for this is that Hermione really, REALLY wanted to fit in and succeed in the Wizarding world, so she adopted as many wizarding customs as she could, such not saying the V word. She has a bit of a (I think adorable) tendency to overcompensate.

      I think, in that regard, the most believable scene for Hermione-as-muggle-born was the Mudblood bit, where she registers the intent, but doesn't really FEEL anything because she's unfamiliar with the context of the slur.

  3. re: #2. But, but... okay, I'm just gonna say it. I love St. Valentine's Day. The opportunities for extravagant, theatrical, and downright bohemian expressions of romantic love are so appealing. It's like Spring's answer to Halloween...

    But that aside, I think Riddle is one of the most fascinating characters in the book. Rowling's whole concept of the contact with him is wonderfully worked, and totally adds to the creepiness factor of the story. And his disingenuous altruism... it chills the bone.

    -The Neglected Husband

    1. OK, you two. Neither of you are into hypercommercialization, and I don't see you as lovers of Pepto-Bismol pink, so tell me what sort of things you do for St. Valentine's, and I will see if I can emulate it next year and learn to love it, too. :D

    2. It's actually pretty simple... a gift or two, fun homemade or going out (or "splurging on tons of pre-made goodies at Whole Foods") dinners, romantic i-pod music mix (including lots of Gotan Project [check 'em out, they're awesome] and Moulin Rouge soundtrack), and just chilling. Also (and this was one of my more brilliant ideas, y'know, like Dumbledore, book 1) a theme color. It started with a package I sent Em (we were still dating) and I realized most things in it were brown (chocolate, card, some dried flowers, etc.) so each year has it's own color and an appropriate corresponding gift which makes it more fun no matter how simplistic the gift is. Also meant I could get Mrs. Meyers Lemon Verbena cleaning supplies one year and it was okay, the color was green. Oh, and dressing up. Obvi. Especially if we're staying in.
      -The Neglected Husband

    3. Thank you! Ooh, fun stuff to try. Dressing up and staying in, we already do, of course.

      Theme color--now that one, I haven't tried. Fun!! Wonder if I could sell Lou on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack... I love it... might have to stick with Sinatra, though, or it'll only be romantic for me. :P

      Listening to Gotan Project right now--I'd never heard of them. Makes me want to tango, which dangerous, since I only ever learned to swing, and that an awful lot of years ago.


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