What did I say in comments the other day about not putting too much stock in anything JKR does or doesn't say about Snape? Here she goes again -- the left hand giveth and the right hand taketh away. In a conversation about wacky fan theories:

Spoilers from Part Two of the Leaky Cauldron/MuggleNet interview with JKR )
So back in 1998, Jo Rowling claims that as a child she would read and re-read the Narnia books and that "even now, if I was in a room with one of the Narnia books I would pick it up like a shot and re-read it." There are numerous other interviews from the early years of HP in which Rowling claims to be a fan of Lewis and makes specific references to things like the Wardrobe and Eustace as having inspired her for ideas in the HP books.

Now, within the space of two days, we have the Time interview and the interview with the cub reporters, both of which claim (and in the latter, it's said as a direct quote from JKR) that she wasn't that taken by Narnia and in fact never even finished the last book (though that apparently doesn't keep her from talking nonsense about it in Time, but I shall reserve my rant about the whole "poor Susan was banished from Narnia because she grew up and discovered sex" rubbish for another opportunity).
Dear Jo: I'm not sure I quite get this concept. Were you lying back in 1998 (and 1999, and 2001) to make antsy readers and critics feel better about your inspirations, or did Philip Pullman just hit you with Obliviate? Yours in bewilderment, RJA.
But to continue on a happier note, in the CBBC Newsround cub reporter interview Jo says this:
Another very good question. [Petunia] overheard a conversation, that is all I am going to say. She overheard conversation. The answer is in the beginning of Phoenix, she said she overheard Lily being told about them basically. ... [but] there is more to it than that. As I think you suspect. Correctly, but I don't want to say what else there is because it relates to book 7.
I KNEW IT!!! "That dreadful boy" Petunia overheard warning Lily about the Dementors etc. wasn't James, it was Snape. Ha ha! *dances*
Start Time: 9:00 a.m.
Finish Time: 11:59 a.m.
Title of Book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

And now, for my reaction [emotions only, no specific spoilers] )

I will post something more coherent, with actual details, at a later time.

ETA: There are now some specific spoilers in the comments, so if you were hoping to just read my general reaction and are still trying to avoid the details, don't read the comments, K?
So I guess this latest answer on JKR's official FAQ to the question of how the Order members communicate (and can anybody explain to me how on earth we would have figured that out from reading GoF, the way Jo thinks we all should have???) would strongly suggest that Snape does, in fact, have a Patronus. (Ironic, since [livejournal.com profile] cesario suggested last night that it was highly possible he couldn't cast one due to a lack of happy memories, and at the time I was inclined to agree with her. I wonder what Snape's happy memory is?)

In the past, JKR has said that she can't tell us what Snape's Boggart or his Patronus are because it would "give too much away". Well, I think I know what his Boggart is -- probable HBP spoiler ). But his Patronus? Something "unique and distinctive" to him, so that nobody could possibly mistake it for anyone else's Patronus? I'm stumped.

Oh, also, I thought of another thing today while doing the dishes. What is it about domestic chores that causes me to think of wacky new HP theories? But anyway: another highly possible spoiler for either HBP or Book Seven, your mileage may vary )

I have read the back jacket copy from the US edition that was posted yesterday, but deliberately avoided reading the first chapter excerpts floating around my f-list, because I know that if I start reading any part of the book I won't be able to resist the temptation to open it as soon as I get it and then I'll be up for the rest of the night finishing the thing off, which is just not feasible when you have two preschoolers. I shall start it as soon as I wake up on Saturday morning, which will probably be early, because my brain is doing the giddy kid-at-Christmas thing already...
Dang, there goes one of my favorite theories about Book Seven. Well, almost. After all, she does say that Neville still has an important role to play...
[livejournal.com profile] hedda62, I saw these and, inevitably, thought of you. :)

Speaking of O'Brian, I just read "21" last weekend, and as with the case of Dorothy Dunnett and the missing last Johnson Johnson book (of which even less, that is to say nothing at all, exists) it seems somehow impossible to believe that this really is The End, and there will never be any more canon, and that if you want to know what happened to the characters you are just going to have to make it up in your own head.

But making it up just isn't satisfactory, not with either of those two authors. They're too singular, too inimitable. If JKR were to unexpectedly shuffle off this mortal coil (though I fervently hope she doesn't!) and leave the HP series unfinished, I think I might eventually find some fanfic or other, or if necessary write one myself, that would give me a sense of closure. But not with O'Brian or Dunnett.

I love JKR madly. I really do. Especially for this (which is not a book spoiler, so I feel no guilt about not lj-cutting it):

I have no spare time at all. [Laughter]. When I’m not writing or looking after the children, I read and sleep. To be totally honest with you, at the moment sleeping is probably my very favourite thing in the world to do. I know that is a bit of a depressing answer. I would like to say I was partying with Mick Jagger--well, I wouldn't want to be partying with Mick Jagger, that is a complete lie...
Hee. I am so with you there, Jo. On all counts.

You can read the rest of her new interview here. Lots of good stuff about the books, and plenty of new theory-fodder. Plus, I adored that cut to avoid spoiling too much of the interview for people who haven't read it yet )

Drat, where did all the time I was going to spend editing Knife go? *dashes off to try and salvage the last twenty minutes*
I just got an e-mail from Laurie R. King telling me she's paid the entire registration fee for me to go to Bouchercon 2004 in October. She said it was a thank-you gift for running RUSS-L all these years.

*takes deep breath*


Oh why oh why oh why do I not have Case of the Winning Woman finished? Or my modern mystery novel? There will be agents and editors there and aaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggh.

Except that aside from Laurie, there is not a single author on the (very long) list of attending mystery authors whose books I have actually read. I've heard of Val McDermid, Sara Paretsky, Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson, but haven't actually read any of their stuff. I think my brother might be a Rankin reader though, come to think of it...

*clicks randomly around Bouchercon site, in a state of dizzy excitement*

Woo! JKR is up for "Best Young Adult Mystery" in the Anthony Awards, for OotP! (Er... how weird is that, really?)

Oh, man, I cannot believe this. I'm already thinking -- I could stay with my brother, who has an apartment in downtown Toronto, and I could take the subway (I love the subway), and if I sign up in time I could go to the Sisters in Crime high tea and...

Did I say EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!! yet?

And now I feel extra guilty that I have done such a crap job of updating The Beekeeper's Holmes Page and associated documents over the past couple of years.

Laurie OWNS.

ETA: The guilt is assuaged -- I have updated the web page, the FAQ and the group's list of acronyms. Phew. *feels better*
As much as I had fun speculating about how this might play into canon, and hoping that it wasn't just an oversight, part of me knew, deep down, that Spoilers for latest update on jkrowling.com )

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people out there who are disillusioned with JKR right now -- something Jo herself obviously anticipated, given the wry, apologetic tone of her answer. The question I want to ask is, are our expectations of JKR reasonable?

It's easy for us as fans to pick up on minute details of the Potter universe (though we argue and disagree even about those, so the answers aren't always as obvious as they may seem), because all we have to do is read what JKR's written and think about it, and many of us have ample spare time in which to do both. We aren't producing the books, feeling the pressure of millions clamouring for the next one, trying to work as quickly as possible yet maintain some level of quality, and at the same time trying to juggle writing with family and social life. The wonder to me isn't that JKR makes mistakes from time to time; it's that she hasn't made even bigger ones.

Well, yeah, but surely a responsible author would... )

Even if Jo could somehow miraculously live up to her readers' expectations and get all the dates, moon phases, character names, mathematical calculations, and other details right in an epic seven-book series that covers thousands of pages -- if every loose end were tied up and every question answered -- what would we fans have to talk about? All right, that's a bit facetious, but -- there is a unique satisfaction in coming up with a neat and well-reasoned explanation for something that would otherwise appear to be an obvious inconsistency or mistake.

The best example of this is in Sherlockian fandom, where (as in HP) you're dealing with a single author, a large and complex canon, and millions of obsessed fans. In fact, there are few characters in literature whose popularity and worldwide recognition compares with that of Sherlock Holmes -- only time will tell if Harry Potter can hold onto the same kind of status.

What do Sherlockians do? )

In JKR's case, all the evidence seems to indicate that she loves her characters, she's wholly committed to the story she wants to tell, and she's doing the best she can under very high-pressure and distracting (believe me, if you have a preschooler, you know about distracting) circumstances. Yes, she has made mistakes, and will doubtless make a few more along the way. But considering the amount of pleasure she's brought us, and the sheer scope of the story she's telling, I think that we fans can afford to cut her some slack.

That doesn't mean ignoring the errors. It doesn't even mean refusing to admit that they are errors (although, as I said above, denial can be fun). But I don't think anything good is likely to be accomplished by grumbling among ourselves about how JKR's a careless writer and if we were writing the series we'd do a better job yadda yadda. Especially since the former claim really isn't true and, in 99.9% of cases, the latter isn't either.*

*I will really look forward to seeing the fabulous original epic fantasy novels produced by the remaining 0.1%, though...
I think you ought to know that thanks to your clever, information-dense, and wholly absorbing new web site, my poor children's lunch has been ruined.

I did not think it was possible to spoil Kraft Dinner, but apparently not even industrial-strength prefab macaroni can survive being forgotten and left on the stove at a rolling boil for twenty minutes. The pasta is now the consistency of oatmeal, and even after the optimistic addition of butter, milk and the legendary cheese powder, remains quite, quite disgusting.

I want you to know that this is all your fault. Or ALL YOUR FAULT, as Book 5 Harry might say.

It's just a good thing my kids didn't notice, and ate the Kraft Dinner anyway...
From a recent interview with Daniel Radcliffe in the British magazine SFX:

"As far as I know, the only person on set who knows something about their character's future--or past, as the case may be--is Alan Rickman. I think [JKR] may have told him something. I don't know what it is, but it's very striking!"



...we're really crappy with numbers.

Last night I finally forced myself to do something I should have done long ago -- sit down and work out a timeline for the whole Darkness and Light trilogy. I mean, on the first draft I was flinging around phrases like "Eighteen months later" and "she had known X for two years now" with only the vaguest notion of whether this was actually correct. And as I discovered, in many cases it wasn't.

Not grossly incorrect in most of the cases, mind you; but there were still some definite inconsistencies, and it took me a whole evening of squinting at the screen, skimming chapters, and counting off months on my fingers (when I wasn't using the calculator to perform simple sums -- I did say "crappy", didn't I?) to fix them. I probably haven't caught all of them yet, either, but I'll keep my eyes open on the final re-read...

There is one slight remaining Flint, but I can easily rationalize it if anybody notices. :)
And in response to a couple of appalled comments on my previous post, I never suggested Rowan Atkinson should play Snape. I just said that in this particular pic, Rowan Atkinson's hair looked like I think Snape's would if he took proper care of it. Not the same thing. :)

On the other hand, look at the sketch of Snape drawn by J.K. Rowling herself, and tell me that her version doesn't look a lot more like Atkinson than he does like Alan Rickman...?!
I have just recalled one of the other shared elements I stupidly failed to write down when I was reading The Game of Kings: Dunnett, like JKR, makes reference to the twelve uses of dragon's blood.

Though in Dunnett's book, it's made clear that the term "dragon's blood" is a fanciful description for a considerably more mundane substance, and I suspect that "oven cleaner" was not one of the twelve uses she had in mind...

Mildly spoilerish thoughts about the Paxman interview with JKR )

Regarding tonight's release, I have a dilemma. If I go down as soon as the store opens to get my reserved copy of OotP, I'll have to stay up until midnight. And then once I get the book in my hands, I'm going to want to just take one little peek. And then I'll get no sleep at all and be fried and useless the next day. However, if I don't go down at midnight, I probably won't be able to sleep anyway. But I might surprise myself on that score, who knows, and then I could go down and pick the book up the next morning. Except I'm worried there'll be a huge lineup and it'll take me forever to get it, plus I'll want to spend the whole day reading it and my family will mope at me.

What to do, what to do...?
Aside from the fact that they're both female, both writers, and both connected to Scotland, I mean.

When I first read about the giant chess game in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and particularly Ron's decision to sacrifice himself to win the game, I was immediately reminded of a scene in the fourth book of Dorothy Dunnett's series of historical novels about Francis Crawford of Lymond. The circumstances and execution (no pun intended) are different, and the idea of human chess is by no means original to either author, but I couldn't help wondering if Rowling had ever read Dunnett.

Then when I really started to notice Rowling's persistent use of unreliable narration, another Dunnett hallmark, I wondered again. I know that the idea of an unreliable narrator is also not unique to either author (in fact one of the best examples I can think of was written by Mary Stewart), but it's not just that. It's that JKR and Dunnett used the unreliable narrator in the same way and for the same purpose -- for instance, in the first book of both HP and the Lymond series, the reader is misled via the narration into thinking an important character is the villain when he is in fact a hero.

So that's two things they have in common. Here's another: one of the subplots in the first Lymond book has Francis's mother Sybilla and her friends pursuing the creation of -- guess what? -- the Philosopher's Stone. Again, I know that the Stone has been around for centuries and Dunnett certainly didn't invent it, but it intrigues me that once again there's an element common to the first books of both series. Also, another character in the first Lymond book, Janet Beaton, is a stocky, big-hearted woman with a sharp mind, formidable courage and a staggering number of children. Sound like anyone we know? Plus (as Natasha noted in the comments to the original version of this post -- thank you, Natasha), although no mention of this is made in the book, historically speaking Janet Beaton was accused of -- guess what? -- being a witch.

There are three possibilities here, at least that I can think of:
  • one, that JKR has never read Dunnett and any apparent similarities are pure coincidence;
  • two, that JKR has never read Dunnett but she and Dunnett were influenced by the same literary and historical sources;
  • three, that JKR has read and liked Dunnett's work and was inspired by it. And this is my personal theory, at least until I see a good reason to think otherwise.

    By saying that I think JKR may well have been inspired by Dunnett I don't mean that I think she copied Dunnett in some lazy or unoriginal fashion -- the HP books and the Lymond series are far more different than they are alike, even in their handling of the elements I've noted above. But perhaps JKR found her imagination stirred by the Lymond books and her approach to writing influenced by observing Dunnett's memorable and successful techniques. By the time JKR got around to writing HP the connection to Dunnett could even have been subconscious -- after all, the Lymond books were written before JKR was born, so she could have read them in her teens, well before she came up with the idea of HP.

    It's just a theory, of course. And if JKR ever says "Dunnett who?" then of course the theory will be defunct. But I'm going to keep my eyes open as I go through HP canon and the Lymond books (something I didn't plan to do simultaneously, but I'm rather pleased it's worked out that way), and see if anything else jumps out at me.

    I think what I like best about the possibility of a Rowling-Dunnett connection is that it probably means good things in the end for Snape. Which is not to say he'll necessarily survive the series, but if he's anything like one of Dunnett's antiheroes (and he certainly rings that bell for me), then we're bound to learn some things about his character which will mitigate our earlier impression of him and draw out our sympathies toward him in a new way. JKR has already said that we will "get" Snape, in the sense of understanding him, in Book Seven, if not before. I'm really looking forward to seeing what she means by that.

    Thanks to Erica and [livejournal.com profile] ajhalluk for their comments, which made me go back and edit this entry for clarity. I hope this makes it seem a little less like I'm jumping to specious conclusions.
  • Just learned today (I forget where, so sue me) that J.K. Rowling's favorite band is The Smiths.

    Why do I suspect this means Very Depressing Things in Harry Potter's future?


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