Sometimes there’s so much Harry Potter stuff going on, I have to make a list to keep it all straight.
The illustrated edition of Chamber of Secrets was released very recently, but I just finally got around to reading the illustrated Sorcerer’s Stone. Jim Kay’s illustrations are gorgeous, highly detailed (you can stare at the Hogwarts interiors for hours), sometimes surprising (Hagrid dresses like a biker–which makes sense since we first see him on a motorcycle, but I never thought of it!), and occasionally even startling (Snape’s creepy eyes!). I’m looking forward to seeing how he approaches memorable book 2 characters like Gilderoy Lockhart and the basilisk, and I’m really curious as to whether the ratio of pictures to text will continue to be similar as the books get massive.
Tomorrow is the first day of November, which is release month for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them! I realize that Harry Potter is not going to be in this movie, nor any of our beloved characters (I hear Dumbledore is namedropped, but I think that’s about the extent of it), but I’m really excited about getting back into the Wizarding world. This is the first movie for which J. K. Rowling has actually written the screenplay, which means, if nothing else, that it’s going to be lush with detail. It also helps that Eddie Redmayne is beautiful. But the element of this film I may be looking forward to the most is the fact that there’s a major character who’s non-magical. What will it mean for HP fandom that people like us are now part of the story? I will be blogging about this, no doubt.
With all the publishing action happening this year, Harry Potter festivals seem to be back on the rise. I attended one this past Saturday in Scottsville, a very small town in central Virginia that for three years running has transformed its (also very small) downtown business district into Hogsmeade. Lines were long at places like Honeydukes (normally a bookstore and coffee shop) and Ollivander’s (normally a tattoo and massage parlor), but in other establishments, it was easy to duck inside, take in the fabulously creative displays (I loved the hand-lettered envelopes at the owl post location) and perhaps contribute to the local economy by making a purchase (I bought two beeswax taper candles at the owl post place, which in its Muggle life is a beekeeping supply shop). Perhaps the most fun part of the festival (other than getting a signed photo of Gilderoy Lockhart at Flourish and Blotts–that guy was fabulous) was the people-watching. I saw some fantastic costumes (Moaning Myrtle, the painting of Sirius Black’s mother, a trio of house-elves) and a lot of fairly obscure fan t-shirts–the kind you can’t just impulsively buy at Target. I hope to return to this festival next year, and I also hope the weather will be more seasonally appropriate. It was about 80 degrees on Saturday, and I was dressed as Professor Trelawney. There was a lot of fabric draped over and around me.
Today is Halloween. That means that it’s the anniversary of Lily and James Potter’s tragic death (I saw their gravestone in Scottsville, too–there was a lovely old church with the Godric’s Hollow graveyard recreated outside), as well as of the baby Harry Potter’s amazing, unlikely defeat of Voldemort. Halloween is also a good day to have a huge feast with live bats swooping overhead (that always seems unsanitary to me)…and a good day for…wait for it…a TROLL IN THE DUNGEON! Thought you ought to know.
Maybe because I’ve recently spent some time back home with my family, or maybe because it’s the new year, a time when evangelicals like myself tend to talk a lot about repenting, refocusing, and returning to God. Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about prodigal son stories–not that I’m a prodigal in the exact sense of the word, or a son for that matter, but I can identify with the biblical pig-slop boy pretty well. This morning in church we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and when we got to the line “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” I wept a little bit (discreetly), and then I thought of a great blog post, based upon Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Would you expect anything else from me?)
I started thinking about how fitting it is that in a book that culminates with a massive high school homecoming (all those Hogwarts alumni and truant students, some coming back to be true to their school, and some coming back to destroy it), we get all these beautiful stories of return and restoration. Ron coming back to Harry and Hermione, led by a supernatural “tiny little ball of light.” Snape coming back to Dumbledore, on his knees, with a broken spirit. Percy coming back to be a Weasley again. Harry coming back to King’s Cross, where it all began–first in that bright moment of clarity between life and death, and then at the end, bringing his children to board the train to a restored Hogwarts, telling his son that it’s ok to be a Slytherin because things have changed now; broken social structures have been mended.
This has all probably been said before (by John Granger, no doubt), but it came to me like a discovery, and it’s a discovery I’d like to pursue. If you think of any return and restoration stories in Deathly Hallows that I’ve missed, let me know. And I’d love to hear about some of your other favorite homecomings in literature and film. (I’ll go ahead and state one that seems really obvious to me: The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again.)
Now that the Golden Globe nominations are out and award season approaches, I would like to throw a couple of rhetorical questions into the vast sea of opinion that will soon begin roiling.
1. We’re going to be seeing a lot of clips from Moneyball over the next few months. I want to know what the new, trim Jonah Hill thinks when he sees the fat guy in those clips. Does he hate that guy? Does he feel sorry for him? Does he say, “Cheer up, old boy; you’ll be well rid of all that soon enough.” Or does he think, with a shiver, “There but for the grace of God go I . . . again”?
2. Why can’t the Academy (or the Hollywood Foreign Press, etc.) deign to give one acting nomination to someone from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2? I know it’s got a lot going against it: an ensemble cast, placement in a series involving multiple directors (instead of a neat, self-contained package like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings), the fantasy genre, and the label “children’s movie,” which even the last few films haven’t been able to shake. I also know that I’m just a silly fangirl, but I think even a more objective observer might be willing to admit that Ralph Fiennes deserves a Best Supporting Actor nod for his riveting portrayal of Voldemort, and that Alan Rickman also deserves one for his equ…ally (get it, superfans?) riveting performance as Severus Snape. (You don’t have to be on screen for more than a few minutes to garner a Supporting Actor/ess nomination; cf. Viola Davis in Doubt.) And let’s not forget Daniel Radcliffe. He would have to be in the Best Actor category (duh), which is harder to break into, especially for a 22-year-old who’s been playing the same role for ten years. But nobody can justly deny that Daniel Radcliffe has established himself as a serious contender in film. He won’t get nominated for an acting award this year (unless it’s a Tony?), but we haven’t seen the last of him.
Today I thought I’d give myself a break and share someone else’s work–Plato’s, that is. The following quote comes from the character Glaucon in Plato’s Republic. It reminds me of some people you might know: Jesus Christ, Sydney Carton (the guy from A Tale of Two Cities), Bruce Wayne (especially in The Dark Knight), and one of my Hogwarts professors, Severus Snape. It also–shameless plug–reminds me of Jack Donnelly, the protagonist of the novel I wrote.
“Beside our picture of the unjust man let us set one of the just man, the man of true simplicity of character who, as Aeschylus says, wants ‘to be and not to seem good.’ We must, indeed, not allow him to seem good, for if he does he will have all the rewards and honours paid to the man who has a reputation for justice, and we shall not be able to tell whether his motive is love of justice or love of the rewards and honours. No, we must strip him of everything except his justice, and our picture of him must be drawn in a way diametrically opposite to that of the unjust man. Our just man must have the worst of reputations for wrongdoing even though he has done no wrong, so that we can test his justice and see if it weakens in the face of unpopularity and all that goes with it; we shall give him an undeserved and life-long reputation for wickedness, and make him stick to his chosen course until death. In this way, when we have pushed the life of justice and of injustice each to its extreme, we shall be able to judge which of the two is happier . . .
“They will say that the just man, as we have pictured him, will be scourged, tortured, and imprisoned, his eyes will be put out, and after enduring every humiliation he will be crucified, and learn at last that one should want not to be, but to seem just.”
Of course, Socrates sets Glaucon straight. Read The Republic to find out how.