Tag Archives: Rowling

A is the first letter of the Alphabet

A is for Authentic. Of course A could also be for Authority, Argument, or Agnostic, words which could all lead to profitable Academic discussions. I’m going to stick with Authentic as my A-word. Authentic things are true and real. Truth plus reality gives these authentic things weight. On the other hand, if something is inauthentic it has a hollow ring of fakery about it.

Why be concerned with something authentic, something weighty? Recently I saw a question posed in a header in social media that separated reality and truth from one another – do we care if something is true, so long as it is real? I’m not sure reality and truth should so casually be separated. Can something be real without being true? And if it were one without the other, would it be an authentic thing, something that carried solid weight?

As an example, lets compare two people called Harry – Potter and Prince Harry of Wales. Both are appealing people, well known and loved by millions. However, Prince Harry is authentic, and Potter is not. Potter is a character in a book and movie series. Because of the ongoing appeal of the series in print, on film, and online, Potter may seem very real. There may be true things to say about Potter and his world. Potter may even seem closer to the world in which you live than Prince Harry does. But Prince Harry shows up in our worlds from time to time, Harry in the flesh. He does things in the real world that Potter cannot do. He is an authentic human being, living and acting in the world, not a character in a fictional universe.

Of course there are many ways to spin authentic. I could argue that I have a more authentic relationship with Potter than with the prince, having read the Potter books more times than I care to admit, and never having met the prince. I could say I have a couple of authentic Canadian first edition Potter books. This sort of spin may have led to the question separating the real and the true that I saw on social media. I’m not sure we should do that in such an off-hand manner, without thinking about what it is we’re saying.

I find that I rather like authentic things, that have both reality and truth, that carry weight. Separating the real and the true diminishes something. So my answer to that internet question, “Does it matter if something is true as long as it is real?” is YES. Yes it matters to me. And I think it should matter to you too.


(This is an Authentic Alphabet Soup Monday Morning Blog Post. The authenticity is guaranteed by the capital letters.)

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Readers are Leaders?

Some quirky links I found during a sleepless night:

1. Literary conspiracy theories. Some of these are really good. J.K. Rowling doesn’t exist. Shh. Don’t tell anyone! Also, murder in the Bronte household, who wrote Will Shakespeare’s plays, and other theories about reality that are stranger than fiction. The best bit is that one of the theories was published as fiction after it was turned down as a lit crit non-fiction offering. No one takes your theory seriously? Turn it into a novel. Excellent.

2. Readers don’t fit in at school sometimes. You don’t say. I’m a reader. I didn’t fit in at school. I read under the desk and sometimes was caught and sometimes not. Most of my teachers were sympathetic to my reading habit, but they did try to encourage me to not only have my nose stuck in a book. And they encouraged me to read broadly. And the librarian did suggest books if I remember correctly. Of course I was burning through the local public library and the school library at the same time. I think I liked the public library better. Better selection.

3. Finally, defending fantasy vs classics. I think people should read classics. It is part of our literary heritage. The people who write YA fantasy books with dragons often reference other older literature. That happens. We should all read widely. But never ever leave out books with dragons. That is a terrible idea.

I am currently reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It is brilliant. I am collecting lines I love. It is taking a long time because I’m also teaching and so have to read textbooks. Oh and Potter on audio. I’m at the end of book 6. There is still a bit to go in Book 6, but the big scene has happened. Now I can maybe sleep tonight and not lie awake, then get up and find all kinds of interesting blog posts about reading.

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I keep finding links to blog about but not posting them. Here are a couple that I found interesting.

1. In the category Potty for Potter, some suggestions about muggle books the Potter characters might read. Each character featured has a fiction and a non-fiction suggestion. I found the suggestions amusing.

2. In the category Books You Should Read, an interview with Karen Swallow Prior. I’ve been eyeing Prior’s Booked. Maybe I’ll add it to my Christmas list. In the interview, Prior names 5 books she thinks all Christians in America should read.

3. Finally, for today anyway, an interesting US map of books by setting. Read your way around the USA. There was some Canadian discussion of this on the Globe and Mail site for Canada Day this year. I think the Globe did regions, not provinces. But we could do provinces. What’s the most famous book set in each of the Canadian provinces and territories? There’s a Friday Challenge for you!

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July Twists

You may have noticed a dearth of posts in this location. It isn’t that there isn’t anything to write about. That is clearly untrue. I mentioned writing some reflections on the idea of a new normal in my last post. There’s also plenty of news in the world at large to write about and reflect upon: J.K. Rowling! (Yes! A new mystery series to collect.) Prince George of Cambridge! (Seriously? George? You must be joking. What happened to James or Albert or Arthur?) Booker long list! (Never heard of any of the books and very few of the authors.)

There, I’ve reflected on some of the news and views in the world.

And now I’m going off on vacation. See you in August. Happy reading.

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Movies that look Interesting

A while ago I wrote a post comparing Joss Whedon and William Shakespeare and pulling J.K. Rowling into the mix. Unless you live under a rock, you probably know that  Joss and Will are now closely allied in a way that I did not even come close to imagining. I want to see Much Ado About Nothing. Also, people in the blogosphere who are bigger Whedon fans than I are now listing other Shakespearian works that they think should get a Whedonesque twist. Good times.

In other movie news, Superman strikes again, but, the best news of the summer to my mind is the Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke sequel Before Midnight. Oh Yeah. If you haven’t seen Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, watch them first. I plan to revisit those two, then go see the new movie.

What might tempt you into the theatre this summer?

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It is my birthday, so I’m posting about food in books. I think it is appropriate.

I’ve recently re-read Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. That book has a lot of food in it: cabbage with nutmeg, saffron buns, steak, toast and tea, the list could be endless. I found a blog post this morning that lists some of the best descriptions of food in children’s literature. C.S. Lewis tops the list. He did food well in his books, particularly the Narnia books. Everyone always got their next meal. Peter Robinson’s mystery novels usually have a good curry or two in them, and the beer in those books is quite well done. I think, though, that my favourite food reference in books is Chocolate in the Harry Potter books, because chocolate is a medical cure! Rowling is brilliant.

What about you? What kind of food do you enjoy reading about?


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Rowling for Adults

I finished The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s novel for adults that came out last year. Last week I gushed in the early stages that I couldn’t see why reviewers had panned it. Someone suggested to me that they were expecting Harry, but for grown-ups, and Harry was Not What They Got. I can see that. The Harry Potter books are fantasies, school stories set in a world of magic. Wherever Harry lives, it isn’t in our world — or at least the world visible to us Muggles. Pagford, on the other hand, the village setting for The Casual Vacancy, is very recognizable as a part of our world. It is populated with a variety of families with varying degrees of dysfunction. They are just like our families, or at least like families we know. There is no escape from reality in Pagford. If you thought Rowling was the Queen of Escape To Another World, The Casual Vacancy will disappoint. Maybe that was what was with all the negative reviews, the conclusion that Pagford is not Hogwarts. Well wake up and smell the coffee reviewer people. Not everyone who is a writer is content with cranking out the same old thing because that is what the Reading Public has enjoyed in the past. I think The Casual Vacancy needs to be assessed on its own strengths and merits for what it is, not denounced because it is not another Harry Potter book.

Let me try assessing The Casual Vacancy for what it is. CV is a novel set in an English village. The main conflict revolves around whether the village should continue to rent a building to a drug treatment clinic, and whether the village should urge the nearby city to annex a district council-run development called “The Fields.” The main advocate for the clinic and the people of the Fields remaining attached to Pagford is Parish Councillor Barry Fairbrother. The trick is that Mr. Fairbrother dies an early and unforeseen death in the golf club parking lot on about page 4 of the book. The rest of the book examines the long shadow Fairbrother’s life and death casts across the village. The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother makes four appearances, and drives the conflict onward. Essentially the conflict resolves when people learn to live without Fairbrother and his ghost.

Rowling tells a compelling tale. She does not sugar-coat the realities of teen-aged and adult life. Some may be shocked at the lack of sugar coating, but I didn’t find that Rowling gave unnecessary details for shock value. There are a lot of characters, but this is a village play, not a family drama, and there are no more key characters to keep track of than in many other novels of a similar size and length. The one thing I wondered about was Rowling’s use of the third person omniscient to tell the story. In the Potter books she used the third person limited voice, so that with some few exceptions in the beginning chapters of some books, we saw and heard everything from Harry’s point of view. This limited point of view is, I think, a strength of the Potter books. She might have done better with a more limited point of view in The Casual Vacancy, but I’m willing to chalk that up to trying something different. I’d read CV again, and give it 4/5 in my personal rating scheme. This means I recommend it with only a few reservations (it can be a bit raw, and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea as it isn’t plot driven).

Have you read Rowling for grown-ups? What did you think?

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Early Thoughts on Rowling for Adults

I almost missed my stop on the subway, then on the bus. Why? I was reading The Casual Vacancy. I don’t know why this book got panned by so many reviewers. Seriously people, what were you thinking? Were you annoyed because you were forced to read it all in one day and it is so delicious you wanted to slow down and just enjoy it? Were you expecting more magic and otherworldliness? What’s the deal?
Sorry, I’ve got to go, I want to see what’s going on in Pagford.

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Fifth Day: J. K. Rowling

RABro got me The Casual Vacancy for Christmas. This is very exciting. I’m looking forward to it, despite the indifferent to negative reviews I’ve seen. I don’t necessarily trust reviewers any more, particularly when they get their copy of a much anticipated book and have a deadline in less than a day. Sometimes one must savour a book, not barrel through it looking for something to say in a review.

I re-read the Potter series during Advent as an escape from reality. Potter is a very handy escape series. It can take a week to read, and one can profitably read and re-read the books. That is to say, I can read and re-read the books. I’m not sure about everyone else. I think I’ve heard of other people re-reading Potter, so I think it is more than just me. I think Rowling will turn out to be a good writer, because she writes even when she doesn’t need to — she has enough money just from Potter and movies — but because she likes to tell stories. I think this is important.

I’m still enjoying The Elegance of the Hedgehog so it will be at least a day before I turn to Ms Rowling’s latest work. I’ll tell you if the reviewers had anything useful to say when I’m done.

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Winter Reading: Hot Chocolate and Harry Potter

I’ve mentioned comfort reads before in this blog. I’ve got a few books that I re-read when I need something familiar and comforting to escape into. These books have to withstand re-reading, that is, they must invite good reading, and they should have an element of the nice unreality of stories about them. By “the nice unreality of stories” I mean that comfort reads should be the sort of book where people who should be together end up together and good wins out over evil. There are precious few books that meet these criteria, that both invite good reading and have happy endings. The Harry Potter series is, happily, among the few.

I find Potter good winter reading. When a nice winter storm comes up (not that any have so far this winter) I usually say to my friend the Street Pastor, “It is time for hot chocolate and Harry Potter.” That particular combination seems to go well together. Why? I’m not sure. Possibly because much of the action in the Potter books occurs during the school year, a cold time of year. Possibly because chocolate is a cure for Dementor encounters. Possibly because hot chocolate is the ultimate comfort drink, and pairing the ultimate comfort drink with the ultimate comfort read makes sense. I’m not quite sure why the two always go together in my head, but they do. Hot Chocolate and Harry Potter. The combination are my ideal week off in the winter.

How about you? Do you have any particular comfort food or drink and reading pairings for the coming cold(er) months?

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