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Thoughts on Dumbledore and Authorial Intent

Snoopy Pumpkin
I suspect by now most folks have heard about J. K. Rowling dropping the fact that Dumbledore is gay. To some extent, the response has been predictable. Pro-tolerance Dumbledore icons popped up in a number of places. In other corners, readers vowed to destroy every trace of Rowling's "filth" to protect the children from teh gay.

To me, it's been more interesting to see the reaction to Rowling's decision to share information about her characters which wasn't in the books. The Dumbledore revelation is hardly the first time she's done this. She's talked about Neville's love life, Ron helping out at the joke shop, and so on. Some people feel it would have been better had these revelations appeared in the book. (I tend to agree.)

John Scalzi points to an essay by Edward Rothstein who goes even further. He states, in part, "[I]t is possible that Ms. Rowling may be mistaken about her own character. She may have invented Hogwarts and all the wizards within it ... but there seems to be no compelling reason within the books for her after-the-fact assertion."

Scalzi disagrees, stating, "Sure there is: Because he is. Because the author made him that way. Whether or not anyone but the author knew about it up to last week simply doesn’t matter ... Rothstein seems to be falling into the trap of assuming that everything that goes into a character shows up on the page."

Neil Gaiman appears to support Scalzi ... or maybe it's the other way around. Anyway, Gaiman says, "You always wind up knowing more about your characters than you can get onto the page. Pages are finite, and the story isn't about giving you all the information about everyone in it any more than life is."

All three individuals go into a lot more depth and detail, of course. And as an author, my gut reaction is to agree with Scalzi and Gaiman. Just because I never stated who Jig's parents were doesn't mean I don't know. It only means that information didn't matter in the first two books. But these are my characters, and what I say goes.

But my experience with literary criticism nags at me until I find myself doing the unthinkable. I'm going to disagree with Scalzi and Gaiman. Or maybe not ... in that same post, Gaiman also says, "it's never really real until it hits the page, because the process of writing is also a process of discovery."

Dumbledore's sexuality isn't explicitly spelled out in the books. That means we can still argue about it. Rowling's revelation can inform that argument, but it doesn't end it. Because once the books are done and published, authorial intent becomes irrelevant. The story you intended to tell may not match up with the story that was published. (How many of us, as writers, have watched a story which was beautiful and amazing in our heads turn into something much less shiny when we actually wrote it out?)

Let me jump to another example for a moment. In LA Weekly, Ray Bradbury talks about Farenheit 451. "Fahrenheit 451 is not, he says firmly, a story about government censorship."

Does Bradbury saying so make it true? I don't believe it does. Particularly if you read what Bradbury wrote many years ago in a 1979 edition of the book. "Students, reading the novel which, after all, deals with the censorship and book-burning in the future, wrote to tell me of this exquisite irony."

If both of these quotes are accurate, and I believe they are, that would imply that the author is not a reliable source of information about his (or her) own books.

Rowling claims that Dumbledore is gay. I believe her. Not because the author said so, but because my reading of the text supports that interpretation. Literary criticism is a big, ongoing argument, and a strong argument can be made to support Rowling's claim*. If Rowling did choose to release another Harry Potter book (and I don't believe she will), and if in that book she showed us Dumbledore having a relationship with another man, that would put an end to most of the arguments. For the purpose of understanding and interpreting a text, once something is in that text, it's real.

I appreciate hearing Rowling's thoughts on her characters and their fates. Her interviews have helped inform my reading of the books. But they don't dictate how I read. Nor should they. Indeed, those of you who have been following Rowling's discussions closely might note that she initially didn't think about Neville and Luna getting together, but once it was brought up, she began to come around to the idea.

So there you have it. My two cents on authorial intent and the information that doesn't make it into the books. Authors always know more about their characters than they put on the page, but until it appears on the page, it's not real.

Debate and disagreement are more than welcome, of course.

Also, Smudge the fire-spider is gay.

----
*This led me to an interesting tangent. IMHO, good fan-fiction draws on plausible interpretations of the text, continuing the story based on the fan-fic author's reading of the text. The more the fan-fic author can support their interpretation, the better the resulting fic will be. Which suggests that fan-fiction and literary criticism have an awful lot in common...

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mrissa
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
What I've been wondering is:

If she had announced that Dumbledore was Totally Straight, Not Even A Little Bit Bi, would the same people be taking the same positions on whether her statement was definitive or not? I suspect that some of them would and some would not.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC)
Depends on whether or not that supported their interpretation of the text :-)

Isn't it fascinating how few people have jumped in to debate any of the other revelations she's shared over the past months?
cat_mcdougall
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
Jim, as awesome as the Goblin books are, this post made me really think, and now I shall fangirl you a bit more.

I admit; I have written a lot of fanfiction. (CSI, Highlander, Black Stallion, Heralds of Valdemar and, yes, HP) And most of us, who play in that sandbox, know what a thin line we walk, especially when it comes to copyright issues. To see an author I like and respect not deride fanfiction is a nice change from authorial flailings about how "evil" it is. (I'd have to look up names, and links, but one -- who writes derivative novels, in other words, sanctioned fanfiction -- even said it's not "real writing")

Two things:

1) Okay, Smidge is gay, but is Jig? This is a burning question that needs an answer!

2) I'm going to link to this post over on journalfen if you don't mind?
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think of fanfiction as evil. I ask that people not write goblin fanfic primarily because that's my publisher's position, and I think that should be respected. But there are people I love and respect who write it, and I've got a Yoda short-short I still mean to jot down one of these days...

Jig's sexuality is still up in the air. I tried to give him relationship issues in book three, and the whole goblin romance thing just didn't work. Smudge, on the other hand, is routinely heading down into the tunnels to get some hot spider action.

And nope, I don't mind at all. I figure anything I post here is fair game for linking.
(no subject) - cat_mcdougall - Oct. 31st, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodlon - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bodlon - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cat_mcdougall - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
sistercoyote
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:45 pm (UTC)
And here I'm disappointed because I always figured Smudge was asexual. Although now I have a vague idea for spider/goblin fanfic (Smudge with a mad crush on Jig...)

I bumped up against this with the novel I'm working on - one of the other students in my class was disconcerted by the fact that the main character is bisexual and wanted to know how it was important to the story. I wanted to fire back with "how is your heterosexuality important to you" but decided it wasn't worth the argument. She definitely seemed to want me to change the character's relationships to make her more comfortable, though.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:58 pm (UTC)
You know, on one level, I can understand that. In a short story, everything needs to have a purpose.

But when you describe a character's hair color, does the hair need to play a vital role in the plot? Or can its role be to make the character come alive for the reader? Sexuality is usually more of a potential motivating factor than the color of someone's eyes, but when was the last time someone complained about an author describing eye color?

And activist Jim would also point out that if you don't explicitly state a character is homosexual or bisexual, audiences tend to assume a default sexuality. Personally, I like stories that shake up the default.
(no subject) - sistercoyote - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lenora_rose - Nov. 1st, 2007 05:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Nov. 1st, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
antonstrout
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
You better make those damn mermaids lesbians.. and I wanna see it down on the page, dammit! Very descriptively, very graphic and very sloooowly... let the tail get some tail!
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
Now that you mention it...

Though I don't know how graphic anything would be. I suspect my attempts to write hot sex scenes might be as comedic as some of my goblin stuff.
(no subject) - dinahprincedaly - Oct. 31st, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jimhines - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
dinahprincedaly
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:00 pm (UTC)
i don't think he had sex
other than she needed the spotlight again... you know postpartum depression and all... his sexuality is a non-issue...
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
Re: i don't think he had sex
That bothered me a bit ... there were plenty of heterosexual relationships going on, but the one homosexual character also had to be celibate? (As far as we know.)
Re: i don't think he had sex - biomekanic - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: i don't think he had sex - jimhines - Nov. 1st, 2007 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
jonathanmoeller
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:07 pm (UTC)
I do still think the whole thing was a bit of a cop-out. Like it or not, writing about Teh Gay is like writing about Iraq or religion or race or politics. People are going to break out the claws and fangs and have at it. And if she'd wanted to do that, she should have written the book that way, instead of doing the Steve Jobs-esque "One more thing" AFTER the books were published.

I think people can write whatever they want...but, you know, they have to actually *write* it. In the book. And not announce it.

-JM
bodlon
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC)
That's...complicated.

From an academic perspective, authorial intent is something one either takes into account or don't, depending on what school of theory is being applied. I'm inclined to say that there really is no "right" answer, per se. Only well-reasoned opinions.

My feeling is that literature is collaborative. The author has an intention, executes it as best s/he can in the work, and then it's up to the reader to process and interpret that work.

I tend to be of the opinion that authorial intent trumps the (wo)man on the street except where it a) contradicts the text, or b) is batshit crazy. (I'm looking at you, Ray Bradbury.)

Rowling's assertion that Dumbledore is gay and was in love with Grindelwald doesn't appear to conflict with the text, and doesn't strike me as being one of those "irrational author" moments. Now, that she says it doesn't make it canon -- it's still not explicit in the text -- but it's one of those apocryphal things that's reasonably important because the author says so, and it adds to my understanding of her vision when I read the text. You're right -- I don't have to agree -- but unless an author is far in left field (see also: batshit crazy), it probably helps me understand the text better.

It's a bit like the difference between reading Orlando without any knowledge about Virginia Woolf's life, and reading it knowing that the book is intended to be about Vita Sackville-West.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
I love having smart LJ friends.

I definitely agree that learning more about the context in which a text was written - including authorial intent - can greatly add to the experience of reading that text. I had to do a fairly long paper on a single poem during grad school, and it was amazing how many layers of meaning you could find once you uncovered the author's fascination with alchemical symbolism and a few other tidbits...

I hope it was clear that I have no problem with Rowling dropping these revelations. In fact, I appreciate them, because they're consistent with the text and they do add to my enjoyment of the story. But like you said, Rowling saying something in an interview doesn't make it canon, at least not in terms of Jim's School of Literary Criticism.

(And I knew Bradbury was a pretty extreme example when I used him :-) But it's such a wonderful example of the unreliable author.)
(no subject) - bodlon - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
branchandroot
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
Which suggests that fan-fiction and literary criticism have an awful lot in common...

Oh, definitely, at least among those fic writers for whom the zone of interaction between print text and reader's mind is more toward the text end. There are, of course, also a whole lot of ficcers who cheerfully write things in which the only apparent contact with the base text is the characters' names; their writing plays way toward the reader's-mind end of the spectrum, and that's usually far less crit-ish.

I do think that one of the things that seems to disconcert the anti-fic authors the most is that fic acts out, in some pretty unmistakable ways, the fact that they have lost definitive control of the story. Once it's out there in print, it isn't just theirs any more; it's shared imaginative property with every single solitary reader. And when a bunch of those readers get together and bounce ideas off each other to boot, and write it all down... well, sometimes the story becomes something the initial author doesn't like or didn't envision. But it's something that was still derived from what they put on the page! The fans will tell you so and demonstrate it at great length and with great passion. That's gotta be a shock.

I don't think the author has no say at all, but their only definitive say is in the letters they put on the page. Ideas that didn't make it down there are only as credible as any reader's interpretation. That's one of the reasons I think "moral rights" as relates to art (a la the Berne Convention) is a lot of bunk. Once the story is let go, dressed in words and sent out to meet readers, then it's out of the writer's imaginative control. Soliciting readers means the author is stuck with what readers do, which is read--take in the text and imagine and interpret it. That's the function and the inevitable risk of sharing the story in the first place.

As for Rowling... mostly I just think the whole thing is a cop-out. Oooo, Dumbledore is gay, ooooo! Yeah, whatever. So, he can be gay in the annex of commentary, but not on the page. And he certainly can't get any action or, heaven forbid, have a happy ending. Same old, same old.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:32 pm (UTC)
A lot of authors do tend to be control freaks... But the instant someone else reads the words on the page, their version of the story is going to be different from the author's. Heck, the first time I saw Mel's cover art for Goblin Quest, I was taken aback because it wasn't exactly how I had envisioned Jig. But that's what he saw from the words I had written.

With Dumbledore, I'm glad to know Rowling doesn't think the wizarding world is entirely straight, but yeah ... off-the-page, and of course it's one of the celibate characters whose only relationship was basically a big ol' magical "teenage crush".
(no subject) - kaigou - Nov. 2nd, 2007 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - branchandroot - Nov. 2nd, 2007 05:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
erastes
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
I have to agree with Gaiman - canon is canon and unless it's in the books, it's not set in stone. That's what spawns the fanfic. I take no notice of bubblegum cards or interviews when it comes to JKR, specially as she can't keep her own facts straight!

This is part of the reason I have trouble changing my novels - because once I've written it down, it's real - it's happened, and to change it is to somehow change the universe.
shanrina
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, that happens to me all the time. I finally had to shelve a story for awhile because I had the main character, in various incarnations of the story, living out his life with Love Interest A, living out his life with Love Interest B, living out his life alone, and dying. Characters kept merging and splitting and finally I just gave up, lol.
(no subject) - erastes - Oct. 31st, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
shanrina
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more. I actually did guess Dumbledore was gay beforehand, but sometimes I have a hard time telling the difference between subtext that actually exists and subtext that I _think_ exists even though it really doesn't. Since HP is, technically, a kid's series, I assumed it was the latter. I kind of wish it had been a little more explicit in the books, especially because JKR mentioned other (IMO) inappropriate things, like Aberforth's inappropriate charms on goats.

But then this has actually got me thinking about one of my own stories. I have two male characters in a WIP who are assumed by the only POV character to be completely heterosexual, and who the POV character thinks spend every night with a different girl. Then, in the planned sequel, the reader finds out they're actually in a very stable homosexual relationship with each other. So let's say I finish the first book, the one where everyone thinks they're just friends, and it gets published but it completely bombs and no one wants the second, which explains the truth about their relationship. To the fans, it'll be like their relationship never existed even though in my own personal "canon" it's been there ever since the second or third scene in the first chapter.

Wow, that got rambly....
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC)
The fun thing about subtext is that it doesn't necessarily exist -- it can be argued. If you think it exists and can make an argument for why, based on the text, then I'd say you've got a perfectly valid reading of the book, even if the author him/herself tells you you're wrong.

As for your stories, I don't know ... I suspect there are ways to write it that perceptive readers would pick up on the relationship even if it's not made explicit until the second book.
(no subject) - shanrina - Oct. 31st, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
biomekanic
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
Given that the books are written IMO from the 'mind's eye' view of the primary characters, would they really notice Dumbledore's sexuality?

Of course he is, he's flaming!

Someone had to make the joke, and I thought I'd bite the bullet and be the one to do it.
wishwords
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:21 pm (UTC)
For a male spider of any sort, to be gay might not be a bad thing. At least he won't have his head pinched off and become dinner.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:26 pm (UTC)
Actually, male fire-spiders take the fertilized eggs and carry them webbed to their bodies for warmth until they hatch. So mama can't eat her mate until after the kids are born.

And that is in a revised version of one of my goblin stories, which I'm hoping will be reprinted one of these days so that it becomes fire-spider canon :-)
dragonmyst
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
Personally since I couldn't bear to go past book 5 (reading of teenage angst when one has a super melodramatic 13yr old in the house bugs) I can't say that I agree to Ms. Rowlings statement based on the text.

But I agree based on a slightly mean habit of mine;

~My dad is viciously anti-gay. (which seriously pisses me off as I have many friends who are gay/lesbian [my father in law and brother in law are gay] and it doesn't change my perception of them)
~My dad is a HUGE Harry Potter fan.
~My dad stated repeatedly the Dumbledore was his favorite character.

Out of pure meanness I have to say that yes, Dumbledore was gay. If for no other reason than to annoy the piss outa my dad.

So I am vindictive. And literary critisism just flys right past me (didja see the vapor trail over my head?)
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
Big grin. I like your reasoning [----------this much-------]
(Deleted comment)
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 08:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
mt_yvr
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting debate. I personally read it that way before she said anything. And I don't know how I feel about authors dropping info outside of books. BUT.

I will say this. One of the more important lessons I learned came in the form of some one pointing out to me that as an author I have to be able to answer as many questions as possible about my worlds. My readers might not ever get the information but I have to know it myself. So I can, if I need to later, get to it and know it is still of a whole.

I tend to work that way. So while sometimes things aren't explained on the page, I know that information helps with the overall story as I can reach out to it and put in parts of it when needed. So I tend to think on one hand, in cases like this the author is most likely aware of what they intended in their writing. Even unspoken.

But yeah. D's a big ol mo. My husband and I both saw that in the last one.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
The author definitely needs to know more than what ends up on the page. No argument there. World-building is a part of the writing process.

But the writing process ends once the book is published and released into the wild and the reading process takes over. Learning more about the author's intentions and experience and the context in which the book was written can certainly enhance the reading process. It upped my enjoyment of Shakespeare a great deal, for example.

In the end though, I believe it's the words on the page that matter. The story I read isn't going to be the same as the one the author imagined when writing the story, and that's okay.
(no subject) - mt_yvr - Oct. 31st, 2007 08:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
alessandrastarr
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
Why is Smudge gay, can't he be transgendered? ;)
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:42 pm (UTC)
Smudge is very happy being a boy fire-spider. He just likes bringing other boy fire-spiders back to his web.
ogre_san
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)
It's one thing for Ray Bradbury's interpretation of Farenheit 451 to change over the years. He's not the same person he was when he wrote it. The difference being that now his interpretation of the book is just as valid -- or invalid -- as anyone else's. To me, that's not really the same thing as informing us, for example, that the Firemen liked to play "Simon Says" between jobs. If that's what they did and it informed his understanding of the characters at the time, even if it never came up in the book, that's still an unassailable statement, because only Bradbury would be in a position to know that. Ditto Rowling and Dumbledore's sexual preference.
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 08:17 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad someone's disagreeing with me! Thank you.

I can see where there's a difference between an author declaring "This is what my book means" and "Here is a fact about one of my characters."

But I don't agree that Bradbury's or Rowling's statements about their characters are unassailable. If Simon Says did inform Bradbury's understanding of the characters, that would be an interesting thing to know, and I would keep it in mind when reading the book. But that claim wouldn't carry the same weight as the actual words on the page.

If those words supported the claim, great. If they didn't, I don't feel bound to accept them.
mroctober
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:46 pm (UTC)
I'd love to wear a

Smudge is flaming!

t-shirt...
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
I've been wanting to start up some goblin merchandise...

Maybe I'll start with LJ icons, though. I could probably come up with something for Smudge :-)
hyperbard
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
after the fact?
Huh. Personally I don't care if Dumbledore's gay or if he secretly had another head growing from his stomach... it should have been in the book.

I always go on the theory that if you have something to say about a character, that should go in the story/novella/book, as his or her or its characterization. If you want to write another work in which simething new is revealed, do it then. But otherwise, leave any further speculation to readers (because we all know there will be some).

*G* I'm feeling very opinionated today...
jimhines
Oct. 31st, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
Re: after the fact?
"Opinionated" is a prerequisite for literary theory :-)
jtglover
Oct. 31st, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
*clap-clap*

Not much to add to this good discussion other than that I agree wholeheartedly that what's on the page is what counts. The other stuff that didn't make it in? It didn't make it in. Stick it in a chapbook or a speech or whatever, but it's not in the story. Once you start talking about HP characters' lives in the milieu that exists beyond the works proper, at best you're wandering somewhere between the Forest of Fanficcers and the Wasteland of Roleplaying Game Supplements at best. At worst it's just crap from the cutting room floor.
dedbutdrmng
Oct. 31st, 2007 10:01 pm (UTC)
This may be because I'm some sort of bizarre obsessive but ever since the 'Dead' Dave York series started back in 2003 I've kept something called 'The Davetionary'. It's basically reams and reams of nonsense backstory for the main characters and some less than main characters and some people who are barely mentioned.

And err, people who are never mentioned.

And well, places that are never mentioned either.

But if I ever choose to drop information and any of the handful of people who know I am question me. I WILL BE VICTORIOUS!

Or mental.

Probably mental.
jimhines
Nov. 1st, 2007 01:24 am (UTC)
Actually, as I understand it, Rowling was the same way. She had boxes of notes and information on her characters and her world, much of which probably never made it into the actual books.

And remember, Victorious and Mental aren't mutually exclusive terms ;-)
janni
Oct. 31st, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
I'm with you here. I actually think until something is put into the text, the author is no more right about it than anyone else who reads the book.

Especially since we all know how much can change between the time when we writers decide something is so and when we write it ... but even without that. Writers have no lock on the truths beyond their text.
sartorias
Nov. 1st, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
Well, it seemed obvious to me reading the last book that D had a serious crush on G, which blindsided him, but I shrugged and moved on.

Writing about a world for over forty years as I do, I firmly believe that the world exists, and we just don't get to live long enough to get all the details down.
jimhines
Nov. 1st, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, I definitely see it in the text, too. I don't think she was just pulling something out of her nether regions in order to score a bit of publicity & buzz...

And can I just say that forty years of storytelling and world-building is a little awe-inspiring?
blpurdom
Nov. 1st, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
Which suggests that fan-fiction and literary criticism have an awful lot in common...

Some fanfiction, at any rate. I know that was true for me a lot of the time, when I wasn't including something in a story specifically because I thought she'd NEVER do it. I also felt a surge of triumph when she announced not only Dumbledore's being gay but his being in love with Grindelwald; that seemed to be one of those things she was strongly implying in the text that older readers might pick up on but that might also fly over kids' heads, much like a lot of the off-color jokes in films like Shrek and Toy Story (which is yet another reason why the HP books work on many levels for people of many ages).

I agree that Bradbury seems a little confused; when I initially read about his assertion that Fahrenheit 451 wasn't about censorship, I thought it was odd, but OTOH, his explanation that it's about the disappearance of books in general seems a little more plausible in light of the advent of television about the same time that it was published. What I don't understand is why he doesn't seem to think now that it's about MORE than one thing: people being less and less interested in reading books (which is true) and the government pushing the issue and controlling all means of communication by forcibly removing books from everyone's possession and destroying them. (Technially, it's not 'censorship' unless specific messages are being restricted, although if you think of any non-governmental messages as being censored that could work as a definition.)

JK Rowling is notorious for having goofed with numbers in her books; she claims in interviews that there are about 1000 students at Hogwarts, even though the books don't support that; she claims that Charlie Weasley is only three years older than his brother Percy (she'd initially said two years, until it was pointed out to her that he'd still be in school when Harry started if that were true) even though other elements in the books give the impression that he left school a good TWO YEARS before Percy even entered it! (The books' timeline makes it seem that Charlie is ten yearss older than Percy.) However--when it comes to something like a character's orientation or who he fancied, I trust the author to know these things about the character. (Fortunately, this information doesn't rely upon numbers.) And, as you say, it doesn't contradict anything in the books. I am willing to accept that she shouldn't be doing her own accounting, because she's crap with numbers, but that she knows who got together with whom and who wanted to.
jimhines
Nov. 1st, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC)
"What I don't understand is why he doesn't seem to think now that it's about MORE than one thing..."

That's a great point. Good books in particular are going to have more than one meaning.

And having read a few interviews about the amount of world-building Rowling did for these books, I have no problem accepting that she knew exactly who hooked up with who. She probably knows where their first kisses were, who's the best kisser, and which ones are secretly fantasizing about George Clooney. But until that's written down...

...of course, now I'm trying to figure out for myself how her newly announced Encyclopedia of Harry Potter Stuff fits into this whole discussion :-)
lenora_rose
Nov. 1st, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
I do believe at least that the detail informed how Rowling wrote the character, and so the fact is "true" as far as it coloured the book, even though it wasn't explicitly stated.

I remember a YA author once (Early 90's, I think) wrote an essay one something like that. The characters were staying with a very rigid overprotective aunt; who could easily be a stock character. how she got around this was that she knew a whole backstory to the aunt, where she came from and why she had become overprotective in general. The kids didn't know, therefore the reader didn't know, but without it, she explained, the character would have just been a spear-carrier. Instead, there was some depth to how and why she did things.
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