JKR (A bit wandering)

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Thu Aug 3 02:41:11 EDT 2000

+ I've thought for a long time that the Harry Potter books are inspired
+ by those by DWJ. 

+ I've just finished HP 4 and found it just as formulaic as the others.

Ah. Now, see, this is the crucial point! DWJ keeps writing fresh books,
although no-one writes in a vacuum. DWJ is subversive, sophisticated, 
ambiguous... so when she uses Prometheus or the Lyke-Wake Dirge or the
Evil Eye or the "How Many Miles to Babylon" rhyme or the Norse god Loki
she doesn't just accept what's said about them or poach from other writers'
interpretations. Nor, though she be ever so formulaic, is Rowling poaching.
I don't think you *can* steal DWJ's stuff except by copying it directly - 
I see no pithiness equal to DWJ's (has anyone started a JKR quotes server?) 
and nothing like the level of creativity either. Does Rowling sense the 
savour of her books - I suspect not.

There are a number of elements to a book. Rowling is accused of stealing
names (that lawsuit over Lily Potter...) and other elements, but she has
not stolen anything. She can't help using elements that others have used:
everyone does it! We have a common pool of communications (not just 
dictionaries, but style guides and creative writing courses, critical
feedback and groundbreaking combinations). DWJ's sister writes in a more 
critical mode; DWJ is a true creative artist; JKR writes easy-reading stories
of simplistic spelling and schooling. Many of her jokes are references to
ancient magical literature (parseltongue, and some of the book titles &c)
not from any living writer.

Neil Gaiman did his best to convince the journalist writing about the 
"theft" of Tim (_Books of Magic_) by JKR that this was a non-starter.
For the same reasons that NG left journalism himself, the story ran.
NG has said, and said it again in relation to this, that JKR has NOT stolen
anything - that the material is out there and it is interpretation that is
critical. This is where my notion of Cinderella Syndrome gets iterated again.
There will always be the preying jealous types (Ugly Sisters) who see a piece
of work that draws on common property (a discarded ribbon or scrap of cloth),
a latent myth or underused idea and use it to create something good (Cindy's
original dress for the ball). JKR might not be the dressmaker that DWJ or NG
are, but she is not chopping chunks out of other people's kit to make her work.

OK, so NG added that he might not be able to make a film about the dark-
haired speccy teenage mage-of-the-age quite as easily as when he had no
competition, but that is not to say that Harry came from Gaiman's head.
You can reduce everything to a previous concept if you try. You can (to use
the wall analogy posted while this list was snoozing) make sure that your
boundaries remain exactly as they were for all time. It's stultifying!

Alex mentioned that Harry Potter was a reversed _Witch Week_. I disagree.
DWJ's celestial mechanics are thoroughly considered, and her paradox in
the Simon Says spell a piece of genius. And as for reversed - what Rowling
has done is create a splinter of magic within our own world, segregated 
from the Muggles. And all the spells are little tricks to be rote-learned:
there is no grounding in magical theory a la _Charmed Life_ at all.

+ quidditch (though not how it works) stemmed from that incomprehensible
+ game that Hildy plays

nono, Hildy is a "joiner". And that sort of game is endemic to English 
public schools. Can anyone remember the rules to that Eton Wall Game thing?
Lacrosse is a bit silly and vicious, and hockey had to have rules installed
to stop stuff happening at head-height.

+ I can't remember what it's called. The idea of Portways and the golden cup 
+ in HP 4 also seems to come form DWJ>

Nope. In DWJ, there is no necessity to be so strict about segregation of the
Muggle and the Magical. If there were Portways in DWJ, they'd be enchanted
with a don't-pay-attention spell if it were necessary to obfuscate them any
more than the rationalist viewpoint does. And why is an old boot so unlikely
anyway? Should Portways be huge golden arches - naturally?

+ never saw why people were motivated to fight for the dark when being 
+ part of the dark seemed to make you into a cowering slave. 

I still want to know why the "light" people call Voldemort "Lord".
I would have thought that someone in the Magical community would have
mentioned the word "witch-hunt" as soon as everyone seemed keen to 
embrace the Dementors as a solution for dealing with the bad types,
and that might well have brought them to their senses.  

+ embrace the dark does it mean that people are genetically predisposed
+ towards evil. 

I doubt Rowling has considered genetics. How *can* the Muggles and the 
Magicals remain so thoroughly separated when Magicals sometimes crop up
in Muggle families? Does the reverse happen? Why are the two societies
hellbent (at the diplomatic level) on remaining apart?

And ambition isn't bad in and of itself. You're right, though, if Slytherin
is the house of ambition and treachery, there shouldn't be all those
cowering wretches in it. What of the four noble types who founded Hogwarts?
Perhaps Harry, although resolutely unambitious, will redeem snake qualities
(though I doubt it).

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