DWJ in Israeli newspaper

Ven vendersleighc at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 16 13:20:01 EST 2004

Melissa wrote

<But I'd
probably want to poke the writer of that article 
in the eye for that "dark,
even oppressive" line, especially in reference to

the protagonists' childhoods.  I suppose being
sent to live with relatives who hate you and
make you live in a cupboard under the stairs is 
all hugs and puppies?>

It's a paradox about Rowling that Harry's
relatives are presented as being sort of
irredemably hateful in a larger than life kind of
way yet stop far short of the kind of real life
horrors that are inflicted on real children.
Although Dwj does present us with some monsters
her parents/carers often have reasons to be be
that way, like Lenina in Cart and Cwidder, who
just wants her own life back  or 8DOL's Astrid
who is too caught up in her own misery at first
to consider David's. It chimes in with my own
belief that the price of human interaction of any
kind is a certain amount of pain. (I'm quoting
the famous Philip Larkin poem to myself here!) 

<  In some ways the Harry Potter books are 
a lot safer for the reader
than DWJ's.  For example, there's the 
relationship between child and adult
that's so important to YA fiction--removing the 
adult figures so the child
will have to do things alone.  With Harry Potter,

he's never really betrayed
by the adults in his life; his caretakers are 
failures, but they're so awful
that the reader expects them to behave the way 
they do.  And when someone
like Dumbledore lets Harry down, he later admits 
he was wrong and
apologizes. >

See below for profound disagreement with the
effectiveness of this apology.

Melissa continued

<In DWJ you have parents who ought to 
take care of their
children, but don't, and there's no comforting 
feeling that they are
monsters; they're just like people you know.  
There's no emotional distance
to let you fool yourself into thinking "this 
could never happen to me."  And
that's a little scary for some readers (probably 
most readers, says the
Cynicism Monkey on my shoulder).>

<- I finally nagged an
online friend who likes the Potter books into 
reading Charmed Life and she
found it unbearably bleak.>

Whereas I find it unbelievably funny -- what a
varied lot we humans are! 

<I find almost all the adult-child relationships 
in JKR (particularly
Harry-Dumbledore) dysfunctional beyond belief. 
(loads of good stuff snipped) Chrestomanci
doesn't do a good job of protecting Cat, but the 
narrative/world is very
clear about why and how that comes about -- and
chrestomanci never getesx the chance to just sit
dwon an think about it>

Just what I thought, the difference between
Chrestomanci and Dumbledore is that Chrestomanci
has to act on the fly, making it up as he goes
along, whereas what ius happening to Harry has
come about because of Dumbledore's plans for him
in the first place.

Ika continued

<Ooh! I think what it is, partly, is that the 
adults around Harry expect
him to be *grateful* all the time, like the 
family in Eight Days of Luke -
and the author seems to agree with them, instead 
of bringing in an outside

I am starting to wonder how much Rowling does
agree with them, whether this was part of her
plan from the begining or whether she is changing
her mind I'm not sure. Certainly however she
hasn't yet called the adult characters on this
yet ..........

I think of Hogwarts  as a massive consolation
prize for Harry, to make up for the loss of his
parents and the miserable time he has had with
his relatives. The appeal of the boooks for some
people is precisely that --it's somewhere to go
and forget about your troubles. However the
troubles follow Harry right into the heart of
Hogwarts and his mentors, particularly in HPV,
fail to protect him (as others have already
vividly stated).  Dumbledore's apology was the
kind that would have made me even angrier because
he didn't just admit that he was wrong but said
he had known it was wrong at the time. For the
supposedly wise old father figure I consider that
unacceptable -- Dumbledore should really make
himself junior to Filch and sweep the floors of
Hogwarts until he learns better!!

Melissa (I think, apologies if not)
<.....actually makes me understand why people
find the 
Potter books easier to
cope with than DWJ. The Potter books seem to me 
to be covering over much
nastier situations than the situations that DWJ 
confronts head-on: I find
the confrontation - the honesty, the realistic 
assessment of how a child
character can make a bearable existence for 
himself or herself in a world
run by flawed adults -  to be *much* more 
comforting. But I can see that
the "covering-up", or the emotional distance, 
could itself be comforting
for some readers.>

I'm going to declare a personal interest in all
this. While I certainly wouldn't win an unhappy
childhood contest with  either Harry Potter or
Cat Chant I did have an early brush with death.
Worse than the incident itself for me was the
cover up. I believe that when things finally came
out into the open it was the best thing not only
for me but the others involved.  
Hence I am entirely of the head on confrontation
camp. I much prefer to have my demons out in the
open where I can see them than lurking behind a
consoling facade from which they can jump out and
ruin things at any time.........

There is also an issue of forgiveness that to see
people as flawed or incompetent makes it possible
to forgive and to achieve reconciliation.

<It's possible that the thing that would make DWJ

feel most that she had
done a good job is being told that reading her 
work has helped to make
someone who has been a child facing terrible 
things in real life (and
having to deal with profoundly flawed adults) 
aware that he or she is *not
alone*, that there are other children who have 
had horrors of an *ordinary*
but terrible kind and who have both managed to 
survive them and come out at
the other end stronger for that survival.  It's a

feeling she has
expressed, I think, more than once: that showing 
such children they are not
alone in their trouble is very important.>

Yes I think this is why my life has been a much
better thing than it would have been had I not
discovered Diana's books. And please do tell her


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