Saturday, October 20, 2007

Harry Potter: the Neverending Story

So, JKR said Dumbledore is gay.

And yes, I agree that it's not a surprise.

What surprises me most about some of the discussions I've read concerning JKR's comments is the insistence that an author cannot comment on or add to her own story. That the story is locked, sealed, and unalterable once it is in book form.

Me? I'm fascinated by idea that the story exists independent of the form used to tell it, whether that form is book, song, video, movie, TV series, interview. The form picked influences how the story can and cannot be told. And now, the Internet adds to the way that the story can be shared. I actually find it rather exciting, and full of possibilities.

Edited to add: Wizards Wireless is compiling a list of all posts on this most recent JKR interview. Go to W2 & let her know you've posted to be included in the round up.


Anonymous said...

Liz- I agree... I've been more surprised by the assumption that the story is "locked" than by Dumbledore being gay.

tanita✿davis said...

Me, too. I mean, I don't care that Dumbledore is gay -- I never even gave him a thought, really. But I'm quite interested in the idea of a story as a fixed thing that cannot further evolved after it is put on paper. I don't think that's how story works...

Mary Beth said...

In an interview I read with JK Rowling, she said all her characters have back-stories, family trees, etc. There is so much more to the stories than actually appeared in the books - out there for us to imagine.

Anonymous said...

Even if the story is "locked," there are plenty of folks who assume from what is locked in that Dumbledore was gay.

And I don't believe stories are locked, really. There's a ton of backstory to any good tale, and decidedly a megaton in Rowling's case (about which she's already said she'll be writing an encyclopedia, for Pete's sake!)

Jane Austen used to update her family about the doings of her characters long after the books were done. In the case of Emma, she told her nephew that Mr. Woodhouse kept Emma and Mr. Knightly living with him for 2 years after their marriage. In the case of P&P, she talked of seeing a portrait of Jane (Mrs. Bingley) wearing yellow when she was at a gallery in London, and was sorry to see no picture of Elizabeth Bennet Darcy, but assumed that Mr. Darcy didn't want his wife made so public. I find all that stuff very interesting indeed, and I'm sure I'd like to feel my characters had lives beyond the pages.

Liz B said...

W2, I've read some commentary to the effect that JKR is "controlling" how people interpret a story. I disagree (which would require more space than this comment.) I see someone passionate about the world she created; why not continue to share that passion? Plus, when I disagree with an author (say, Aiden Chambers and This is All) you can be sure that regardless of author intent and interviews I stay firm with my own beliefs.

TadMack, I wonder if the Internet makes us more aware of authors doing this? Or is this new? For some authors the book ends and begins with the book; for others like JRK the book is only a portion of the story. I continue to be in awe of JKR & her publisher, because I think from book one she was able to have that book reprsent an entire world, despite being a new author. How easy to have an editor say, "but really, the line about young sirius black's motorcycle must come out, the story is too long, who knows if there will be enough readership to even get to book 3, let alone book 7."

Mary Beth, this is part of the reason I suspect we'll see more books by JKR set in this world. Not necessarily about Harry; Harry's story has been told. But Harry is only a small portion of that world.

Kelly, I had not heard about that and Jane Austen, but it delights me to no end and makes me want to read a biography of her this very minute.

Mordena said...

I wasn't thinking that the story was "locked," but it still puzzled me that Rowling decided to reveal this now. Not including it in the books seems like a deliberate decision to let readers draw their own conclusions. So why step forward now and say, "No, you should draw THIS conclusion"?
But your idea of the story existing independently of its form is very intriguing and attractive, and you've made me think about it a new way.

Liz B said...

Mordena, I see the omission of a flat out "D is gay" statement as more to do with either space issues or the decision that it wasn't part of Harry's story.

I also think that a printed book goes thru many stages, rewrites, editing, so (especially for a book involving world building) there are several people who have input into what is or isn't in the final version. Of course, JKR has more control than other authors; but I do think that she has responded to some of the criticisms of "there was too much extra" with leaving some points out, and is now thrilled to be able to say that which time and wordcount prevented her from including. (Of course, she is slammed whatever her decision: why did she include x, why didn't she include x. It's a no win situation.)

I see similarities to films/TV and DVDs that include outtakes, extended scenes, director v theatrical versions, original manuscripts, etc. At this point, what is the official version of Blade Runner? Given the music changes to WKRP in Cincinnati, will anyone ever view the "real" story again?

JKR is far from alone in the 'extra' information. For several years, authors have had character blogs; some authors include original chapters or left out chapters on their websites; Stephenie Meyer has photos of prom dresses and cars; and authors like Sarah Dessen "lock in" post-book lives of certain characters when they mention them in other books.

With JKR, she is just more visible than any other author out there. So it brings more attention.

Do all authors do this? No; but why should authors be cookie cutter in their approach to story?

All this said, I'm mulling over the "draw conclusion" aspect. I remember reading Bradbury's recent F 451 'explanation' of 'it was never censorship, it was about tv' and thinking, ok, doesn't change my conclusion that it's about censorship; that I like TV and don't agree that it's a brain killer.

Mordena said...

I'm with you on everything but the space issues, which made me laugh (I still haven't made it through the 757 pages of HP7). "Not part of Harry's story" makes much more sense!

Camille said...

HP7 came out on a Sat. My far flung family read it in their respective cities. When our whole family finished the book we got together for a grand IM session Monday evening where we all chimed in on our ideas, speculations and most tearful moments.

I was really amazed at the wonderful discussion we had about the characters' futures. My family had such rich and complex ideas about what each character did as an adult and they supported their conjectures with quotes, instances etc.

When JKR appeared on the Today show with "the rest of the story" later that week, I was seriously disappointed by the ordinary-ness of her disclosures. I much preferred my family's ideas.

So now as I ponder that world, which scenario do I use? Is her word canon or do I think of the characters in the future that my girls constructed?

I do wonder if she is going to leave anything to the reader to ponder and conjecture about on their own?

Anonymous said...

I'd venture to guess that all authors have backstories (and side stories and stories-to-be) for their characters -- that may or may not ever be revealed. But honestly, turning a book into a movie does way more to spoil the fruits of our own imagination that Rowling sharing a little of D's history, I think...

Anonymous said...

I would certainly hope that most authors have additional thoughts regarding their stories and characters that don't make it onto the paper---that's how you get good characterization. The idea that authors somehow aren't "allowed" to have more than what's in the book is just nonsensical. Although mind you, as a reader I'm also just as happy, if I don't like something I hear an author thinks about his works, to tell myself that in my mind's own version it works differently. ;)

Melissa Rabey said...

To play devil's advocate: look at the uproar at what George Lucas did to the original Star Wars movies. If you argue that a story is never "locked", how do you account for how upset many people were (and still are) about the changes Lucas made to the films?

Han shot first!

Hmmm, sorry, that just slipped out. :-)

Seriously, I think there's something to be said for the story is locked argument, but I wouldn't use it in this case. Now, if JKR said she was going to go back and rewrite the books, to make it much more obvious that Dumbledore was gay . . . then I'd complain. But as is, I see it as an author giving us all a different interpretation of one of her characters. Some people will accept it, some won't, and some will wonder what's the big deal. And that's what's so great about art or any creative endeavor: everyone is right. :-)

Liz B said...

Hey, all! First of all, I'm the ornery sort that as soon as someone says "JKR should not," I wonder, why not? Who wrote that rule? Is it always true? Which, along with the implications for storytelling, is one of the reasons I'm fascinated by not only what JKR says about the Potterverse, but the various reactions to what she says.

When it comes to backstory, I would give JKR's version more credence than poststory, but either way, I think there is still room for fans to buzz and argue and, bluntly, disagree if they wish. When it comes to how to interpret the text (Snape, good, bad, sexy new boyfriend?), I think the readers interpretation is just as valid as JKR's, and any interpretation should be supported by text (tho, of course, JKR's support is easier to do, as the writer). Example from another book, Cordelia in This Is All. I know that my interpration of the character and plot is vastly different from the authors; yet, does that make mine wrong? Nope, as long as I can support it with more than "hated it". Why should JKR be any different? I see hers as another voice in the discussion, and I don't think an author gives up their right to have a voice.

Camille, I think the issue of canon is a good one; I know in Buffy, my primary fandom, it's a huge issue. So I see JKR's statements as interesting but not primary canon; secondary, as you will. Also, with each answer she gives, I wonder if that means there will be no more potterverse books. We already know that she changed things during the HP seven year run (and I, for one, am as interested in how story is constructed as in the story, find it interesting to know why Arthur Weasley is the Father Who Lived). Are her comments locking her into a story she may want to revise in the future?

LizInInk, that's why I try to look at movies as a different interpration, and, for me, usually prefer watching the movie first (I find out that I then love the book so much better!) However, based on when I was raised, Mary Poppins will always be the Disney version for me. Is that good, bad, or just a fact of life? I still prefer movie first, even tho as a child I was sometimes disappointed in the book; but usually, I love the additional details and events found in the book.

Heather, I agree: it's interesting, and if I disagree with the author, I'll go "hm. so what?"

Melissa, I think I've mentioned, that I'm intrigued at the idea of JKR possibly rewriting these books now that its finished. Didn't Tolkein rewrite a part of the Hobbit after TLOTR was published? Yes, various interpretations of the same story by the same author are...hmm... interesting? I guess is the right word.

Everyone is right? Aw, I think it's that I'm always right. (kidding. sometimes other people are right!)