Jun 10, 2015

Kids Are Judgmental: Updates on Progress, Rereading Harry Potter and The Totally Doable Summer Reading Challenge

Ok, get excited, a lot to cover here today. This post comes in six parts, a la Hank and John Green.

Part the first: I am still beta-reading one WIP for a friend and have finished the other. They are both incredible reads and while I have recently started a PT job, I can tell you they both had/have my full and undivided attention. It reminds me how much I love love love my friends and how proud I am of their extraordinary talent.

Part Deux: I am taking part in a Harry Potter reread and while my thoughts are too disjointed (kind of like a livetweet) to make into fully-formed posts, I have decided to cross post them here as we share them on Facebook. The idea is to read one chapter of HP a day (with weekends to play catch up) until we read every chapter. It's mostly made up of MISTI-Con attendees who want an excuse to pass the time/reread before MISTI 2017. I figure I will post after every ten chapters, or at the end of each book, whichever comes first. See the last part of this entry for my thoughts on the first ten chapters of the first book in the series.

Episode III: I am also looking forward to another reading challenge (though obviously my RLRory Challenge was an utter failure) because I am doing it with some of my frat sisters. It is inspired by the Totally Doable Summer Reading Challenge one of them did last year where you read 10 books in 10 weeks, with one being at least 100 years old and one being at least 500 pages long. I really like this and i think it will motivate me. Some people are starting early, but as I have yer to finish my friends book, I cannot start until 6/22 (leaving ten weeks of summer, get it?) so I hope it's ok. If you want to join in with me, post your list of ten books in the comments. Here are mine in no particular order:

- Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (620+ pages)
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner (374)
- None of The Above by I. W. Gregorio (352)
- You by Caroline Kepnes (422)
- Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider (336)
- The Damned by Andrew Pyper (288)
- The Invasion of The Tearling by Erika Johansen (528)
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (117) (Originally Published in 1900)
- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (352)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (226)

Part four: I never got to review the last CS Lewis Society book, The Screwtape Letters, here. It was only because the society never had our final meeting. I will gather my thoughts and post a review soon.

Finally part the fifth: my notes for the HP reread. We begin with The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone, depending on where you live/buy books.


Chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

The first chapter of the first book is literally a treasure trove of knowledge and information about the entire series. I can sit and read each line or each paragraph and find something to analyze or look back on or theorize about - from the existence of animagi to someone named Sirius Black. Everything - every bit - is equal in importance. The way that Vernon and Petunia react to just the thought, even the idea of the Potters and of Harry, is like  something with equal amounts of fear and disgust as would the idea of Deatheaters to the average wizard. It's so crazy to think that something so simple as a one year old boy could really have such an effect on two grown adults. Everything he represents is wholly evil. Or perhaps not wvil but strange and unusual - frightening even. The craziest thing is that Harry is such a source of joy and an image of survival to the people of the wizarding world. Like I said, this chapter is filled with clues about the world JKR creates and some of its most important items and equipment and types of transportation are so integral to the series. Sirius Black's motorcycle is such a meaningful use of transportation, not just to get Harry to safe haven where he will not be found or discovered, but also as a statement about what kind of wizard Sirius is (especially since it seems these two wizards discussing the boy both traveled by other means. And the Put-Outer goes from being something that Dumbledore uses as a means of secret rendezvouz to something of singular importance later on. Everything about this chapter fills me with both sadness and happiness. It's so incredible to see how these people have survived this reign of terror and despite You-Know-Who this little bundle - this baby boy - is the salvation of an entire people, an entire culture.

One of the things that strikes me as surprising is that we know the behavior of wizards already as this chapter closes. In addition, we know where Dumbledore and McGonagall are during this celebration bit we don't know where Remus is and don't know were Sirius is other than that he gave his motorbike to Hagrid. The other thing is there were so many other characters in the story, obscure or otherwise, that are not represented in this "reaction" part of the story. Where are they and what they are feeling or thinking? On the opposite side of the coin, what are the Death Eaters going through as their leader has just disappeared? Just as this horrible monster disappeared, it brings renewed hope and renewed joy to an entire culture so too does it bring fear and fright into the hearts of his followers. Such duality there.

Chapter 2: The Vanishing Glass

It blows my mind that Harry doesn't understand that he is special. All his life people sought him out - either in the street or on the bus - or an animal spoke to him. I mean it literally spoke to him and he doesn't realize that he is special. And not in the "everybody is special in their own way" kind of special. He clearly has something about him and it's not just a scar on his forehead.

I think this we can also look at Dudley's gang as a kind of reflection of Voldemort's Death Eaters. He and his followers carry out punishments and are able to bring about pain and sorrow to the students (also reminiscent of Draco and his cronies). Also the way the chapter ends with this thought of "no one messes with Dudley's gang" is so interesting to me because theoretically no one thought anyone could stop Lord Voldemort either.

I think it's really cool that Harry has these frequent occurrences of magic. It only reflects his mother's experience not understanding what she was too. I love that some children in the wizarding world can grow up in a magical family and find out that they have no magic like in the case of Petunia. Other children can grow up in the world without the knowledge that magic exists and find out that they are magical like Hermione or Harry. It's kind of like finding out how little your upbringing and your childhood and how you're raised affects the rest of your life. And how some things are just pre-destined. It should be interesting to reread the next chapter because knowing what the letters mean and knowing what the significance is and knowing that in the future Harry's own children will receive letters it carries more weight now. It's sort of blows my mind also how much the Dursleys reject any sort of unknown anything out of the ordinary. They're not unlike some wizarding families who reject all things muggle. That is perhaps why the Weasleys are looked upon as trashy by certain wizarding families.

Chapter 3: The Letters From No One.

I like to think that if the letters start coming earlier than two weeks before your 11th birthday - let's say they come a year earlier than your 11th birthday, like a warning or a "be prepared" or "expect our letter soon" kind of notice - I like to think that that Uncle Vernon would never stop running. In a man, that is so used to things being as they are, without any room for "funny business" or nonsense, this kind of resolve to avoid and evade is almost admirable.

What could deter Vernon? Physical violence? A threat against his family? Or perhaps at some point Harry might just have run away. I just think its incredible to see how resolute Vernon is in his beliefs. He reminds me of those who are devout in their faith, unmovable, though in this case he was VERY movable.

Chapter 4: The Keeper of The Keys

Again, another treasure trove of tidbits and items of importance. This is the chapter where it is first mentioned that Harry has his mother's eyes if I am not mistaken. Something that could just be overlooked as a show of respect and admiration for one's parentage instead is unknowingly so important to the story.

Funny how we remember the famous line as "Yer a wizard, Harry" from the films where Robbie Coltrane speaks as Keeper of Keys, but it's actually "Harry- yer a wizard" which doesn't have the same zing IMHO. The response, however, doesn't change: "I'm a what?"

We didn't realize this at the time it was published, but when he writes a mesage to Dumbledore, Hagrid is basically perform the wizarding version of texting. Especially the way he writes in short choppy sentences, this could have been JKR's way of predicting where mobile communication was headed.

These "trances" that Hagrid mentions people came out of are probably the first mention of the Imperious Curse. Another word or phrase that could be overlooked if not for knowing how dangerous and vital to the story the Unforgivables are.

Finally, insulting Dumbledore is obviously a huge trigger for Hagrid because of the father figure and savior he is to him. Hagrid also mentions how much he admires him and his motives can easily be discerned to be different from a boss-employee relationship.

Chapter 5: Diagon Alley

Gringotts is so safe, but why? It's just a bank. Banks are robbed all the time. I feel like the Gringotts dragons are a myth at this point and you could just kick a goblin if you needed to. And if Hogwarts is safer why don't they just have vaults and storage containers there? I bet they'd do a fine racket in storage.

There's another mention of Hagrid's admiration for Dumbledore and their mutual trust and respect. This begins in the first chapter when Dumbledore says he would "trust Hagrid with his life. " While in earlier chapters Harry seems like he has kind of an attitude, in these chapters with Hagrid he seems so timid. He allows Hagrid to read the paper in silence and such, basing his experience on living with the Dursleys and the social norms for them.

Cornelius Fudge is said to be "a bungler" and "pelting Dumbledore with owls" to seek counsel. Is this just what Hagrid thinks or is it the truth? Is Fudge really so incompetent? And regardless,  it's regreshing to see that Harry hasn't prejudged him when he eventually does meet the Minister later on.

Interesting note: in all the years I have seen people cosplaying as a Hogwarts student, I don't recall ever seeing anyone wearing dragon-hide (or other material) gloves, despite the fact that they are required for first year students.

First mention of Fantastic Beasts here as well. If only we all knew reading this for the first time that this title would eventually become a real physical book (one we could have of our very own) and that the story behind that book would lead to ANOTHER series of films...

Reading this chapter I am reminded of the corresponding or bookending theory: how some believe each book, except for the fourth, has a corresponding match in the series (1 & 7, 2 & 6, 3 & 5). This whole section on their first trip to Gringotts with the first appearance of Griphook has a corresponding story in the seventh book. The parallels are uncanny. Gringotts is also where the parallels between Cinderella and Harry end: because Harry is loaded.

I like how it's just accepted by Hagrid that Hogwarts is the 'only' school and Ollivanders is the 'only' wand shop. It's surely not, especially in a country or continent so large. It's these states that almost make Hagrid sound rather snobbish, assuming no one in their right mind would go anywhere else for a wand or to attend school.

Chapter 6: The Journey From Platform 9 3/4

Some interesting points as I read:

Which Hedwig in AHOM is the owl named after? All I could find out was Saint Hedwig may have been a German witch.

Waking up at 5 in the am to go to Hogwarts is just like the day/night before going to a con. I have found myself incapable of sleep due to the excitement and often have woken up several hours earlier than I needed to just to keep busy until the time came to leave. It's funny how this is a lot of my con stories start.

Regarding that frightening run at the barrier to get to the platform: that is the only thing I was mad that they left out of the park's version of the Hogwarts Express. Without that "will I make it" feeling, a bit of the magic is lost I think.

I am placing my bets now: Ron's accountant cousin is clearly the secret cameo of Fantastic Beasts. He was Newt's nerdy math-lete type friend in the US.

In this situation, Hermione and Draco are oddly similar. While of course she is helping Neville find Trevor (which is something Draco would never do),  she also shows an unusual amount of judgment towards the school houses and towards a total stranger's ability or inability to perform a spell. Nasty piece of work that she is.

Did anyone think of the Cave and the RAB locket basin when reading their Entrance to the underground harbor? I sure did.

Chapter 7: The Sorting Hat

McGonagall presents the houses in alphabetical order and assures that each house had produced excellent witches and wizards. So why do the students all judge so quickly? And jeez Hermione is obnoxious until she learns to contain herself.

Here's the first appearance of ghosts in the wizarding world. Now of we are to assume correctly, only those spirits with unfinished business or those who choose to "stay behind" can become ghosts (or perhaps that is only Hogwarts ghosts). If that is the case, how does Peeves even exist? And what is to say wizards don't live side by side with ghosts all over the world? The origin and explanation of ghosts in this universe is utterly confusing. Perhaps on this reread I will find/figure out more.

For all the grief the Hufflepuffs in fandom get, they did get the first two students in this year. I bet none of the other houses were betting Hufflepuff would get the first two.

What ever happened to Morag MacDougal? Did he dissappear?

Is it weird that I alwats thought the four weird words Dumbledore says were to check if everyone was paying attention? Like, at some point in the term, Dumbledore will stop a random student in the hallway and ask what four words he spoke during the welcoming feast. I always thought that would be awesome.

Okay, so the food remains and crumbs vanish and the plates appear sparkling. So what exactly are the house elves washing the dishes for? Now I am really confused. Also are the desserts described here different depending on where the book was published? They'd have to be.

Gender binary dorm rooms. I do not approve, even at 11 years old. I wonder if there was ever a trans student, even then.

Is Harry's dream prophetic or just a mixture of all the sweets and all the emotions he had been feeling? Kind of makes you wonder.

Chapter 8: The Potions Master

The thing about doors not being real doors-- it works in reverse too. Sometimes a wall is actually a door, but only when you really need it...

Yes, Harry, the coats of armor CAN walk,  but when you want them to, you will be grateful they can.

There isn't nearly enough Binns or Flitwick in the series. I bet their back stories are fascinating.

Snape doesn't hate you Harry, he just hates everything you represent in his past,  as well as yours. No big deal.

Interesting how JKR, and i suppose Harry, refer to Hermione with her full name until she joins their posse. It's either a mark of disdain  (because really, how many Hermione's could there be) or its a mark of how much they respect her. My money is on the former.

The only ingredients and Potions mentioned here that do not have future significance are those in the Draught of the Living Death. Interesting.

Sometimes I think that for an 11 year old, Harry is too perceptive. Like he can tell when people are trying to change the subject. Then I remember the rest of his teen years where he is pretty oblivious and feel like I am reading this part wrong.

Chapter 9: The Midnight Duel

Harry adjusts very quickly to being a wizard AND a full time student. Is roz because of his age, because of having friends and a culture/community around him,  or because he had no real attachments to the other side of his family? I think it is interesting to look at the source of his adjustment and how quickly he acclimates.

It bothers me that they had to change "football" to "soccer" for the American editions. We are the only country that calls it soccer, but it is well known that the rest of the world calls it football, isn't it? Is it a huge stretch to just call it football? I mean, the story doesn't take place in the USA.

Neville seems happier in the books than the films to get a Remembrall, and why shouldn't he be? They are dead useful and that was a sweet gift to get from his Gran. I guess in the films they didn't want to paint him as a happy kid?

Yes! - Parvati's first line is to defend Neville. Right on, I always like her. Unfortunately her sister is quieter in the books. And for a Ravenclaw I guess that is to be expected. She also defends Harry, so maybe she is a true Gryffindor.

Really amazing the progression of events that lead Harry to becoming a Quidditch player. Had Draco never taken the Remembrall, would Harry eventually had tried out, perhaps in his second year? I bet so.

Chapter 10: Halloween

Wood says "this is the golden snitch, " and I am screaming "well it's a bit more than that! "

There is something to be said about how Hermione can still be know-it-all girl but doesn't warrant true friendship until she shows her Gryffindor side. I think it's incredible that the boys don't even consider her a friend even though she tries to help in her own way. She is just looking out for them, she wants them to succeed; perhaps this is why I originally identified with her.

I don't think Harry and Ron spend enough time asking/questioning why there was a troll in the dungeon. Logically, if trolls are so dangerous, they wouldn't be roaming the school so they aren't there an purpose. So they aren't guarding anything or there for protection. Why aren't they questioning that? Too much focus on the tiny package and not enough on the troll and the first guy to report its appearance.

Also, you would think Halloween was a bigger deal or that it was more expository why it is. But JKR just tots off with another feast and no real explanation. What do wizard kids do on Halloween before they go off to Hogwarts or other magic schools? I am not sure, but I don't think this is ever covered. Another chapter in Bagshot's A History of Magic I suppose. Or maybe the Scottish book.


Sorry for any spelling errors or missing words. I am doing this in the break room at work to make sure I don't forget. More to come; happy reading!