Re: So Maybe The Harry Potter Books Are Good For Something

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Yeah, I was determined to hate it, but I failed. Read it.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 11:48 AM
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Very good.

I am not proud to admit my frustration with reading about special needs kids doing amazing things. As a result of such articles, I am always inundated with questions about my daughter similar to "oooh, what is her special power???"

My answer based on the last two days would be hitting and refusing to wear clothes. (Disclosure: I was able to get her to put on a bathing suit after two hours of her screaming intermittently while pacing sans clothes.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 11:53 AM
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Yeah, I do worry about what it must feel like to read Berube's stories about Jamie from that perspective. We've got friends with a kid with Downs Syndrome (oddly, not too far off Jamie's age, and also at Penn State. I've thought about asking if they know him through some support group or something, but it seems weird.) and while he's a lovely kid, he's not doing anything like the things Jamie does.

Not that that's a reason not to tell great Jamie stories, but I can see them being tough to read from some points of view.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 11:58 AM
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Yeah, I've wondered about that. Berube talks about how he and Janet were really aggressive from the start, and (don't know) maybe Jamie is naturally on the higher end of things also. At the same time, the stories he tells to make the "DS kids are cool and special" point involve the capabilities Jamie has in virtue of those atypical facts. It could get frustrating.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:06 PM
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"Berube talks about how he and Janet were really aggressive from the start"

I enjoy Berube's stories, but I always feel that subtle implication of "our child does well because of us."

This occurs with parents of children without special needs as well, but it feels more pronounced in this context. "Your child would behave if they were my child."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:10 PM
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It's got to be a combination of the two. Berube sounds like the best father on the planet for this stuff, but so are my friends, and their kid just isn't anywhere near the same sort of capabilities.

It does color his arguments about disabilities -- I mean, "Don't overweight 'disability', because it doesn't necessarily mean relentless tragedy" is true and valuable, but it doesn't say much about how to think about the sorts of disability that are more like relentless tragedy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:13 PM
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I am not suggesting that parents do not influence their children's successed or failures.

Parenting, like education, is really about value-adding, not the final result.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:13 PM
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Jamie's really high-functioning, yes. But the thing is, there are a lot of high-functioning kids with various disabilities; my uncle could read and had a driver's license, although physically he looked profoundly retarded. And of course the *real* point underlying all the Jamie stories, as you people would know if you had the ability to understand subtext, is that what*ever* his abilities, he's an individual, and we ought understand people in general as such.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:18 PM
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I don't know. I've worked with Downs' Syndrome people a bit -- my first job leaving school was in a residential hospital for the mentally handicapped -- and there were non-negligible numbers of them who could read and who had a relatively high level of social function.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:18 PM
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I believe in challenging your children to grow and progress, whether special needs or not. And you become the parent you need to be. I didn't decide that I was going to have an autistic daughter, just as she didn't decide to be autistic.

But, I have to be the best parent for her that I can possibly be.

Of course, with any subset of parents or children, people get competitive. Sometimes success is just random, freakin' luck.

Sorry, I am in a frustrated, pissy mood today.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:19 PM
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8 continued: So making comparisons like "Berube's retarded child does so well! What's your retarded child's special power, Will?" is itself a species of failing-to-get-the-point; not all children with disabilities are alike, any more than all children, period.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:20 PM
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And of course the *real* point underlying all the Jamie stories, as you people would know if you had the ability to understand subtext, is that what*ever* his abilities, he's an individual, and we ought understand people in general as such.

I don't think anyone doubts that this is the point, B -- it's just also fair to say that the stories carry some other baggage and possible implications, as well.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:20 PM
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Continuing to muse on the topic: isn't the whose-kid-is-higher-functioning thing itself just a specialized subset of general parental competition/angst? And thus in part a manifestation of the way we tend to see children as pets, rather than as people?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:21 PM
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that what*ever* his abilities, he's an individual, and we ought understand people in general as such.

Ah, B, if you weren't so in love with rhetorical strategies, you'd understand the contradiction in this suggested argument, since it moves from "see, he's an individual, look at his abilities" to "abilities don't matter; they're all individuals."


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:23 PM
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8:

I really do not dislike Berube's stories at all. It is important to humanize people with special needs.

A person is still a person deserving of fair treatment and respect even if they are not high functioning. It is typically not their fault when they are a major pain in the ass.

My comments were an aside to Berube's, not an attack on his stories.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:23 PM
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12: Sure, but what I'm trying to think my way towards is whether or not the baggage/subtext are in the stories, or in the audience.

That plus I genuinely like Michael, and think his thoughts on disability are profoundly interesting, and suspect that he's smart enough to be aware of and deliberately avoid the possible "what's her special power" kind of reading, to the extent that doing so is in his power.

And yeah yeah, intentional fallacy, I know.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:23 PM
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Right, there are plenty of high-functioning disabled people. It's just that presenting them as the face of mental disability glosses over issues relating to people with more severe problems, like my brother-in-law (not Downs syndrome, some kind of birth injury. He functions at what I think of as kind of a three-year-old level, although it's complicated by his CP; his mental functioning might appear more advanced if he had better control of his body.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:24 PM
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14: I thought you were going to lunch. Also, one of the things we in the literature departments understand is how to tolerate paradox and ambiguity.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:25 PM
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presenting them as the face of mental disability

See, I'm certain that that's not what Berube (or his stories) are doing.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:26 PM
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I feed on sloppy argumentation, B.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:29 PM
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19:

Berube is presenting one face of mental disability. He is presenting the "awww, isnt that cute face" or "see what you can do when you work really hard with the disabled face."

How often do we see the other faces? We see Rainman or other cute stories of achievement. We turn away from the other faces. Or we say, "wow, that kid is throwing a fit" or "he looks really weird," and we walk away.


I do not pretend to be objective about this topic.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:31 PM
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Will, have you written about this? I'd be interested in reading it, but from my one click to your blog, it looks more...austere.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:33 PM
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Oh, I really don't want to criticize Berube harshly for this -- he has a wonderful kid, and a wonderful relationship with him, and he's proud, and there's nothing wrong with telling happy stories about him.

But he wrote a story recently at Crooked Timber about Jamie learning to golf, and how when he found out about Jamie's diagnosis he never dreamed that Jamie would golf, or speak French, or be a Beatles fan, and how happy and surprised he's been at all the things Jamie can do. And most kids with Down's Syndrome probably won't golf, or speak French, or memorize the Beatles catalog -- if Berube's point was that you never know how things will turn out, that's true, but it's hard not to read it as 'so it's ignorant of you to assume that Down's Syndrome is terribly limiting', when for most kids it is more limiting than it has been for Jamie.

He's not doing anything wrong -- I'd just find his stories miserably difficult to read if I had a lower-functioning kid with Downs. I've specifically refrained from recommending him to my friends on that basis.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:33 PM
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22: Labs, it's clear that you're far too insensitive to understand the many layers of meaning inherent in the concept of 'snapping your hips'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:38 PM
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LB, this is the source of your power. And yet you claim not to be girly.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:39 PM
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Also, after reading, the essay is more Rowling than Jamie, isn't it?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:40 PM
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20: Which is why you abandoned the Right and True Path of narrative for the anal-retentive philoosophy departments.

23: Well, it *is* ignorant to assume that most kids with DS will be terribly limited; DS, specifically, is a relatively mild disability and a *lot* of people with it can do things that are roughly analagous to golfing or being obsessed with the Beatles.

Autism is a different disorder, with a different (and pretty broad, really) range of limitations and possibilities, from adults who still cause themselves to bleed by scraping their own bowel movements out of their rectums to the idiot savants so beloved of movies.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:43 PM
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Anyway, I'm being kind of a dick because I like Berube. And I, too, have thought that the downside of the Jamie essays is that probably a lot of people *do* read them as "proof" that mental disabilities "aren't so bad"--which is in some cases true, and in some, not. All I'm saying is that silly readers aren't the best measure of the worth of what it is they're reading.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:45 PM
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23: How roughly analogous? I don't know much about Downs Syndrome -- just what I've picked up from this one set of friends -- but I do have the impression that Jamie is way out there unusual in terms of accomplishments, whether due to superior parenting or inherent capabilities.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:47 PM
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26: Not really, do you think? Berube isn't claiming there's anything all that special about the books, just that they were the books through which Jamie started understanding this stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:49 PM
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Totally unrelated, but Mitt Romney is an ass.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:50 PM
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I take the point(s), Will, but it's not like I've ever refused to admit some of the ways in which taking care of Jamie is profoundly frustrating. Claiming that I present the "awww, isnt that cute face" of disability is, I think, unfair to my book, unfair to me, and unfair to Jamie's struggles. You must be in a pissy mood, indeed.

I kind of hoped it was clear that when I admit to underestimating Jamie's abilities, I do so to indict myself for acquiescing to some of the stereotypes surrounding mental disability. I really do feel like a jackass for writing, 11 years ago, that Jamie would never know John's songs from Paul's. And I'm quite sure I've never offered Jamie as representative of anyone or anything.

I do realize, though, that there's a tension between insisting that there be no performance criterion for being human, and demonstrating that Jamie performs better in some ways than people might think. That's partly what I'm writing about, you know.


Posted by: Michael Bérubé | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:54 PM
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Wait a sec -- you guys are carping because Jamie stories make people feel bad because their DS kids aren't as smart as Jamie?

I feel bad when I read them because I don't think I'm as smart as Jamie.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:57 PM
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All I'm saying is that silly readers aren't the best measure of the worth of what it is they're reading.

They are when it's Ayn Rand that they're reading.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:57 PM
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30: Yes, but the point isn't "books can teach retarded children!" but rather "narrative is a deeply important way that human beings think." Jamie's as contingent as Rowling in that particular essay.

29: Down Syndrome kind of ranges from fairly mild to I think moderate, rather than severe, mental disabilities (as opposed to physical disabilities). I'm not a specialist about it, obviously, but from what I know DS kids can often learn to read, tend to be more literal-minded than average, are usually extremely affectionate and good-natured, and often get kind of obsessive about certain subjects or topics. It's sloppy of me to generalize like this, but I'd sum up as saying that the "average" person with DS is mentally and emotionally comparable to a youngish child--affectionate, naive, surprisingly bright about topics they're interested in, not so great about articulating or consciously grasping complex systems or apparent contradictions (although they often have a great sense of humor about contradiction as such). And lots of work in the way that kids that age often are.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 12:57 PM
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"All I'm saying is that silly readers aren't the best measure of the worth of what it is they're reading."

I never claimed that Berube was not worth reading. It is not necessarily his job to disclose that he is describing only one face of special needs people.

FL:

My blog was only intended to post some swimming stuff. I have several things that I have started to write about this topic, but have never really finished. Sometimes, the cuts are simply too deep.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:00 PM
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It is not necessarily his job to disclose that he is describing only one face of special needs people.

But he does disclose that. Among other things, by being very specific about Jamie's having DS, not being a "special needs person."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:02 PM
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I would like to note that among the many things I don't know about Down Syndrome is how to spell it. Googling reveals that it's Down, not Downs. This should be taken as illustrative of my depth of knowledge in this regard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:03 PM
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"Claiming that I present the "awww, isnt that cute face" of disability is, I think, unfair to my book, unfair to me, and unfair to Jamie's struggles. You must be in a pissy mood, indeed."

I didnt see this post before my last comment.

I am in a pissy mood. I tried to mention that I was not laying fault at your feet. I have not read your book. I have read your blog.

I did and do enjoy reading about your son. It is also painful. One does not preclude the other.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:04 PM
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38: It used to be "Down's" when we were younger. Or at least, I always heard it referred to that way.

I did and do enjoy reading about your son. It is also painful. One does not preclude the other.

Amen to that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:06 PM
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I enjoy Berube's stories, but I always feel that subtle implication of "our child does well because of us."

This was my second comment. If it were spoken, I would have emphasized the "I always feel" part.

My first comment was expressing my shame and frustration.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:08 PM
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The blogosphere makes it possible for everyone to be like Woody Allen in that scene from "Annie Hall", wherein he retrieves Marshall Mcluhan from the theatre queque to correct an evesdropped inanity involving said professor.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:10 PM
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Fair enough, Will. I do and don't enjoy writing about him. About his status as Unrepresentative of Anything, I opened Life As We Know It like so: "Almost as a form of emotional exercise, I have tried, on occasion, to step back and see him as others might see him, as an instance of a category, one item on the long list of human subgroups. This is a child with Down syndrome, I say to myself. This is a child with a developmental disability. It never works: Jamie remains Jamie to me. I have even tried to imagine him as he would have been seen in other eras, other places: This is a retarded child. And even: This is a Mongoloid child. This makes for unbearable cognitive dissonance. I can imagine that people might think such things, but I cannot imagine how they might think them in a way that prevents them from seeing Jamie as Jamie. I try to recall how I saw such children when I was a child, but here I guiltily draw a blank: I don't remember seeing them at all, which very likely means that I never quite saw them as children. "

FWIW, I can't stand the uplifting and inspiring mode of disability narratives. I regret the extent to which my "Jamie performs better in some ways than you'd think" stories participate in that genre. And if I ever write about how people with special needs are our special angels who teach us about being human, you will know I have been kidnapped and replaced by an android.


Posted by: Michael Bérubé | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:11 PM
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Or John Cleese and Graham Chapman as housewifes, calling Jean Paul Sartre for clarification.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:13 PM
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"you guys are carping because Jamie stories make people feel bad because their DS kids aren't as smart as Jamie?"

To quote BitchPHd, the question is whether the carping"/
baggage/subtext are in the stories, or in the audience."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:13 PM
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43: Hey, I apologized on Crooked Timber for any of my comments that were offensive, figuring that you might not still be reading this thread.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:21 PM
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Nuance granted, will. As someone who has very little contact with people with autism or DS, I was touched by your explanation of how the stories make you feel. And I was using "carping" as friendly deprecation of all human discourse, or at least that on unfogged.

If you skim the blog entry Michael linked to a little too fast, it comes across that Jamie is a lonely, principled individual fighting to keep the Democratic Party alive.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:23 PM
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Will -- I have a friend with an autistic nephew who will periodically read an article on The Spectacular Autistic Kid Who Has an Amazing Breakthrough and will spend a couple of weeks on a mission to figure out how to use the article to cure his nephew. It's sweet enough in its intentions, I suppose. But I always imagine how frustrating it must be for the boy's parents and for the little guy himself to be subjected to that -- alot of pressure and implicit judgment, it seems to me. Fortunately, this friend has no attention span and loses interest quickly enough.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:29 PM
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how I saw such children when I was a child

Mainstreaming is such an awesome shift in primary education. PK's reaction to the kid in his class who (as I learned by asking at the end of the year) has autism is "Jonathan's just like that," which is *so* much better than the way we kids thought about the "special ed" class back when I was in school.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:33 PM
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I can't believe you haters don't like J.K. Rowling.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:43 PM
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4 and the ensuing discussion struck me as especially perceptive: often when we try to accept and understand people with profound disabilities, we do so by accepting the qualities they have which are not diminished. Oliver Sacks waxes poetic about the ability of the severely autistic child to draw well enough to convey emotion, because we can understand drawing, and it makes us feel as though the child really is human under there -- see, she retains the desire to Create Art.

It's a step in the right direction. Better, surely, than believing that the disabled person has nothing in common with everyone else, but still a far cry from valuing them in the absence of those shared qualities.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:45 PM
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51 me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:46 PM
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Dude, beloved by millions and all that, but the books really do kind of suck. The plots don't make sense (and I say this as the kind of geek who reads this sort of thing. I'm not objecting to magic), the world created doesn't make sense, the whole thing is incredibly derivative, and there are many, many better books in the same ecological niche.

I actually have a strongly held opinion that nothing that's wildly popular can be really worthless -- being unpopular doesn't mean a work of art is bad, but if it's terribly popular there's got to be something to it. But the Harry Potter books really strain that opinion.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:48 PM
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nothing that's wildly popular can be really worthless

A million counter-examples spring to mind...


Posted by: Clownaesthesiologist | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:50 PM
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Don't listen to LB! She's under the Imperious Curse!


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:51 PM
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Yeah, I'd argue with you about most of them. (Admittedly, in the case of music I've got both hands tied behind my back because of ignorance, but pick another category of art and I'll stick with you.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:52 PM
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another category of art

My counterexamples come principally from the genres of film and fast food restaurant.


Posted by: Clownaesthesiologist | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:54 PM
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I will stand with baa on this if it makes my head explode. Haters.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:55 PM
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For discussion: What value of X makes the following sentence true?

Snobbery about X is the worst form of snobbery.

I submit that X = children's literature.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:57 PM
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Also, for the first time, maybe, agreeing with baa and opposing LizardBreath.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:58 PM
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Oh, I'd defend the honor of the fast food restaurant as a genre -- while all the bad things people say about the food are true, they are clean and reliable. I've been in diners where I've wished they were McDonalds -- not good diners, but not all diners are good. That doesn't make them better than good food, but people who like them aren't insane.

Film too -- most of the wildly popular movies out there have some real strong points as movies -- they didn't become wildly popular randomly, but because within an appealing genre, they were good of their kind.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:59 PM
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And if I ever write about how people with special needs are our special angels who teach us about being human, you will know I have been kidnapped and replaced by an android

It is, on the other hand, more than a little bit true, isn't it? I could name names, but they wouldn't mean anything to you and they'd get indexed by Google, of quite a couple of people who are much better human beings as the result of the sense of perspective and concern with something other than their damn careers that they developed shortly after having a very ill kid.

It's probably worth knowing that the next UK general election will be fought between two leaders who've had this experience; David Cameron's son has cerebral palsy and Gordon Brown's daughter has cystic fibrosis.


Posted by: derauqsd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 1:59 PM
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I heart Harry Potter because I used to have a lot of fun when YoungestCalaSis and I made it our big sister-little sister thing. It's a fun, if not deep, little world; and Rowling is an entertaining, if not exceptionally skilled, writer.

But it's not really great art. Not because it's bad, but just because it's not all that good.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:00 PM
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59: I haven't forbidden them to enter my house, and I read a bunch of the silly things (the first four, maybe? I gave them to a niece and read them first). I just don't see what drives the craze.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:00 PM
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Dude, beloved by millions and all that, but the books really do kind of suck. The plots don't make sense (and I say this as the kind of geek who reads this sort of thing. I'm not objecting to magic), the world created doesn't make sense...

Word. Not as bad as The Chronicles of Narnia, but nothing to get excited over.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:02 PM
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LB, why do you hate the disabled so much?


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:03 PM
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hate the disabled

I think Rowling's a bad writer, but I don't hate her.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:03 PM
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I can't believe you haters don't like J.K. Rowling.

Can we remain completely apathetic?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath (formerly JAC) | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:04 PM
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Wow, did I fuck up 63. "bad" s/b "popular". I blame it on the Iranians.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:04 PM
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In Islamic Republic, Iranians blame you.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:07 PM
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Fortunately, we're in Kentucky, which is the U.S.A.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:09 PM
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63: don't blame it on the Iranians! As dsquared explained in that other thread, it's all Christopher Hitchens' fault.

And thanks to LB for calling my little piece a beautiful essay! Problem is, though, now that I'm in the Potter loop I'll have to take two weeks or so out of this summer just to read the last installment in the series, and then it'll take another three or four months to read it to Jamie.

But do cut Rowling some slack, folks. No one said these books were great works of art, yknow.


Posted by: Michael Bérubé | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:10 PM
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I love Harry Potter -- if for no other reason than the joy of watching my daughter strut about the house reciting lines in (to my admittedly untrained ear) a surprisingly good English accent. ("My father did not strut," she would likely protest, "and nor do I.") Which, in a way, is the same joy Berube describes -- the way we come to appreciate something we might have thought unlikely by seeing it through the eyes of our children. I think she's pretty amazing, so whatever she finds amazing winds up amazing me. Amazingly.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:11 PM
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My sister, when she was younger, would write me notes about what she thought was going to happen in the next book and mail them to me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:13 PM
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59 -- pornography.


Posted by: Clownaesthesiologist | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:14 PM
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62: I can vouch for some positive changes triggered by Fucking Growth Experiences but I've never been happy to see another FGE heading towards me or mine. In retrospect those things all seem to blend into a mix of tired unto death and terrifying.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:14 PM
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74: Aw. That's really sweet.

Sally brought home the notebook she's been doing writing assignments in at school, and it's great stuff. There's a play in which she's got herself and three friends cast as slaves who escape the south with much derring-do (admittedly solving the occasional plot problem with an "Oh no, Claudette's caught in a snare! Look, someone dropped a dagger we can use to cut her free") and end up founding a womyn's weaving co-op (okay, my description, not hers, but pretty much) in Canada. I'm sure this is evidence of liberal indoctrination, but given that I'm all for that sort of thing I'm terribly pleased.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:18 PM
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Which makes Sally a better plotter than Rowling. Exactly how much Deus Ex Machina are we to expect in the last I wonder?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:21 PM
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I'm sure everyone will act out of character only as much as the plot requires.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:24 PM
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78: What in the Harry Potter books so far could be accurately described as "Deus ex Machina"?


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:24 PM
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80: Gee, I love my uncle Sirius so much that I'll conveniently forget the present he gave me, which will lead to the climax of the story, never mind that normally anything he gives me or writes to me I treasure.


Posted by: Ca; | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:25 PM
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72: Rowling, like other bazillionaires, has a room containing bolts and bolts of slack that her manservant cuts for her when the envious carping of blog comments becomes too much.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:26 PM
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80: Seriously? I'm as pro-Harry as the next guy, but off the top of my head I've got the sword coming out of the hat in book two as just about prototype deus ex machina. I haven't read any of them since the last one came out, so the plots aren't at the front of my mind, but I'm pretty sure this isn't the only example.


Posted by: Mother's Younger Brother | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:27 PM
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80. Ex recto. You wait and see if Dumbledore is really dead.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:28 PM
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I'm not going to claim that they're great books, but man, if I'd been in Rowling's position, finishing a series under the most scrutiny of any writer ever, I think I'd probably have run away to an opium den in Thailand.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:29 PM
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81: That's not really an instance of Deus ex Machina per se, is it? It's a gaping plot hole, yes. But Deus ex Machina is a way of papering over a gaping plot hole, not one left gaping.

83: Arguably.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:30 PM
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Who cares about plot holes?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:32 PM
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84: If Dumbledore is alive at the end of book 7, I'll eat my Sorting Hat, and publicly proclaim that you haters were right all along.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:33 PM
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88: Agreed. Except that I don't have a sorting hat!
I guess I'll have to eat my wife's vibrating broom.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:37 PM
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86b:
Can you argue that it's not? Again I'm calling on old memories, but as I recall we'd a) never seen or heard of that sword before and b) never heard that the hat had this property before, of producing ultra-helpful objects for people who really need them. I'm genuinely curious about how you this can be read as non-DEM.

OTOH, if your "arguably" applies only to my suggestion that other examples abound and I just can't remember them, then never mind.


Posted by: Mother's Younger Brother | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:37 PM
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I guess I'll have to eat my wife's vibrating broom.

Run it through the dishwasher first.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:40 PM
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90: I believe the reader had seen it before, briefly, in Dumbledore's office.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:44 PM
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90: You are correct, however, that we had never seen the Sorting Hat produce useful objects before.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:46 PM
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I was a little ticked off that Cedric Whatshisface was created solely to die tragically.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:47 PM
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94: "Diggory". That wasn't his sole purpose. He was Harry's rival, both in the Tri-Wizard tournament, and for Cho's affections.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:51 PM
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94: So was Jesus.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:52 PM
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There's a bit of DEM about wands suddenly developing the property to interact and reverse spells in GoF.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:54 PM
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95.---Yeah, but the thing with Cho fizzled, and Cedric was an unnecessary rival in the tourney. Fleur and the Prussian dude were enough to establish the "overcoming petty rivalry" narrative.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:56 PM
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One mark against Rowling is that I would be just as happy reading a five-page summary of the 7th novel as reading the novel itself. Or maybe a mark for her, since I sort of want to know at least in general terms what goes down.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 2:59 PM
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It's all just a big woody for going to a boarding school.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:01 PM
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Although it depends on how the last book goes down, I think the haters are way underselling the sophistication of the Snape storyline, and of Harry's relationship to it. Good stuff, ankle biters.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:02 PM
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A mark against her is that I can't remember what happened in the four (maybe I read the fifth?) books I read. I remember some incidents and characters -- like, I know who Sirius Black is, and the Weaseleys and so forth, and I have some vague recollection of the one with the tournament, but I couldn't write you a plot synopsis of the ones I read to save my life. And I'm not like that, usually.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:03 PM
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100 - Piffle. It's all a big woody for being special/important and having magical powers.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:04 PM
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97: The wands ability to interact as they did was set up by Rowling showing earlier that the wands were "twins", made with feathers from the same phoenix.

And if you mean by "reversal" what I think you mean, that had been established right after the Quidditch cup, when they find the wand (Harry's, IIRC) that had been used to cast the Dark Mark.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:04 PM
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sophistication of the Snape storyline

Like, he seems really mean, but it always turns out to be someone else who did the bad thing. And so Harry should learn not to jump to conclusions?

Man, that is sophisticated.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:05 PM
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103 merely restates 100.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:07 PM
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102: Your nascent dementia demonstrates nothing.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:07 PM
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Oh, come on, LB, you're making Jamie cry. It's children's literature, so I think you have to cut it some slack.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:08 PM
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105: You haven't read the 6th book, have you?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:08 PM
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I can't help you, Lizardbreath.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:09 PM
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Aside from Snape's apparent misdeeds in book 6, there is the fact that he is indeed mean, it's not just that he seems that way -- he's petty and jerky and an all-around vituperative dickweed. But this doesn't mean that he is necessarily (we'll see what the deal turns out to be with his apparent big betrayal in 6) untrustworthy on the big things, or to the right people, or that he is not in some ways understandable, if wrong, in his jerkiness: Harry's dad and his friends really were very unpleasant to him when they were growing up, for one thing. I think that's relatively sophisticated, yes.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:13 PM
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108: Children's literature doesn't have to suck. I read children's literature for pleasure. It's a genre I actively seek out and enjoy. There are constraints on it because of the audience, but being incoherent isn't one of them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:13 PM
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109: Admittedly, no.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:15 PM
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LB, do you ever read any Diana Wynne Jones? I think she is quite awesome.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:16 PM
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LB is just waiting for book 8, Harry Potter and the Unionizing Effort.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:16 PM
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Howl's Moving Castle only, so far -- I got it for Sally but she's a little young for it yet. But it does seem excellent. I may look for some aimed at a younger age bracket for Sally's upcoming birthday.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:19 PM
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I second the recommendation of Diana Wynne Jones. Howl's Moving Castle and Castle in the Air, that is, which are the only two books of hers that I've read.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:21 PM
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Lb needs to read book 6. The House Elves get card check.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:22 PM
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Oooo, really? That does sound engrossing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:24 PM
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The Chrestomanci books are super fun. The Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Homeward Bounders are for a slightly older audience than Howl. Let's see, what's youngerish of hers? Maybe Archer's Goon. Snark may have a better suggestion.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:24 PM
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Damn it, people, you do this just to shame me for not having kidlit.org up in the couple of weeks since the last children's books discussion broke out.

Archer's Goon is a fantastic choice. Dogsbody might work, too, if Sally is a big puppy fan.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:28 PM
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Did anyone else find it odd that Berube concludes his essay, "leaving Jamie without the faintest hint of a scar"?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:29 PM
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Was Dogsbody the one where the star Sirius is brought to earth as a dog? I read that as a kid and loved it. That's Diana Wynne Jones?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:31 PM
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I agree with ogged's point about Snape. For me, now, this has become the moral narrative of the series, and I'm really concerned that she's not going to be able to bring it off to a satisfactory conclusion. If it goes REVEAL ("Snape's good"), RECOGNITION ("OMG, we all treated him really bad!"), then DEATH ("Oh well!"), I'll be disappointed. I don't see how else it can go, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:32 PM
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123: Yup!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:33 PM
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I don't see how else it can go, though.

It was all a dream.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:34 PM
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You haters (LB) are crazy, and 115 is hilarious.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:34 PM
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111: I'm wondering whether JKR will finally establish some global sense of moral desert. She's been leading up to it with the flashbacks (which are as a literary device at least as objectionable as the DEMs), in which Snape is mistreated by Potter's father; and arguably the quidditch matches, in which hard work isn't nearly so important as the best sporting equipment that an uncle's trust can buy as to the outcome of a match, also speaks to the values in her universe.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:36 PM
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Eh, Sally's thinking about reading the first one this summer, and presumably the others will follow. As she reads them, I'll give them a look again, and I'll write the series of devastating posts on why they suck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:37 PM
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Btw, I thought Michael's explanation of the house elves thing did a nice job of "solving" the "what, is she defending slavery?" question.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:37 PM
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I think J-Mo's 124 was predicated by JKR's writeup of quidditch. HP didn't practice any harder than Malfoy (or at least no indication was given of such, and in fact, there was plenty of indication that his adventuring caused him to miss practice, much to the chagrin of wonderful Oliver Wood), and he won by dint of his superior Christmas present or whatever it was.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:42 PM
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I don't know what it is about them I find so damn appealing. People aren't wrong about the gaping plot holes.

I think that in the end I am a big fat sucker for literature with appealing yet vulnerable heroes. Also, the whole Azkaban thing got to me, which I suppose is somewhat predictable. (I don't mean I read it as a parable on U.S. detention policies--"Harry Potter & the Writ of Habeas Corpus"--I read the book in 1999. I mean that I have various personality quirks--overdeveloped sense of injustice; pathological fear of mental illness--which made the same sorts of stories compelling to me).


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:42 PM
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Snape is, simultaneously, Harry's muggle uncle and his father. Voldemort is just a party game.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:43 PM
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Yeah, I hope we can all agree that Quidditch is lame.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:48 PM
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The whole series has been Harry/Voldemort lulling the people who trust him into a false sense of security. Once he reveals his true identity and kills Snape, the only one with a chance to stop him, the Thousand Year Reich begins.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:49 PM
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Oliver Wood is the only thing about Quidditch that's not totally lame. I think she must know some devoted sports fans, but she clearly does not actually know what motivates them.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:50 PM
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I hear the ending of Deathly Hallows involves the all the Weasleys -- except Ginny -- sitting in The Leaky Cauldron eating onion rings.


Posted by: Michael Bérubé | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:51 PM
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And with one too many "the"s, too.


Posted by: Michael Bérubé | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:52 PM
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The really tricky bit is the thirty blank pages bound into the end of the book, so you're not expecting the ending. I understand that a lot of readers are expected to think it's a printing error, rather than an abrupt ending.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:54 PM
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Michael Berube is so gay, he corrects his own syntax.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:54 PM
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...and then Journey plays, and we're done.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:55 PM
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102: But I could say the same thing about alot of "great" literature. Says nothing about the quality of the writing/sotry/product, just about the idiosyncratic filters and associations of the readers.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:56 PM
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confession: I care far more about Harry Potter book 7 than the Sopranos.

I know it's much worse, but again: sympathetic characters are all.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:57 PM
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Oh, it's a mark against her in my head. If you're not sitting in here with me, I don't expect it to be convincing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 3:57 PM
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141: If I ever become an author, every book of mine will include one of those music-playing chips from greeting cards so that the epilogue will be soundtracked by "Don't Stop Believing".

Except for my great crime novel, where, as the criminal mastermind antihero walks away from the scene shedding his disguise in the final pages, the reader will hear the dulcet tones of "2 Legit 2 Quit".


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath (formerly JAC) | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:00 PM
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At the end, Harry and his new friend Kumar finally make it to the White Castle.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:01 PM
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I heard that book 7 ends with Hermione revealing that Victor Krum knocked her up, but Ron loves her so much that he agrees to raise the child as his own.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:01 PM
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JESUS CHRIST, I had just finally gotten that damned Journey song out of my head and then you fucks put it right back in.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:03 PM
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Hermione: just another small-town girl, livin in a lonely wor-rld. Took the midnight train to hoo-oog-waarts.


Posted by: FL | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:05 PM
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150

This will get that Journey song out of your head.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:07 PM
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145 is evil. You just know some fucking publisher's going to do that.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:07 PM
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150.---That worked for about three hours last time. Then it was BAM back to Journey.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:15 PM
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146 rules.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:19 PM
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I like Harry Potter too.

I don't quite understand Quidditch, though. You can score points, but that doesn't seem to matter at all, because the game ends when someone catches the Golden Snitch. I'd like to see a game end otherwise or one where one team was so far behind that it would be advantageous for the seeker to put off catching the snitch. If you're down by 200 points, then you don't want to catch the snitch, because you'll end teh game and only earn 150 points.

As the game is now, why do you need a whole team? Why aren't there just two seekers competing to get the golden snitch first.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:20 PM
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The space in my head formerly occupied by Journey is now the sole province of Obamagirl.


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:20 PM
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Did I say "sole province"? I meant to make room for (not coincidentally) Mariah Carey's "Hero".


Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:21 PM
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I kind of love Obamagirl, but that motherfuck90t43nh Journey song is almost as bad as the Mr. Frostie deathray.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:24 PM
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154: The best I can rationalize, and it's almost complete rationalization, is that the Quidditch match itself is not the relevant unit for comparing teams, but the outcome of the entire Quidditch season.

(Rowling herself has admitted that Quidditch is lame, and has said that there won't be any Quidditch in book 7.)


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:24 PM
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154: Yeah, I think that's more or less the standard critique of Quidditch as a game. In all fairness to JKR, she did write up a game that's not just "soccer, but on brooms," and one which could fairly plausibly catapult young Harry to the focus of even more people's attention, which were probably her main two goals.

The game would be considerably better as a sport if the Snitch were worth fewer points.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:25 PM
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151: Great, I'm sick and tired of having to cue up the stereo every time I get close to finishing a book.

152: How about this? Or perhaps the greatest power ballad ever created will help? The "Afro music electric revival" refrain from the end of this gem will reliably get stuck in your head too. I will find catchy music to tide you over all day if need be.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath (formerly JAC) | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:25 PM
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For a long time I wanted to write a screenplay including a pivotal sex scene set to Local H's "What Can I Tell You". Unfortunately there is no video for that song on YouTube, so I'll have to link to the song that's been in my head for two months.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:26 PM
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Agreed on the first song linked in 160.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:28 PM
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159: How would you end the game if one team were up by more than 150 points?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:29 PM
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163: Well, the problem now isn't exactly with ending the game. The problem is that, as you said, the rest of the team is pretty much irrelevent: whoever gets the snitch wins. The only time that's NOT true is if one team is up by more than 150 points -- which seems like it's probably unlikely except in the case of a gross mismatch.

If the snitch were worth, say, 10 points, then the rest of the team would be relevent. The point would be, "wait until we're up a little bit, and then grab the snitch," rather than just, "grab the snitch as soon as you can."


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:33 PM
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No, the rest of the team is still relevant, because they help keep the other team's seeker from grabbing the snitch.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:37 PM
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The only time that's NOT true is if one team is up by more than 150 points-- which seems like it's probably unlikely except in the case of a gross mismatch.

It is extremely unlikely, but that was my hypothetical. The wikipedia page says that the only way for the game to end other than by catching the snitch is by mutual consent of the team captains.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:37 PM
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The first clip in 160 is helping tremendously, thanks.

I really do get auditory hallucinations sometimes. Recently, I was doing the voiceover for a silent movie, and for some reason the audio for the piano player wasn't coming in, so all I could hear was my voice and the whirring white noise of the projector. Oh, and my cell phone (which was off), my parents' clock, church bells, people saying my name, and that fucking Mr. Frostie jingle.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:38 PM
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165: Right, but why do they need/get to score points?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:38 PM
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Or, if the snitch grab (snatch?) were so exceedingly rare that it would be worth 150 points, i.e. happens only once every 10 years or so, and every one at the match would tell their grandkids that they saw it happen...once.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:39 PM
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That would make sense if there were a snitchless way to end the game, but as it is in the absence of mutual consent, every game is going to include one and only one snitch-catching.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:40 PM
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165: But they don't. They bandy about, beating each other's balls and such. Their relation to the snitch is only incidental.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:44 PM
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You're really gonna give "power ballad" to "Owner of a Lonely Heart"? What about, I dunno, "Heat of the Moment"?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:45 PM
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JKR might be able to explain the snitch as a vestige, an artifact of a game from a different era that's changed as the game modernized, an element of play that perplexes all observers, but, well, it's the snitch, what are you going to do? It doesn't really make any sense to have different rules for AL and NL, after all.

Had she treated the sport with greater care. It seems that it was a detail she thought she could use to humanize wizards, because communities gather around sports, but she doesn't herself care about it at all and I resent that she continued to write about matches but put all the content in ellipses, more or less.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:46 PM
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But they don't.

Sure they do, they club the whatsits at the other team's seeker.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:46 PM
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Doesn't the world cup match end up with Bulgaria catching the snitch but losing? (I apparently do not have LB's problem with these books)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:46 PM
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Oh, now this will prove me a total geek (for the three? two? humor me? of you who had doubts). But. In book 4 Victor Krum catches the snitch in the World Cup while Bulgaria is down more than 150 points, securing the win for Ireland.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:48 PM
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Grr. Katherine is faster and less self-deprecating.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:49 PM
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...not that everyone's not completely right about the basic problem with the game.

You could also fix it by having it end either when the snitch is caught or when a team scores however many points.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:49 PM
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What is he, an Irish mole? Or did he just not know what the score was?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:49 PM
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No, they club the whatsits at each other's goals. Which serve no purpose.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:49 PM
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177: loud & proud.

Actually, I hesitated to write that too, & I don't remember what the motivation is. Maybe the other team would've caught it if he didn't?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:51 PM
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179: The thing is, 150 points is insurmountable. If you're down by 15 regular goals, dudes, you aren't going to win. Give up.

That's why Viktor Krum catches the snitch in the wildly contrived scenario in book whatever. It's sort of a "staunch the humiliation, go home" deal.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:52 PM
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180: they shoot the quaffle at each other's goals, the bludgers at the other players. But ogged is still being a big apologist.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:53 PM
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180: You guys are talking at cross purposes.

There are three kinds of balls, right? I can't remember what they're called, but there's the snitch, then there's two balls that go around and smack into people and don't cause scores, and then there's one ball that you throw through the goal for ten points.

There are people, with clubs, who hit the balls that run into you. They can, theoretically, hit the balls that run into you at the other team's seeker, and thus have a reasonable impact on the game.

The people who throw the ball through goals are vestigial, like an appendix.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:54 PM
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Dammit, pwned by Katherine, and with correct terminology, too. I retreat to the stance that I don't even like the books that much.


Posted by: Epoch | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:55 PM
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They both try to score goals and try to knock the seekers off their brooms. Really, it's not worth trying to explain -- JKR just doesn't grok sports, and so Quidditch is a bit like if I tried to write a scene of some molecular biologists getting really hepped up and excited about their work.

JM, try Petra Hayden's Journey cover. It's fantastic.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:57 PM
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No, I'm trying to get Journey OUT of my head, snarkout.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 4:58 PM
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Spoilsport. Here, enjoy a Petra Hayden cover of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys, done in the same style. But I'm telling you, her guitar solo is hysterical.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 5:09 PM
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Wow. I might have to get Petra Hayden's album, despite my solemn vow never to own another a cappella album.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 6:55 PM
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182: But being down by 15 goals can't be insurmountable in a sport where there is a single move worth 15 goals. Just score the next goal or two and grab the snitch. Now if you were down by 25-30 goals, maybe you would just want to end it and get the moral victory of "at least we covered the point spread."

The real problem with the snitch is that it both (1) is worth a lot of points and (2) ends the match immediately. Reducing the points for the snitch would help make the rest of the game more relevant, but so would breaking the association with the end of the game. Make Quidditch a timed game like soccer, and you would still make the position of seeker incredibly important (as Rowling needs for her plot points), but the rest of the team would still be relevant, as no one knows if the snitch will be caught before the end. That would still leave catching the snitch as a "Hail Mary" move that can rescue an otherwise hopelessly losing team in the final seconds (or conversely, seal their fate). In fact, a losing team could do the equivalent of "pulling the goalie" in hockey, by having one or more members abandon the quest for regular goals at the end in order to help the seeker find the snitch.

On Victor Krum's move though - Rowling does portray the final stages of the quest for the snitch as involving pretty single-minded concentration on the part of the seeker, and it's not impossible that a seeker would be unaware of the exact state of the score as he or she lunged for the snitch. Plus, the two seekers are often racing for the snitch at the same time, and it might not be possible to be sure of blocking the other seeker without grabbing the snitch yourself.

The really interesting thing about the world cup outcome, though, is that the Weasley twins had bet on this precise outcome at long odds (even though they later got cheated of their winnings). One fan book I read suggested that there are some hints that they might have been involved in time travel (or perhaps some unusually precise divination?). They do seem to have quietly disappeared for a certain length of time shortly before making that bet. Hmmm....


Posted by: DaveW | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 8:09 PM
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Petra Hayden's "The Who Sell Out" is superb.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-27-07 8:14 PM
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190: And on that point, what other children's books out there teach our youth about betting the long odds? Or for that matter, include significant characters getting utterly plastered as major plot points?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 06-28-07 7:14 AM
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I'd like to pick up on something in LB's original post: the significance of stories, as something crucial to our personalities. My wife often says something just like this, that stories, specifically fiction, is important and privileged to her, that she values it above other reading. She's in a very high-end book group with her friends, and occasionally someone will ask to read some nonfiction, and they do. Yet even when the selection is admirable, both as story and in the telling, she finds this unsatisfactory, suboptimal.

I realize that compared with that, I don't value fiction so highly. I don't disparage it per se—she thinks I do out of residual puritanism, but her standards are too high—it's just that other forms of writing: memoirs, histories, selections of letters, explications are just as important, and are often what I end up reading, for pleasure and entertainment. This she finds odd.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 06-28-07 7:37 AM
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she values it above other reading

Me too!

A very high-end book group

Ellen and I were recently invited to join a book group, not sure how high end but I guess a little. We went to a meeting which consisted of drinking wine and reading the Don Juan in Hell scene from Man and Superman, which I had never read before. I liked it. But I'm not sure how I'm going to fit in in a book group, reading is a pretty personal thing for me.


Posted by: Clownaesthesiologist | Link to this comment | 06-28-07 7:53 AM
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I don't know that I value stories more highly, but it's different -- more like a need, rather than entertainment. I'll read non-fiction happily and enjoy it, but only if there's something I specifically want to read. If there's not a novel I'm actively interested in, on the other hand, I still won't go a day without picking up something I've read already and rereading it for at least half an hour or so. Not having something with a narrative in it to read is disturbing and upsetting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-28-07 7:59 AM
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PK's reaction to the kid in his class who (as I learned by asking at the end of the year) has autism is "Jonathan's just like that,"

That's great. The Queen's classmates have improved to the point of "Don't throw her backpack in the bushes again or the principal will suspend you", which I suppose is better than the situation when I was in school.


Posted by: mythago | Link to this comment | 07- 1-07 11:45 PM
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