So. Here we are now, nearly a year down the road from the release of the final book of the series.
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So. Here we are now, nearly a year down the road from the release of the final book of the series. is the first line of a very, very long essay by Red Hen.
The essay was written a year after the last book in the series was released.
Some Topics Discussed
- dissatisfaction among Harry Potter fans regarding the last book in the series, and how it affects their feelings about the rest of the series
- writing fanfiction as a fix-it
- fan loyalty to J.K. Rowling
- good fans and bad fans
- The Carpet Book
- the last book doesn't fit with the rest of the series because it was written with a different authorial intention, one that was more of Rowling's self-indulgent private grief exploration
- Rowling would have benefited from a beta
- Rowling started "writing for the movies" early on
- Rowling’s books had stopped being “about” their titles after PoA
- "I belatedly came to the realization that reading the Harry Potter series is rather like watching ‘Moulin Rouge’. Both are obviously cobbled together of predominantly recycled elements. Rather trite elements at that. Interspersed with intentional silliness."
- writing to her audience, which was children --"I suspect that the most disconcerting factor of DHs is that the adult fans all got their noses thoroughly rubbed in the fact that Rowling absolutely wasn’t writing this story for them. And, indeed, never had been."
- shipping and Harry/Hermione
- trying to make sense of the books by thinking you've missed something is senseless
- Rowling lost her way, Rowling is a disingenuous liar, Rowling was naïve, Rowling had burnout
- Lev Grossman's controversial 2005 article, J.K. Rowling Hogwarts And All
- Harry Potter is a marketable product, not literature
- "Of course, the media has always pointed the camera firmly at the little kids, written glowing human interest stories about children and Harry Potter, and tried very hard to firmly ignore, dismiss, or mock the adults holding Potter Symposiums worldwide — to which young children are not typically admitted. But it is the adults who are the core of any fandom. And they are the ones who will stick around when the canon is closed."
- the meta, the interviews, the context surrounding the books will likely disappear
From the Essay
People’s reactions have mostly sorted themselves out, sometimes at a glacial pace, and people have been increasingly able to articulate just what those reactions actually were. Unfortunately, although one might have expected that the worst of the shock would be over by now, and everyone would be beginning to move on, from what I am observing, that expectation seems to have been grossly inadequate to the actual results. The worst is not over at all. In fact, as time goes by and people become progressively more articulate about just what and how they are reacting to the series as a whole, the general dissatisfaction among a significant minority (or maybe it is a majority) of the older fans only seems to be increasing.
And as if that were not awkward enough, a counter-reaction appears to be gaining a groundswell, too. Some of the groundswell lot didn’t even like the book all that much themselves. But the initial whinging annoyed them — which was reasonable enough — and the steadily growing articulation of the sustained dissatisfaction has prompted them to make a determined effort to smother it. I do not know whether these are mostly people who are simply being pushed out of shape by the general lack of “nice”, or whether it’s the fact that having now expressed our dissatisfaction, we have not simply gone away leaving the field to the “JK Rowling, right or wrong”, fans that offends them.
Yes, I said “we”. You are all welcome to add me to the ever-growing list of fans who do not regard ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ as a fitting conclusion to the series. It isn’t. On the strength of some of Rowling’s earlier performance, I think we had a right to expect better from her.
And, frankly, being perfectly capable of coming up with no shortage of snotty rejoiners of my own, I find myself tempted to tell the “groundswollen” to “just go away” themselves if they are so perfectly convinced that there is nothing more to be said on the subject because Rowling’s word is law. If there is nothing to be said, why are they still hanging around.If that were the case, clearly, no one would feel any need to say anything, whatsoever. Including the writing of fanfic. However, that reaction does not seem to be my experience, and neither does it seem to be a lot of other fans’ experience, either.
For my own part; I’m still not altogether convinced that the “carpet book” isn’t a hoax on at least some — perhaps unconscious — level, after all. Although I am fully aware that the Carpet Book is all we are likely to get. Short of writing our own.
Frankly, I find it difficult to regard DHs as even being a part of the rest of the series, as things now stand. Even the style of the writing in it (to say nothing of the style of the reasoning) does not line up to that of the previous six books, and it hardly connects at all to the two books that preceded it, and with which one would have reasonably expected it to have been most closely intertwined. Rowling may not have ever been a “brilliant” writer from a purely technical standpoint, but much of the storytelling (let alone the grammar) dumped on the reader in the final book is barely even competent. HBP was widely accused of “reading like fanfic” when it came out, but this was a truly jarring downward transition even from HBP. This was no “controlled descent,” this was a flat-out “crash and burn”.I find myself still trying to determine just where it all went wrong. It’s irresistible. Like picking at a scab.
One thing, at least, is evident. This was the kind of place where the average fanfic author has a tremendous advantage over JK Rowling.
Fanfic betas discuss the story’s development as it is being written. When effectively deployed, they can help the author identify potential dead ends or plot holes, and they can suggest solutions. If you’ve got a good beta (or more than one) they can help make the story so much stronger than it would be if you just locked yourself in a room and wrote until you finished it.Rowling couldn’t do this. The wizard locked up in his tower with a Great Work in train had nothing on JK Rowling.
Unfortunately, she also claims not to reread her own work after it has been published. And I think we can take that statement at face value too. Even if it does make her come across like a zip-damn fool.
Lack of a beta surrogate could also account for the increasingly shallow and melodramatic tone of the last three books as well. And the increasingly confused rendering of their climaxes. Good editors (or betas) also help to steer an author away from excesses of tone. Rowling apparently needs a firm editor, and she didn’t have one.
She did have an editor (possibly more than one) for the first four books. We know this to be the case. She has described various editorial changes to the first four books on her official website. But I haven’t seen any mention there of any editorial changes made to the last three.
And, for that matter, I don’t get the impression that either HBP or DHs were edited at all. Proofread, maybe, but not edited.Once you start viewing the last three volumes of the series as unbetaed fic, many of the problems a lot of us have with them fall right into place.
I’m afraid I’ve come more and more around to the opinion that Rowling is the kind of author who simply doesn’t think. So to look for an analytical interpretation of anything in the series is probably an exercise in frustration. She paints what is intended as impressive word pictures — essentially vignettes — mainly on the basis of how they are supposed to push your buttons and make you feel, without ever considering how they are supposed to fit together. This sometimes produces a considerable emotional impact, if you are at all sensitive to that kind of jerking around, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense. And sometimes they just plain backfire.
[...]Quite a few of these issues are still slowly coming into focus. And one of the sharpest is the awareness that the world Rowling assembled is simply a lot bigger than the narrow-focused, smug, anglo-centric view of it she gave us.
Of course not all fans are theorists, and not all fans are fixated on issues of misfitting minutia, or the lazy logic of claiming that the story is about choices, when your villain has been set up as a raging (and apparently hereditary!) sociopath who, from birth, was manifestly incapable of making proper choices, or the enshrined hypocrisy of just about every one of her protagonists.
No, unfortunately. Post HBP, many were convinced that any objections one might have to the direction the series was taking must be about the ’shipping.
Post DHs, Rowling’s dittoheads are convinced that any objections must merely be sour grapes because Rowling took the story in a direction the dissatisfied didn’t like.
Read my lips. ’Shipping bores me.
From all indications it isn’t all that high on Rowling’s list either.
Rowling can’t avoid it of course. She’s dealing with 16-year-olds. Even Percy had a girlfriend when he was 16.But her handling of this “vital issue” was such as to suggest that she thinks that the whole subject is simply funny. Or at least every bit as funny as boring old History! And her jokes on each of these subjects are every bit as insulting as her jokes on the other.
Yes, we should, indeed, all be grateful to JK Rowling for the opportunity for all the hours of entertainment that she and her publishers have provided. But if she had never written another word after GoF the fandom would have been just about as active. And the interpretive possibilities a good deal more varied.
And we can anticipate many more of hours of entertainment to come if we simply agree to dismiss the final 759-page “fuck you” note. Rowling’s attempt to rewrite the concept of Authorship and to maintain a stranglehold upon both the work and the Readers’ free interpretation of it is not in anyone’s best interests in the long run, least of all her own.
The Fanficers will dismiss it, and quite possibly her, eventually. They will have to if the fandom is not to stagnate. In fact any number of them already have dismissed the epilogue, or Snape’s death, or both. Heaven knows there are enough examples of fans rewriting the previous books. Telling the story from other characters’ viewpoints, or telling them from the PoV that Harry was Sorted into Slytherin, or what all. Eventually we will get others stating that with all due respect, one does not believe or accept the load the hooey that is DHs, and they are doing their own alternate 7th book, thank you.They certainly aren’t likely to give us a weaker one.
After she spent 6 books making sure that we all understood perfectly well that Tom Riddle is not the worst problem the ww has.
Never mind the characters suddenly being dumber than their little sticks of wood and acting like a pack of fools, the whole reasoning behind what happens in this book doesn’t play to any sort of rules of logic or natural law. This is the book in which Rowling takes the world she built up over the course of six previous books and systematically breaks it, before she closes the canon and then, as the Author, turns it over to us. (Or was supposed to. She doesn’t seem to be clear on that concept either.)
That sure looks a lot like subverting the genre to me. In fact subverting the whole principle of Authorship, too.
So, either she is a very confused newbie who bit off more than she could chew, and was abandoned by her editors, or she is a total fool, and an incompetent writer to boot, or she has been stringing us along for years, told the editors they could all take the month off when she turned the ms in, and is laughing up her sleeve at all of us.
Factor in the kind of “excuse” answers she has provided in her post-release interviews, including the way that she doesn’t stick to one story for more than two days running, and I am coming to a highly uncharitable conclusion as to just which one of the three she is. She knows damned well that those interview answers are never going to count as a part of the books.And I think it is a dirty trick to play on a generation of little kids who trust you. Even if they don’t realize that they’ve been scammed.