A little late, Jo. Again

Link had from my dear : J.K. Rowling says Dumbledore was gay. That’s nice. D’you think you might’ve actually put that somewhere in one of the books, Jo?

This is bothering me more, the more I think about it, actually.

First of all, I’m not a big fan of divining authorial intent by anything more than the marks they made on paper—if they meant to make a particular statement, then a writer should be able to bloody well write it that way. If they can’t, then either they should rethink what they’re trying to say, or start major edits. If they didn’t write what they meant to say, then either they didn’t mean to say it, or they’re not as good a writer as they thought. So what she says now about what she wrote seems pretty meaningless to me. If she wanted Dumbledore to be gay, give us some better clues in text, not after the fact. I mean, she may as well be telling us that McGonagall and Sprout have been having a lesbian affair for the last fifteen years. We lack canonical data to back up the statement.

Second, it’s contextless, which is a problem we’ve had with JKR’s writing from day one that caught up with her in a horrible way in the last two books. Things appear from whole cloth in later books—particularly in HBP and DH—that she did no setup for in the first five books. So Albus had the hots for Grindelwald. I might care if we knew anything about Grindelwald other than a few obscure and negative references before now. Our pre-DH knowledge of Grindelwald is little more than A) he was a big nasty dark wizard during the same time frame as WW2 and B) Albus defeated him. How are we supposed to divine anything more from that?

Third, she had a couple that was damn near canonically gay—Lupin and Sirius—and ran away from it, as far and as fast as possible.

At best, I can say her authorial intent was muddy. At worst, she completely lost her narrative thread and didn’t know how to get it back.

Mainly, I say that if you mean to say it, write it. Don’t backfill after the trees have already chopped down and covered in ink marks.

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24 comments so far

  1. qthewetsprocket on

    D’you think you might’ve actually put that somewhere in one of the books, Jo?

    that was kind of my reaction as well. it just kind of struck me as, ‘huh…? why is she saying this now?

    Third, she had a couple that was damn near canonically gay—Lupin and Sirius—and ran away from it, as far and as fast as possible.

    that was my other reaction. thank god for steve kloves and alfonso cuaron inserting all the subtext they could in the prisoner of azkaban movie, i guess.

    anyway, the whole thing just seems like she lacked the courage of her convictions when it really counted – which is understandable, if annoying – and is trying to make up for it now.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      I know my reaction when Tonks and Lupin announced they were getting married was “whadafuh?”, followed by “Don’t do it, Tonks, he’s rebounding!” We won’t even get into what I think about what Jo did to them in DH.

      And I think that’s a large part of it, lacking the courage to do it while the books were still being printed. I mean, she was already pretty much a billionaire, and by OotP, we were all in for the long haul anyway, whether or not Albus was light in the loafers. Her own comment in the article:

      After several minutes of prolonged shouting and clapping from astonished fans, Rowling added. “I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy.”

      …says as much. What I don’t know is, what was she afraid of? The wingnut community that already thought she was spreading witchcraft and satanism wasn’t going to either grow or go away because of it. She could afford to sue the living bejeezus out of anyone who annoyed her enough—hell, with her money, she could afford to have someone disappeared.

      Meanwhile, I expect that A) there has been a community of Dumbledore/Grindelwald ‘shippers since Book One, and B) they collectively shat themselves yesterday. XD

      • ataniell93 on

        Actually, to the best of my knowledge the Albus/Grindelwald shipper community didn’t exist before DH because most people thought Grindelwald was supposed to be the magickal equivalent of Hitler. Nobody thought he was going to be cute and twinky until DH came out, and he was, bouncing curls and everything. (The way she describes him, he looks like Gabriel Rosethorn. How’s that for a mindfuck?)

        But I watch about 4 AD/GG shipping comms and I wouldn’t say they shat themselves, but they did explode with mighty gouts and bursts of joy.

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          *twitch* I did not make the Grindy/Gabriel connection until you pointed it out just now. Oh, that leaves a scorch mark in the part of my brain that writes Michael… XD

  2. argh_jim on

    It’s kind of the opposite of Tolkien; it’s why his world was so rich. He had the entire backstory researched and filled in before he wrote.

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      I don’t know if she’s backfilling now on a whim, or if she knew all along and didn’t write it in for whatever reason. Either way, it’s sloppy.

      • argh_jim on

        It’s sloppy, AND irrelevant. Unless they give Michael Gambon a pink robe for the remaining films.

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          Actually, not irrelevant. She had to have Steve Kloves remove a reference to a girl in Albus’ past from the OotP screenplay. So it did have realtime repercussions … but again, that points up the problem: it was in her head, but it wasn’t where the ink met the paper. And if her screenwriter didn’t pick up on it, he who has to read and understand these books better than anyone else so he can condense them to a reasonable run time, what chance did we have?

          And the second question is, what the hell is Kloves doing trying to add backstory that’s not in the books?

          • argh_jim on

            I don’t agree with your first point…. That it’s not irrelevant, because it deletes a new element that wasn’t within the author’s intent? When there’s enough evidence for it as there is against it? In fact, MORE for it, since the majority of people live straight lives (if you aren’t reading Anne Rice at the moment). So simply playing the odds, without any indication either way, if you’re going to add a love interest, it is most likely to be one of the opposite sex. It in no way weakens or invalidates anything we knew about the character.

            Now, your final point is irrefutably relevant. You could also apply it to Rowling herself, however.

            • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

              Which is kinda the point I made in the initial post. The ink has already hit the paper, it’s too late to bring it back for a rewrite.

              And I was incorrect, it’s in the HBP screenplay that she scrawled out a reference to a girl and wrote ‘Dumbledore is gay’ over.

              Although can you imagine Kloves’ reaction to seeing that? XD

              Anyway, it’s relevant at least as far as the process goes to grind out the last couple movies. It’s not relevant to the storyline, because that’s done, and she blew her chance. I was unclear there.

              • argh_jim on

                The saddest part of the whole thing now, is that something that was completely unimportant to the story – in fact, impacted it in no discernible manner – has now become a major point.

                • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

                  Well, a semi-major fan kerfuffle. I don’t see it having any lasting effect on the fandom, not on the very long scale. I mean, I’m gay and I look at it as “Well, that’s nice, but BFHD.” Literary historians I presume will argue about authorial intent until they’ve dissectied it down to its molecular components, and every year new fans will come along, regardless of Albus’ orientation.

                  Meanwhile, my sister informs me that my niece has discovered Potter Puppet Pals and has been known to skip around the house singing ‘Follow the butterflies!’ I think I might get her a ‘Bother!’ tee for xmas. :)

    • soundwave106 on

      Tolkien is the exception to the rule; most authors seem to only create a half-fuzzy back story without flushing out the details internally. Since 99% of all stories are one-offs or maybe a couple stories at most, you can see why. It saves ’em a lot of work. But it can bite said authors when a book, movie, etc. actually succeeds and turns into a huge franchise with lots of sequels.

      At least in Harry Potter’s case, one author is at the helm. When multiple authors are juggling stories in a long-running franchise (eg Star Trek or Dr. Who, or for that matter long-running TV soap operas too), you damn near have to employ someone dedicated to keeping things at least *sort* of on track.

      • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

        Really? As soon as I start writing, I have all sorts of backstory fill itself in, in my mind. I can’t imagine not knowing all the “irrelevant” details … it’d be like writing in a vacuum. Even “one-offs”, I know more than ever actually hits the page. Sometimes it becomes important later, if it turns out what I did wasn’t a one-off. ‘Course, I never know ahead of time what’s going to have a follow-up and what isn’t.

        • soundwave106 on

          That’s my thought. At least, it seems to be the case when you look at many of the major franchises. Star Wars fell apart after Return of the Jedi — I felt the new stories felt “forced”, as if the plot was being constrained by the existing story. I haven’t read Harry Potter but it seems from reports it fell apart after the second or third novel, right?

          Now, it could be less that an author doesn’t sketch out background information, and more that a story is being flushed out way more than the author intended. I know this is what happened to Douglas Adams — from all reports, he didn’t really *want* to write a fifth Hitchhiker’s book. Which is why that book turned out to be the weakest in the series.

          • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

            Actually, I think the HP storyline hung together until book 6, at which point JKR started introducing a whole raft of things for Harry that really should’ve at least been hinted at no later than book 3.

            She also waited until then to try to make Draco into more than The Blond Sneer That Walks, and having made him of sturdiest cardstock for the preceding five books, it fell flat… which considering his cardboard nature previously, seems appropriate.

            I think the turning point came when Bloomsbury feared editing her. Book 5 was a little ragged around the edges, but it wasn’t the disaster that was book 6. And I have long suspected that was because no one at Bloomsbury had the stones to say “Great, Jo, let’s just run this by the editors” out of fear that she’d bring in lawyers sharp enough to break her contract with them.

            You are correct about Adams, he had kind of run out of H2G2 steam, and as much wrote it right into the book, in the late chapter where he advises readers to skip forward a to a later chapter “which has a lot of Marvin in it”.

            But you know, I can’t say that if something of mine should happen to sell and take off, that I could resist the offer of a fat royalty check over the wish to only write when the muse pushes me or the desire to write something else.

            How much Adams actually sketched out the H2G2 universe ahead of time, and how much it grew organically, I don’t know. Almost every time he revisited it, things changed, sometimes radically. I think he just liked tinkering with his basic idea, and would’ve been happy to have written the same story several different ways rather than come up with new story. The funny thing is when he did exactly that, writing essentially the same story several different ways, we got several excellent—if mutually exclusive—versions. I tend to think of the ‘real’ H2G2 storyline as a sort of middle ground between the radio program and the book. But I still quite like the those, as well as the TV miniseries, the record, the computer game and the movie. Sometimes I think Adams’ real character was the universe, poking and prodding it with his core story and seeing how it reacts under different stimuli.

            • soundwave106 on

              Adams, primarily being a comedic writer, and being the way he was, probably didn’t do a *whole* lot of pre-sketching. His books didn’t need a lot, though — he was more or less using science-fiction elements to satirize the world around him. But I think he’s a great example of an author who ran out of inertia, primarily because he practically tells you so. I actually enjoyed the fourth book which includes the authorial intrusion you mentioned, but it doesn’t stand up to the first three.

              I wonder if that’s really what happened to JKR, to a point. Since I haven’t read the books, I can only wildly speculate. :)

              • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

                Yeah, the H2G2 universe reads a lot more organically grown than carefully crystallized. You can tell when Adams ran out of steam and when he was just rushing like crazy to meet a deadline (his quote about them—”I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”—accurately sums up my feelings about them). JKR’s later books don’t read as though they were rushed or unplanned, but they do read as though they weren’t fully edited.

  3. gmhelwig on

    My personal reaction is “Que dun un merde?”

    • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

      And if I spoke French beyond that last word, I might know what you were talking about. XD

      • gmhelwig on

        Merde? It’s French for .

        • The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester on

          I know what the last word means; it’s the rest of it I don’t get. :)

          • gmhelwig on

            I’ve been told it translates as ‘who gives a’

          • soundwave106 on

            The “dun” is what is throwing me off. If it were “Who gives a shit?” (what I think too :) ), I think it would be more like “Qui donne une merde”, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had my high school French and its funky verb conjugations. :)


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