Posted October 26, 2007
I'm agreeing with Jeffrey Weiss of the Dallas Morning News, who says, "with the greatest of respect," to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling: "Shut up. Please."
Now that Rowling has outed the brave and brilliant wizard Albus Dumbledore, Weiss wonders, will she leave nothing to the imagination?
In Canada recently, during her North American book tour, Rowling suggested that Hermione probably reads Margaret Atwood. Harry himself and Ron probably read nothing much at all.
What's next? The revelations that Hagrid moves to the suburbs and opens a Big & Tall men's shop? News that Neville chucks the three-headed dog eat three-headed-dog world of Hogwarts politicking to grow PYO produce on a small spot in Surrey?
"As a fan, I can understand both the authorial impulse and the public interest," says Weiss. "As a reader, it's making me nuts."
Me, too. The best stories, in my mind, leave a little room to the reader's imagination. They don't tie everything up in a nice tight package. If they did, there'd be less room for us to think about the rich untold parts, to invest ourselves and own imaginations in cultivating the fuller story.
Last week, my 10-year-old and I finished Gossamer by Lois Lowry, another writer who connects us to fantastical worlds filled with creatures we don't meet in this one. The book centers on ethereal creatures, "dream givers," whose physical expressions are never described much at all. More than midway through the book, however, Lowry lets slip that the dream givers are tiny, no larger than a stack of quarters.
My friend Liz, who was reading the book with her daughter at the same time we were, confessed, "I was bummed when I read that... because it wasn't how I pictured them in my mind to be."
Dream givers were more "real" to Liz when the author didn't push her own vision on her, but allowed Liz -- or any reader -- to vest the books with their own take.
At the end of Gossamer, it's not clear whether a young boy living in a foster home is permanently reunited with his mother. Things certainly seem headed that way, but Lowry doesn't wrap the package too tightly. She lets us draw our own conclusions -- which, by the way, has sparked many interesting conversations around the dinner table about might have happened to the boy.
Which brings me back to Harry Potter. I'm sure Rowling's recent revelations sparked plenty of dinner table conversations among her fans, too, including me and my two kids. But it's not nearly as satisfying an exchange, and the conversations feel more like gossip than discussion.
Authors like Rowling and Lowry do us a rich service. They challenge our thinking and spark our imaginations. But please: Leave it to us to take it from there?
Response by Mrrar:
It's funny watching the Harry Potter fans say things like this.
It makes me realize that these are not the same people who follow Star Trek or Star Wars... Or Lord of the rings, or any other popular scifi/fantasy setting.
The degree of information that Rowling has provided and fleshed out in regards to harry Potter is microscopic, compared to what's been fleshed out about such characters as Luke Skywalker, or even Geordi LaForge. Many fan bases deeply appreciate this sort of honesty and openness about characters. It makes the characters more real.
You, Ann, seem to think or feel that I guess that these characters reside in your mind alone. That they are purely imaginary constructs, but the way of characters like these is that they become entities independent of anyone at all. They are -themselves-, alive and real in a non-real way. They exist, somewhere, somehow, but only so far as they've been defined.. When the author further defines them, it's not taking away from your vision, it's focusing it into what the vision really is.
I personally agree with Mrrar. Yes, I like to let my imagination run away with me as I read. I like to imagine what Howgarts is like and what the characters are doing when the story line is not focused on them. But I also like the little tidbits that JKR gives us as "extra" insights into her characters. How many people out there wouldn't want to know if Snape had a love child, or the "real" story of what went on with Tonks and Lupin. Would you be upset if she told us and ruined what you imagined had happened, or would you be thrilled that the fan-fic you wrote is actually close to the truth? The characters are hers if she wants to share with us, her fans, I'm ready!