Third Time is the Charm

I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut, but I can no longer let certain things go by without comment. I am quite sure I will offend some of the True Faithful, but that cannot be helped.

I am here today to speak aloud these words: J K Rowling is wrong. In fact, not only is she wrong about two things she thinks that she got wrong, but actually got right; Rowling is also wrong about something she thinks she got right, but actually got completely wrong.

Many would have you believe that the wrongs J K Rowling has unleashed on the world are something along the lines of an inappropriately out of the closet Dumbledore, the traumatic death of Dumbledore (for entirely unrelated reasons to his homosexuality), rampant incipient Satanism and Witchcraft, and any number of those sorts of things. But, no. I’m fine will all that, as should you be as well. I’m talking about more important issues here!

Three strikes and you’re out, right? You know that thing where you write something the first time and then try to re-write it but nothing is better than the first thing you wrote, only now you’ve lost that because of your subsequent changes? Yeah. That. Someone needs to take the pen out of J K Rowling’s hand. She’s drunk and should go home. Let me demonstrate:

The First Wrong of J K Rowling

Oh, so many moons ago, I read that J K Rowling no longer liked the opening to the first book. I can’t quite just now find a reference. But, what I remember is that she wished she had re-written the opening of the first book to be more obvious in genre setting and quicker into the story, instead of the way it appears in print.

She is wrong.

The opening is delightful in how it starts out normal and slowly the increasing number of owls reveals to the reader and the character of Mr Dursley just how abnormal the world really is. I know that there is advice out there, I forget from whom, about making clear in the very first sentence what genre one is in, but I absolutely adore the way normality melts away in the opening of the first book. Moreover, we get to be present at the very moment when Mr Dursley’s sanity dissolves and he becomes unhinged. And, I will abide no loose talk about changing that feature.

The Second Wrong of J K Rowling

Recently, J K Rowling has publicly stated that Harry and Hermione should have gotten together, and she regretted that they didn’t. This is an idea which should be killed in its crib … but, um, successfully this time.

She is wrong.

First off, even if Hermione wanted to end up with Harry at any point, there is no way that Hermione would have stabbed her friend Ginny in the back like that. In order to double-cross Ginny like that Hermione would have to become a selfish narcissist instead of who she was, and that would have been against her very character, and if allowed would have been the beginning of the end for everyone, because without a good-at-heart Hermione everything would have fallen apart and fizzled into infinite darkness under the real Dark Lord.

But, I’d argue that the fact that Harry and Hermione didn’t end up together is part of what helped Harry not turn into his father, and merely repeat the same story as the previous generation acted out. And, all the other characters would have fallen into enacting the same systemic failures demonstrated in the flashbacks and revelations about how completely shitty the Marauders really were to everyone else. Ginny saved Harry, not the other way around; because it was in Harry’s relationship with Ginny that he became a fully functioning and feeling adult; and it was always in Hermione’s hands how this entire story unfolded.

You think I’m overstating that? Let me put it this way: Harry had absolutely no apparent talent of his own until he discovered he was a natural at Quidditch. And, there is no way that Harry would have ever been discovered and joined the team if Hermione hadn’t used a fully functional and useful spell to repair Harry’s glasses in the very first book so Harry could actually see anything at all.

And, there’s no way Hermoine would have ended up with someone with a complete absence of actual magical aptitude … um, okay, at least Ron could play chess and throw gnomes like nobody’s business! And, red hair! They made beautiful babies, so shut up!

In fact, I bet, by the end, Hermione full and well realized that without the Horcrux in his head, Harry Potter was nothing more than a magically inept, whiney rich jock who liked to beat up on goth kids. There’s no way she would have gone for someone like that … well, you know, after she learned her lesson from how it didn’t work out with Victor Krum, anyway.

The Third Wrong of J K Rowling

J K Rowling lost the plot in the end. Yes, the entire end of the series was screwed up. Harry was no hero, for reasons I think I’ve already detailed. So, the only other kid left, and someone mentioned specifically in the books as fulfilling the same prophecy as Harry supposedly did: Neville Longbottom.

Rowling would have you believe that Harry was the hero and saved the day after coming back to life, a pathetic attempt to twist the actual truth and instead turn Harry into a risen Christ figure.

She is wrong.

In fact, without the stolen power of the Horcrux in his head and the overly patient coddling of whiz kid Hermione and the army of people around him doing all the actual work, Harry Potter would have been nothing better than how Neville Longbottom is portrayed throughout most of the series. But even still, the truth will out. You cannot deny that Neville Longbottom steps up, grows a pair, and stands up to Voldemort, and if he had half as much preparation as Harry did there’s no telling what he could have done. Probably have sealed things up behind the scenes of book three while Harry was busy being freaked out about what turns out to be his escaped petting zoo godfather.

In fact, even still, Harry died. That Harry died killed Voldemort’s horcrux in his head and left both Voldemort and Harry relatively powerless, there’s sympathy and contagion between these two that people only vaguely realize, after all. As the inaccurate Rowling version of events unfolded, unless Voldemort went completely off the rails and challenged Harry to a Quidditch match … (Hey, dumber things have been known to happen, people!) there really was no longer any chance for Voldemort at all, really just a matter of time, if he didn’t simply die at that moment the last Horcrux was broken, by Voldemort killing Harry, who is merely a functional and folkloric double of himself. And Harry should have stayed dead, or transformed into the Dark Lord he was always incipiently to become, which would have left Neville Longbottom to fulfill his destiny as the person referenced in the prophecy as the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, i.e., to kill Zombie Harry, back from the dead to assume his rightful rôle in the succession scheme of evil! And, in a beautiful Delphic-style twist, the assumption that the Dark Lord mentioned in the prophecy refers to Voldemort is simply a mistake only revealed in hindsight: the one who lives is Neville and the Dark Lord is actually what snivelly rich jock Harry of the future cycle of the generational system would become! And, there was some guy named Voldemort who died too, but no one really remembers what he had to do with anything.

And, shit, people, just look at pictures of Neville nowadays and just try to tell me that guy doesn’t look like a real Big Goddamned Hero who pretty much towers over Harry, who went off to become some kind of Auror, like, pshaw, whatever, prance around like a naked pony on stage, and write Beat poetry.

no cures

“no cures.”

No tears in the eyes of the youth
Patriotism is the new faith
“I am no criminal”
Blind masses of youth marching
Civil disobedience
“It’s not the ideology, it’s the people”
“It’s not the guns, it’s those damn bullets”
Not to question patriotism is to stagnate
and become blind followers to the new union
of the personality and power
Teflon coated politicians are a function
of the worshipping masses in Nike Air
shoes and
pictures of Amish farmers advertising
the new microwave dinners
The impressionable youth has
been emblazoned with the
distant distrust of life and the
trust of death
The disillusioned generation has
become the materialist image of the
thing they hated
The disillusioned legacy to the
unborn is bearing the fruit of discord
The secret becomes the top secret
the nixon doctrine becomes the
new amendment to the Constitution
and the Cambodian is now the
Panamanian
Involvement becomes a pact of
decimals and the Tuesday lunch group is the NSA
The sergeant-at-arms (and
legs and dismembering and shouting and fits
and bits and snarling …) forcing out the
dissenter to the group view
Why can’t my kids be conditioned?
My kids are suffering because the
others are Wrong. Let’s go back to
the good old days when we were
so confident in the country that we
end up in Vietnam …
Let’s fight for hope … with guns
and knives and grenades and tooth and
nails
The war is over. long live the
war
I can’t make a difference is the
war cry of
America the beautiful even though
I don’t know why
Trust?
American arrogance of the blue-eye
big-nosed Johnny Appleseed spreading the
seed of the golden apple
The victors write the history – the
youth of Vietnam and the American youth in
Vietnam are the history
The government didn’t win the war and
the hindsight condemnation of the
leaders is the pen and
cry of the lost innocence of the
lost lives of the lost youth
Political motivation is the numbness
of the new lost youth
I don’t know about that so don’t
tell me what I don’t want to deal with
Knowledge of is not power over:
knowledge is burden
The people of the world are going about
their business just tell them you’re in
power they won’t mind …
because they don’t care … they don’t
want to know
Can this country open its eyes and
wipe the rummy haze from
a dream of advisors in Panama
and the Vietnam legacy of advisor-
soldiers
One person is not enough unless
you’re Hitler or
the wide-awake young prefect who
sleeps thru it all
I’m anti war, anti-calories, anti-red
meat, anti-anchovies, anti-gothic …
(what are you for?)
There must be another way (anti-status quo)
I’d die for this country no matter
what … (is that what you’re for?)
I’m here for the wrong reasons
I’m a naive uninformed
… American …
We’re all Americans
but we can kill ourselves …
(is that what you are for?)
We have a new youth, but who
is going to be the new Them?
The tiger’s back isn’t a strong enough
metaphor – we were Hoovered into
the filter bag (the Scylia and Charybdis
of American Myth)
The self-destructed Lincoln Log country
has to be put away
Rebuild the Lincoln Log Lego walls
(do we isolate ourselves again?
Let’s go back to the wilderness and
skip the walls (maybe we’ll find ewoks
hiding behind the trees)
The walls of orange yellow blue
white and red Lego blocks may be
safe but they’re ugly. They are the
monuments to the Glorious War dead
from the double-super-duper-new-and
improved American Jihad of those who
Islam the Walt Disney constructed teflon
leaders
Can we afford to draw lines anymore
between Us and Them
Is that what we
believe in? The amputation of our humanity
“You can tear the skin off but you’ll scream.”
I need to learn more … not only can I
not condemn what I understand …
Can I understand what comes after me?

copyright 1990 j.g.bell
originally appearing in ‘The Nascent’ literary and arts magazine 1990

In name only

Well, how interesting that the topic of Magdalene and the Reclaiming approach to story came up over the weekend as a way to explore what I see as paradigmatic difference between my relationship with Reclaiming and my experience in O.T.O. [also]. Interesting because when I got back from an extended weekend away, at an O.T.O. conference on the Divine Feminine, I had a message in my inbox that the theme for BC Witchcamp 2009 is Magdalene.

Below are two selected bits from a message, which isn’t up on the site yet so I can’t link to, that BC Witchcamp actually did manage to select Magdalene, which I really didn’t think they’d manage to do, but also did exactly the thing I was afraid they would do to the story if they did select it:

“The Story:
Mary Magdalene
Activist, Lover, Priestess of Isis
Witness to Change”

and

“Story of Mary Magdalene: Request that teaching team assure a strong presence of Deity/Isis
Reclaiming Mary’s story, correcting the bad PR, like the witches, like so many strong and powerful women
Not focusing on Jesus story
Mary as high priestess of the Goddess
Tie into history, tie into current politics, age of Aquarius, group consciousness, feminism, social justice”

I’m trying really hard not to be a manic ex-pat, but I feel like snidely suggesting that next year’s theme be St. Patrick.

Only, without all that noise about christianity.

And, let’s explore the fact that St. Patrick was a Priest of Serapis and his relationship with snake worship. That whole bit about St. Partick converting people to christianity was just bad PR … we should set the record straight.

And, you know, not so much with the Irish either … so, let’s talk about his history as an enslaved Roman from Wales instead and just skip the part where he’s in Ireland. You know, because what the hell good is cultural context when it gets in the way of a good week of appropriation to a self-consciously politically aware tradition such as Reclaiming? And, you know, the source culture is historically oppressed so the less said about where we appropriate … er, respectfully honor and celebrate … it from the better.

Oh, and St. Patrick will now be St. Patricia [contra], because any male role that’s more dangerous than or different than sex toy or buffoon threatens an welcome level of self-examination. After all, it’s easier to stay in control of the bloody mess of revolution if instead of changing the system one simply exchanges dictators. The history of actual revolutions [see] not withstanding, of course; but, we’ve already established the inconvenience of research.

Oh, man, I’ve got to stop before I go on a rant. Ugh. Too late.

I get it; I do. But, what a horrid disservice to the richness of the source material to do Magdalene in name only. It’s like the worst example of a Hollywood translation from book to screen [also, et] … but, I offer the selected quotes from the announcement e-mail above as an example of the looseness with which such things are treated, which honestly surprises me at least as much as I understand it as an act of reclaiming and Reclaiming.

I mean, really, Magdalene as a priestess, sure, but of friggin’ Isis?! A woman in a self-consciously pro-Jewish, anti-Roman faction was the priestess of what by that time was a syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian goddess?! Asherah will be pissed when she hears about this. Asherah gets stood up on Prom night … again!? And, I can really see in my mind’s and heart’s eye Magdalene going medieval on someone if they said to her face that Jesus had nothing to do with her story. She’s the real first disciple, to my own mind … and disciples tend to be focused on, oh, I don’t know … something other than themselves.

Don’t get me started on the irony of a retelling of a story about the loss of the Beloved that self-consciously scrubs out the Beloved. Don’t get me started on the irony of Reclaiming selecting a story and modifying an authentic Herstory in such a way that it silences the voice of the central female out of expediency and convenience because of a political and religious agenda.

I really do get the deep and dire need to take control of social, religious and political narrative because of the magical sympathy and contagion between consciousness and reality mediated and changed through narrative. I also get that the story doesn’t really matter in the end because the real work is about coming together in a religious and political collective to do community sustaining ritual and organizing. But, how sad that to achieve these goals means sanitizing a story to the point of denaturing it.

I think Magdalene, by which I mean that aspect of her fullness with which I have a relationship, and I will both sit this one out. While others are off at camp, we’ll commiserate over the loss of our Beloveds, dear Magda for what’s-his-name and I for Reclaiming. And, when camp is over, maybe we could get together over tea for a post-mortem on our various experiences. Let’s be sure to do that and remember to invite the gardener. Maybe some time around Ostara?

Rowling’s new hero is Orpheus

This is both interesting and exciting news. I’ve enjoyed Canongate’s Myth series so far, although I admit to not having read the most recent releases. Now, it appears that maybe a bit classic hero is in store for J. K. Rowling, via “Rowling to work her magic on Greek hero Orpheus?“:

London, July 23 (ANI): Now that the final Harry Potter book is out, publishing firm Canongate is hoping to get its hands on author JK Rowling, and persuade her to tell the tale of legendary Greek hero Orpheus.

Rowling, who studied Greek and Roman mythology at Exeter University in the 1980s, has already expressed a wish to cover the classics, and now Canongate wants to make her wish come true.

If Rowling does agree, then it will also be a coup for the Edinburgh-based publishers, who will be able to boast of having her amongst its ranks of celebrity writers who have contributed to its best-selling Myths series.

Update 28jul07 @ 7:47am:

Via Wizard News, CBC News reports:

Author J.K. Rowling has revealed she’s already working on two new books, just days after her final Harry Potter book was released to the world.

“One is for children and the other is not for children,” was all she divulged in an interview with USA Today.

So, that’s two others likely not including the one that Canongate wishes Rowling would write for them?

Waiting for The Tin Man

No, not “thin” but “tin” …

Apparently, there’s a retelling of Oz in miniseries form coming in December to the Sci Fi channel. Staring Zooey Dechanel as DG and Alan Cummings as the title role. I hope it’s a good one. Check out more at Slice of Scifi.

I could see someone like Peter Jackson taking on the whole series of books, especially the first 6 of them, as a whole series of movies or shows. That sure would be something to see.

Canongate’s Myths series gets two new titles.

Quite some time ago, I ran across something about a series of books that would be re-interpretations of classical myths by modern authors. The first of these books would be Margaret Atwood re-interpreting the Homer’s Odyssey from the viewpoint of Penelope. Turns out, while I wasn’t paying attention, The Penelopiad was published.

Not only that, but the second in the series was published and I’m even more excited about this entry into the series. Jeanette Winterson is the author of Weight which is about Hercules and Atlas. Atlas appears in some of her other works, so that’s interesting.

I had not heard of Winterson before I saw a stage adaptation of some of her work done by a former PALOD colleague done at a series of plays by students at Evergreen. It was very moving and well done, and so I was interested in finding out more about Winterson’s work. Now, I have even more reason.

The publisher has a page about the series. Apparently the next two are about Theseus and Sampson. I hope these live up to the excitement I get when thinking about them. This series is a great opportunity to re-connect with the massive store of metaphor and theme that exist in the world’s cultural heritage, and of which the post-modern world seems only marginally conscious.

Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

There is a new project to retell myths, a project from many authors, in a series of works. The first will be Margaret Atwood retelling the story of Penelope.

[source] Authors take on Herculean task of retelling the world’s ancient myths – Britain – Times Online

The venture will involve 35 publishers worldwide and some of their best-known authors are rewriting the ancient myths, whether Greek, Aztec, Hindu, Norse, biblical or African, to show how the stories remain as relevant as ever.

The authors have been given no brief, beyond taking a myth of their choice and writing a 30,000-word story based on its gods, superhumans and larger-than-life characters.