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Observations After A Month of Half-Blood Wankery. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Observations After A Month of Half-Blood Wankery.

Well. By now I think we all know and have internalised the narrative of what befell, last month. Under a Scottish sky, lashed by a keen, Scots wind, the much-loved Grand Old Man ended his career, not without dignity; the Chosen One, the new youthful hope whom many see as too good to be true, prevailed without his occasional, off-putting petulance and childish temperament issues; and a slightly older, blonder rival, also not alien to petulance and tantrum, fell tantalisingly short of his goal even whilst inspiring an unwonted sympathy in some of his long-time detractors.

But enough about the Open, Nicklaus, Woods, and Montgomerie. For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, And tell sad stories of the Half-Blood Prince.

These are rambling observations, not rising to the dignity of an ‘essay’.

I have now had the opportunity to look at the US version as well as to read the UK version of HBP. (In fact, one rather wonders if there is a British version. ‘Pants’ can be forced by the reader to not mean trousers where it seems on the face of it misused in the new book, but when did the bloody bog become a ‘bathroom’ in the Queen’s English?) I also observe that there are reported copies missing the entire first chapter, in the US, and there are certainly problems with the plates in the first few chapters (‘site’ for ‘sight’ and other Mistakes, Tyros, For the Use Of). And there are whole sentences that differ in the versions.

To that, allow me to warn against our putting too much weight on the apparently startling aside that would have Blaise as black. Given the obvious cock-up with the batch of galley-proofs that would have contained ‘site’ and this alike (or, alternately, given that the compositor in charge of printing this block of text trained at the Grauniad), we may yet find, even a month on (which is how long I’ve been sitting on this essay), that this is a misprint (black-haired, black-avised, black-tempered: there are plenty of possibilities).

Now, this doesn’t particularly exercise me in any case, though it is rather like hearing that the Patil twins are oh-by-the-way only, say, one-quarter Indian (or Anglo-Indian) and three-quarters Scots and Irish, and have red hair; if Zabini is black, well and good, it balances Slytherin’s overall pallor and shows that, notwithstanding Lee, Dean, and Angelina, Gryffindor is not the only racially integrated House at Hogwarts with black members (as Ravenclaw seems to be integrated with Chinese yan). I do admit that Harry – whose coign of vantage we are supposed to share – is commonly much more observant of the physical attributes of his male schoolmates than is implied by his only now thinking to notice this rather obvious attribute (ahem. I will not here discuss whether this proceeds from the fact that JKR is a woman and describes male characters with more detail as a result, or from the oft-canvassed suggestion that Harry is a complete poofter whose Next Great Struggle after the War will be to come out – at least to himself). But in neither event does Blaise’s outer integument matter to me.

My caution against putting such weight on what may be a misprint, however, stems from the apparent fact that this matters a very great deal indeed to many people in this fandom. I note in passing that they are almost all North American. Look here, damn it, if what moves you to write is, let us say, a passionate wish to use blood status as a metaphor for racialism, whilst underlining the piquancy that there is no colour bar in the Wizarding world, ‘purebloodedness’ having replaced ‘whiteness’ as the measure, then off you go to write that, and Godspeed to you. (I don’t know why this couldn’t have been done with the black characters we already had, up to and including Kingsley, which is why I’m a bit surprised by the Blaise issue: at this point, it’s the Italians who are underrepresented: but if your Muse happens to be a chap whose European ancestors moved from Tuscany to Nice-Marseilles-Savoie and then to French Algeria, and whose racially mixed ancestors then went to, say, French West Africa, and thence to England, well, so be it.) But – well, it all comes down to canon, does it not.

You see, I’m starting with the Blaise Issue for a reason, and that is that it has caused a flap out of all proportion to its importance. It is symbolic. It is symptomatic of how fandom does create huge screaming issues out of the merest asides.

The question is, Why?

I do have an answer. We’ll come back to that.

Let me first, though, discuss some other and parallel cases.

Many, many people in fandom are evidently very angry indeed with JKR and what she has done with the characters and themes in this new instalment. Well, I freely admit I am very displeased myself. I’m simply appalled that the plural of ‘horcrux’ is not printed as ‘horcruces’. I am dumbfounded by the woman’s sheer gall in expecting us to drop the Open and the start of the Ashes Test matches to read her book, and to take time away from Cowes Week and indeed Glorious Goodwood to finish discussing it during the ensuing month (damned nuisance, always, finishing up Goodwood and having to dash to Cowes. These things want to better organised). I suppose Book Seven will be – cruelly and of malice aforethought – timed to disrupt Royal Ascot or to conflict directly this time with the Glorious Twelfth.

I am also, obviously, being facetious. Judging by the tenor of much reaction to Book Six, however, there are probably people out there who think the author had a hand in the first round of Tube bombings and sent a poisoned advance copy of the new book to Ted Heath.

But we’ll come back to this.

Before we try to get a better, clearer, calmer, and more rational glimpse of the forest, we want, first, to become rather better at looking at the trees.

Let me begin with some matters that have exasperated me for years. However JKR came to know these things – I can’t imagine that it was whilst she was up at that redbrick institution in Exeter – she does ask something more of the reader than she’s generally getting back. It must be incredibly annoying for an author to have to tell the adult reader who William Topaz McGonagall was, so that the reader gets the joke. It must bring her to despair that not one reader in a thousand sees the name ‘Creevey’ attached to a snap-taking hero-worshipper and catches the reference to the Radical diarist (and bastard of Lord Sefton’s) who turned into Wellington’s greatest (and most annoying) fanboy. (The duke must surely be the first commander to have fought a climactic battle in a world war whilst surrounded by day-trippers come to watch the fun or at least to dine in Brussels before the big show.) And I cannot imagine the sheer gobsmackedness of having to answer incessant queries about the sex of a character who bears a Christian name that has always and invariably been male (what sort of damned fool, ignorant alike of Pascal and of Bleys or Blaise of Northumberland, Merlin’s legendary tutor, could not have known from the beginning that Zabini was a boy? It defies belief).

I expect, from this, that a goodish bit of the new book will go right over the heads of many, many purportedly adult and sophisticated readers as well. Indeed, the signs are there already.

For example, the Muggle PM. Do pay attention, you lot. The PM from and after 28 November 1990 through any period in 1996 in which the events of Book Six could occur was John Major. Not Tony Blair. Good, grey John Major, caricatured so often as being the man of the grey and dingy Y-fronts. (Sound familiar?) And all the while, with a secret: namely, that he was having it off with that mad cow Edwina Currie. Am I suggesting that JKR is writing political satire? Not at all, even though Minerva is modelled in part on Margaret Thatcher by JKR’s own statement. (A pause whilst the tinfoil-hat flat-’ats have the vapours and resolve never to admire McGonagall again.) But I shudder to imagine how many people did not ‘get’ the exquisite image of John Major’s having to call in Norman Lamont to try to pry a picture from the wall. (He ought to have set both Lamont and Lamont’s eventual successor as Chancellor, then-Education Secretary Kenneth Clarke, to the task. That’s a lot of brawn, there.) Also, ‘wretched man’ is not as pejorative in English as it apparently is in American; it can be used of a close friend whose delay has resulted in minor annoyance, after all, just as ‘wretched’ weather can mean common or garden rain, and God knows that’s not out of the way in England.

(I pause to reflect upon the awful possibility that some redbrick undergraduate has just been inspired to write an essay in which Major-Snape and McGonagall-Thatcher so exhaust themselves in infighting, watched laughingly by Dumbledore-as-Ted-Heath, that Harry Blair slips in and becomes the Chosen One.)

I shall move on in haste from that horrid concept. Now. Slughorn.

A slughorn is – what? Does anyone know? No? Alas. I shall explain. It’s a war-cry. Specifically, it is a clan war-cry, generally in Gaelic: Cruachan, say, for the damned Campbells, or the MacFarlanes’s Loch Sloy, or the Chattanach’s Clan Chattan, or MacAlpine’s Cuimhnich bas Ailpein (‘Remember the death of Alpin!’). A more fully anglicised version of the term is, of course, ‘slogan’. Heraldically – and obviously, Horace (surely you’ve enough Latin to see why that Christian name is appropriate) Slughorn is very interested in this subject – the slughorn is a part of the achievement of arms for a Scots armiger, consisting of the scroll upon which the war-cry or family motto is displayed, which, in Scots arms, overarches the crest (English practise is to display a motto-scroll at the base of the compartment). So we have – and at least the Lyon Office will chuckle – a new character devoted to good living (Horace) and good breeding (Slughorn).

Interesting in itself, but more evocative to those who’ve encountered the figure before. In fact, Slughorn is an avatar of a particular type of Oxbridge don – well, I say ‘Oxbridge’, presumably they’ve this sort at Fenlands Poly Cambridge, at least at Trinity, and probably at King’s, John’s, and, say, Peterhouse – who is now well-entrenched in fiction: a social snob, a College Worthy and University Character, usually in fiction a scientist with no use for the poons who are his fellow scientists, often a gourmand, almost always a wine-snob, with a keen eye for doing himself well and a keener eye for handsome and well-bred young men, and master of the Old Boy Net. Despite his comic side, he generally turns out in a pinch to be a formidable man of science. Classic samples are Mark Bultitude in Innes’s Operation Pax (titled, in the US, The Paper Thunderbolt, I gather) and William ‘Bill the Blizzard’ Hingest in the last volume of Jack Lewis’s space trilogy, That Hideous Strength. (Note: no gay Balliol worthies of the previous century were harmed in the writing of this paragraph.)

And here we come to yet another level of sophistication that JKR asks of the reader (and is not generally receiving from him). Having invoked an archetype, JKR then toys with him. His Horatian side is hardly affected: from safe-house to Slug Club, old Slughorn does himself well in terms of Sabine feasting, roses, garlands, and Falernian. But as a war-cry, a slughorn, Horace is the most uncertain trumpet imaginable. And it’s simply sickening that far too many readers haven’t the critical and cultural apparatus to see and feel that tension, and gently to explain it to the young intake of readers.

Look. JKR loves place-names and surnames and the evocative, and is – perhaps subconsciously – more subtle than might be thought. I have, as those of you who’ve been reading my chaptered story at AT will have some inkling, a deep and meaningful relationship, myself, with maps and local history obsessions.

As a result, some conclusions, hints, and speculations emerge that you may take as you list.

Somerset dialect uses ‘rode’ where the Queen’s English would use ‘rid’ or – especially and less archaically – ‘ridden’. Over-indulgence in Somerset cider will leave a man ‘hag-rode’.

Also, it is in Somerset that the dialect term for a bee is ‘dumbledore’. (Bumble, humble, dumble: all are ‘bee’ stems, and ‘dor’ may derive either from ‘dore’ or ‘d’or’, golden.) Also in Somerset, a will-o’-the-wisp, believed to be the soul of a child who died before being baptised, is called a ‘hunky-punk’ (not ‘hinky’). I would set Albus’s roots in Somerset, myself.

There is a rather extensive population of Pruit(t)s, Prewitts, and Prewetts in Wiltshire and just across the county border in Hampshire, near Shipton Bellinger. Work it out for yourselves, with the Black lineage in mind, as to Molly and the Malfoys.

Flitwick is a smallish town in Bedfordshire, just off the M1, between Ampthill and Luton. It is in the Mid-Beds district council area, and the region is painfully historic, being on the Icknield Way, Britain’s oldest road (travelled since the Neolithic period: trade is an ancient activity). Many area landmarks are said to have inspired Bunyan’s imagined locales in Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s a Saxon settlement of no little antiquity, and worth researching.

It’s generally conceded that the Longbottoms are from Lancs. Pendle has been suggested because of its witching history; I made Nev a ‘fighting Quaker’ due to the lengthy history of the Friends in the area. It is interesting in this context to look at the country round: Clitheroe, the Forest of Bowland, the Forest of Pendle, and All That: in part because just over in W Yorks, in Ribblesdale, are such place-names as Long Preston and Long Gill (moving East to West). It makes a Long Bottom very possible as a regional site, moving Westwards into eastern Lancs. Also, North-Northwest of Clitheroe, there is Fair Snape Fell. Heaven only knows what infant terrors that impressed on Neville, which were thereafter exacerbated by his Potions beak, Severus Snape.

Speaking of whom…. Although there is a Snape Green in Lancs, near Southport, and a Snape in Suffolk, near Aldeburgh and Saxmundham, I plump for Snape in what is now N Yorks as Severus’s ancestral home, there between Bedale, Masham, and Thirsk. Catherine Parr dwelt at Snape Castle before marrying Henry 8th. The Castle Arms is a real-ale pub in Snape, which warms me to the area. Besides, Riddlesden is in W Yorks. (Irony, that.) In fact, Bedale is in the old wapentake and later Petty Sessions Division of Hang East (and where was it again that we sited Little Hangleton, hmm?). Northallerton is the nearest place of consequence, and it was certainly an early industrial centre, and Richmond is none so far away. Mostly, Snape strikes me as thrawn enough to be from a Bedale family. Somehow, the Snape Mires seem an appropriate setting for his father’s line. And there’s no reason not to put a mill town in the area, making shoddy and carpets, with Spinner’s End and All That. A Dales family uprooted and exiled to a mill town is precisely the sort of family that, in its deracination, creates a political radical who joins a dangerous group – and is desperate to hide his origins (and create a more princely background for himself).

I don’t go so far with all this as to suggest that Binns is from Burntisland in Fife, though. Like Sprout’s, his surname is an obvious jest.

Pontefract, in W Yorks, is the source of the name ‘Pomfrey’. Lockhart is a Scots Borders name, and Trelawney is Cornish.

Sigh. I don’t much care for quoting myself, but just this week, it was asked, ‘What inspires you?’, and my answer there may shed light here.

I said,

Inspiration for me can come from conversations overheard on a rural ’bus (I often take them precisely to hear intriguing dialogue) or at a parish fete; from a certain play of light on the land; from all the poetry and fiction of the past that crams the lumber room of my mind, be it Vergil or Barbara Pym or the Prayer-Book, Waugh or Betjeman or Dunbar. The food of the writer is the writings of others. Not infrequently, I’m moved by contraries, moved to write by reading fic that provokes me to bloody-mindedness by its sheer wrong-headedness: there are ways in which, I freely admit, my writing GIGH was really simply one long Brit-Pick.

But fundamentally, I write Potterfic because I am moved by ‘mere Englishry’. The Potterverse is a fairy-tale and its archetypes speak to us all on a deep level, surely, but it speaks to me most insofar as it reflects and comically distorts, as in a funfair mirror, through a glass darkly, a timeless England (and Scotland in parts). Yes, my relationship to the canon is that of an Irregular to the Sacred Writings (of JH Watson as edited by Conan Doyle, as all Sherlockians will attest); but my inspiration? My inspiration is an England, or perhaps a Great Britain, that ‘never truly was, but is always’, a Betjemanic England of comic suburbs and country lanes, village cricket and village bands playing concerts on the village green. Of pony clubs and real-ale pubs. Of parish jumbles and peal-ringing and poppies on Remembrance Day, amateur theatricals and the village Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Had JKR not put Draco in Wilts and the Weasleys in Devon, perhaps I shd never have become involved....

But that is my inspiration. My delight is the delight of filling in the backstory with tartly Presbyterian McGonagalls and Albus’s sweets coming from a shop in Dundee and Hagrid’s cabbages taking a prize at the Aviemore Show, with Mop-Fairs for House Elves and market days and the need to preserve the Statute of Secrecy in the face of WI meetings and sales of work for the Mothers’s Union. It is in supplementing Wizarding London with underground docks at the Isle of Crups and Aurors in Q Division having as their ‘manor’ the Erumpent and Castle district. My inspiration is, with the occasional Scots fillip, simply England.

It’s a niche, I know that. It will leave me forever a Very Small Name Fan, wh is all right by me. But in however minor a key, it is mine, the particular vision that comes to me, and that is really all one can ever say.

Now to other matters, that are worth adverting to here but that I’ve covered elsewhere (see, e.g., my Wine essay at BT).

I wish to put this as kindly as possible. It was the American writer Mark Twain who said that the difference between the right word and the almost-right word was the difference ‘between the lightning, and the lightning-bug’. In this as in every context, Google or Teoma is your friend, and this is trebly so when you are attempting to evoke, say, the ‘sophistication’ of, say, Draco (parvenu though the Malfoys be). As I’ve noted in the BT essay on U and Non-U, this fanon trope of ‘Wizarding Armani’ conveys precisely the opposite to the aimed-at sophistication; if bespoke tailors have Wizarding Departments, your Wizarding aristocrat will toddle over to Gieves & Hawkes, instead.

Similarly, in otherwise well-written fanfics by reputable authors, I have recently seen:
– Draco made to show off his sophisticated tastes in art by casually noting that he owns a canvas by a Thomas Kinkade, whom I looked up on the Net and who appears to go by the self-granted and trademarked title, The Painter of Light; and
– Draco made to show off his sophisticated palate by offering Harry a special port … from Tuscany.

I repeat. Search engines are your friend. If you want a painter-o’-light, may I suggest Jan Vermeer of Delft? Or Aelbert Cuyp van Dordrecht?

Port is from Portugal, full stop. Sherry is from Jerez in Spain, full stop. Champagne is from Champagne, and the French will prosecute anyone who filches the name. Hugh Johnson is on the Net, and these things are readily determinable.

And then there’s the titles-and-heraldry mess. Oh, dear. Suffice it to say, the art department of Warner Bros are not heralds, and their odd designs are heraldic impossibilities. Again, there are ample resources on the Net for these things.

And of course, particularly, there is the Britpicking Forum at FA and HP Essays here and all sorts and conditions of fen resources. You might be astounded at the various expertises your fellow fen have, and will willingly share. I can only beg anyone planning to ‘posh-up’ (shudder) a story to ASK FIRST. It will benefit all concerned.

And the point of all this overtly disconnected rambling?


The point is that so much of what seems glaringly obvious in the canon is missed, particularly the jokes (what is the traditional British quality as opposed to French flightiness? Phlegm, which is being used in HBP as a call-name with which to mock … a French witch who is the opposite of phlegmatic. What is the traditional hallmark of Englishness? A tolerance for and embrace of glorious eccentricity. What, however, is the most odd, unusual, abnormal, and eccentric characteristic of the Dursleys? Their freakish eccentricity in making a fetish of not being eccentric). At the same time, all sorts of loads that the structure was never designed to bear – namely, the common politicised obsessions of the average JCR (Balliol or Wadham JCR, at that, or redbrick) – are being placed upon the works.

I blame the bloody Frogs.

Specifically, I blame the fou, cauld, easily-derided lackwits of Deconstructionsim and Post-Modernism, who, despite their formulations’s having been refuted decades before they were crafted (in the first chapter of Jack Lewis’s The Abolition of Man, and in Chapter Nine of his That Hideous Strength: ‘The physical sciences, good and innocent in themselves, had already, even in Ransom’s own time, begun to be warped, had been subtly manœuvred in a certain direction. Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists; indifference to it, and a concentration upon mere power, had been the result’), still exert a sway over the half-educated and remain the fad of every redbrick SCR (all American universities, by definition, are redbrick). The incomprehensions that currently beset much of fandom stem from a habit of mind that thinks in terms of subversion and privilege (and regards the former as laudable and the latter as pejorative, which is precisely converse to any good Tory worldview [chuckle]).

Look here, damn it all. Whatever else JKR is doing, she’s writing something very like thrillers or detective stories. (I like the Yank term, ‘mysteries’, because in their use of personified humours and Everyman, and in their moral universe in which good triumphs and justice reigns, detective stories are today’s mystery plays and miracle plays.) People forget that the modern idea of fanfiction arose from the Baker Street Irregulars: every time you refer, my dear friends, to ‘canon’, you are echoing the Sherlockian attitude to the ‘Sacred Writings’. And there is a particular way in which we are to read detective stories. There are conventions of the genre, and they must be recognised, even if only so that we can recognise when they are reversed upon us, as was so, most famously, in Roger Ackroyd. They are there to be relied on and accepted alike by reader and author, just as much as is the alphabet, and for the same reason, namely, that such agreed first principles are the necessary basis of any communication. That is why what is wanted is not the mental habit of Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan, but of Jacques Barzun – the only classical French Man of Letters to be a critic of the mystery genre – and JIM Stewart – not in his capacity as Oriel man, Student of Christ Church, University Reader in English, critic of Kipling and Conrad, and author of the final volume of the OHEL, but rather in his capacity as ‘Michael Innes’, Golden Age detective writer and creator of Sir John Appleby, Assistant Commissioner (Crime) of the Metropolitan Police.

From that perspective, then, let’s talk abt the roiling issues and the latest rows, shall we?

I mentioned Roger Ackroyd for a reason. Harry’s not an unreliable narrator (or, rather, limited-point-of-view-character), but he is limited. He’s no Holmes or Alleyn or Fr Brown or Gideon Fell, he’s more a man of action in the Bulldog Drummond line, and like Watson, he ‘sees but does not observe’. So many of the things that ‘came out of left field’, as I’ve seen it described (well, whinged), are unexpected developments only because Harry has not been paying attention to the interim steps. This includes such contentious issues as Ginny and Tonks and numerous other personal relationships. In one sense, Harry is surprisingly good at seeing to the heart of things and of people: as early as CoS, he was the one who could guess precisely how Hagrid could have been manipulated, down the pub, into compromising the secret of getting past Fluffy. But in many and vy important ways, especially if he is himself a factor, he is totally oblivious to emotional issues a-brewing.

Also, people today seem not to understand the point of a serial, unlike the readers who queued for copies of The Strand awaiting the next chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Need I remind us all that Book Six is but one-half of the final ‘chapter’ here?

Most importantly, though, I confess myself at a loss to understand why people insist upon certainty with half the dénouement yet unpublished at this point, and why they think that they – we – can at this moment reach any conclusions abt such events as Albus’s death, Snape’s loyalties, Draco’s ultimate fate, and so on. If there were fewer folks trying to act as if they were (perhaps they are, poor sods) lecturers in English Literature at a polytechnic, and more fen who were detective story readers, I shd not need to point out the blazingly obvious. Which is, We are in the midst, medias res, of the culmination of the story. Its setting at the climactic moment of this part of that final episode is awash in Polyjuice, stuffing with love potions, infiltrated by the enemy. Whilst ignorant armies clash by night and there is so much confused action going on that any good detective story writer can pull off all the sleight of hand she likes and plant all sorts of clues and misdirections, we are watching an interaction, through the limited viewpoint of a paralysed teen, between the two most accomplished Occlumenses and Legilimenses in Wizard-dom, we cannot presume to know the context of their spoken interactions, and we are assuredly not privy to their unspoken and telepathic conversation.

And people are taking entrenched positions and screaming at each other as if they actually are sure of what is going on, all whilst layering all manner of morals and symbols and politico-literary positions on the scaffolding of what they think is happening?

What unutterable folly.

I don’t comprehend it. Then, there’s much in this fandom I don’t comprehend: announced ‘pro-Slytherins’ who ‘hate Dumbledore’ because ‘he’s manipulative’. People who scream loudly against moral certainties and the arrogance of [insert political rubbish here] and the pigheadedness of ‘Jesusland’ or ‘Tory Middle England’ and go about preaching the virtues of uncertainty, relativism, and all, quoting Noll Cromwell (‘think that you may be mistaken’) – and then adopt absolutist positions of canon interpretation at this of all deliberately confused junctures, get in wanks over them, defend them in the last ditch, and generally carry on like a Stuart monarch who’s just had the Divine Right of Kings questioned to his face.

A little less arrogance wd do none of us any harm (and I freely admit it’s my own worst besetting sin). In any case, will you please realise that we are none of us in a position – only JKR is in a position – at this point in the narrative to stake out positions and defend them, saying, This and no other thing is what is happening here? Christ, you lot, we don’t know even who was who around half Hogwarts half the time, in Book Six.

I repeat: If people are taking entrenched positions and screaming at each other as if they actually are sure of what is going on, all whilst layering all manner of morals and symbols and politico-literary positions on the scaffolding of what they think is happening, it is unutterable folly.

I suggest a healthy dose of agnosticism until Book Seven comes out.

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16 comments or Leave a comment
darkthirty From: darkthirty Date: August 26th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay Tiger Woods. And thanks for reading my thoughts about Rowling, btw!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 26th, 2005 10:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, Well.

You were as always well-spoken, well-reasoned, and thought-provoking.

I simply have concluded that a number of folk are over-egging the pudding and over-intellectualising things to the point at whuch they've hold of the wrong end of the stick. Or wand. I'm not at all being, or at least I don't mean to be, personal, ad hominem, or discourteous towards anyone.
bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: August 27th, 2005 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
It is symptomatic of how fandom does create huge screaming issues out of the merest asides.
Word. I remember almost up to 200 posts long thread on FAP about Hermione being racist (read: KKK mask wearing, torch waving and blacks shooting racist), because of her off-hand remark she's not falling for Firenze because she doesn't like horses. And well, he does have four legs.
Which was quite accurate description, but caused a huge fandom wank. Made me dust of my soc-communication theory and analise the paragraph to show the sheer nonsense of such accustions. Bah - I had 2 people agree with me :)

Same goes with House-Elves. Every second American seeing any mention of Dobby screams "Slavery!" and is going to start another Civil War. The small fact of, oh, twenty or more other possible kinds of dependency, tenancy or whatever, does not carry much meaning in such case.
Actually this made me write my latest story "Fair Treatment" (no, the pimpage was not planned, just remembered).

It must bring her to despair that not one reader in a thousand sees the name ‘Creevey’ attached to a snap-taking hero-worshipper and catches the reference to the Radical diarist (and bastard of Lord Sefton’s) who turned into Wellington’s greatest (and most annoying) fanboy.

Fascinating. I'm, of course, one of these 999. Thanks!

The PM from and after 28 November 1990 through any period in 1996 in which the events of Book Six could occur was John Major.

Quite so. There's a tiny Flint there, as his predecessor, who tried to throw Fudge through the window is describes as "he". However, it's so much IC for Iron Maggie, that the omission of "s" might be considered a typo.

I expect, from this, that a goodish bit of the new book will go right over the heads of many, many purportedly adult and sophisticated readers as well.
*rises hand*

As a self-proclaimed Britophile I admit I like JKR works for their Britishness. They do scream "British!" to me. Well, they don't scream, they're not Italian, but they make it generally known without the need of screaming. However, I'm able to get only the most shallow of references and I'm fascinated by the threads you've just unwrapped. In my defence I may ony say that I do use my Google when writing and try to avoid the greatest pitfalls.
Bwahah, I did check a proper Foreign Secretary for a time-period, go me. The question (which I'd rather have unanswered) is what glaring mistakes I did make, because it never occurred to me that there may be a problem? Forgive me for writing so much about my own little stories, but yours are very valid points. And from my personal experience I can say that the cultural aliens may often have very sophisticated knowledge about certain areas, better in fact than an average local, yet be absolutely blind in the "obvious" matters.

And yes, there are v. many willing to hep people in Britishism forum. Which makes me say, repeatedly, that JKR deserves her OBE for promoting British culture, more than many other (and apart from the taxes revenue). I'm pretty sure not so many people would ask about intricacies of UK schooling system, if they didn't need it for their stories.

Suffice it to say, the art department of Warner Bros are not heralds, and their odd designs are heraldic impossibilities.

Oh yes, very much so. BTW, please correct me, but do you think that if we don't want to introduce bronze as a third metal, we have to make Ravenclaw eagle "proper" to stick to JKR description? Same will be with Hufflepuff badger? (If I'm right, than Jo's hasn't done her homework either :) We will forgive her, anyway)

bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: August 27th, 2005 12:54 am (UTC) (Link)

And continued...

there are ways in which, I freely admit, my writing GIGH was really simply one long Brit-Pick.

Yes, it's rather obvious (did you have to call the colonel "Bellows"!?) :))
As I slowly make my way through it, I must admit I don't understand a better half of it. I'm "good enough" to spot the references. I know they're there, but most often have no idea what do they mean.
But your writing has one more "British" trait, which you share with JKR, but unfortunately not with 11/12 of fandom, the trait you haven't mentioned above. Namely delightful, ironical sense of humour, of not taking oneself fully seriously, of being able to distance oneself from his/her own precious person and even more precious creation. That's the feature, which I consider not exclusively, but typically British, and which make me read quite a lot of Brit literature (but don't question me on it; I'll be ashamed to admit how little in fact I have read of it.)
So even though most of GIGH is way above me, I'm still chuckling as I progress through it.

And a Dumb Question of the Year, just to show you my ignorance, but get a bit of knowledge at the same time: does pink gin gets its name from the actual colour of the coctail?
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: August 27th, 2005 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: And continued...

Well as for as some of the references go, an annotated version may be one it's way and Chapter one is currently being discussed at the Yahoo group about what may need clarfication for non-Brits. Care to join us?
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 27th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)


Do thou go forth and evangelise, my child.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: August 27th, 2005 01:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Amen.

*bobs* Yessir. Am I one of the only ones that didn't actually care that Blaise is black? It was very much a case of oh shit. Got that one very wrong. Shrugs. I actually missed it on first reading.

Dean and Angelina black, the Patil twins are probably Asian, Cho's Japanese/Korean. And it doesn't bloodymatter as they are all British (or whatever. We only know that Dean is actually English). More fuss is being made about characters' ethnicity than is called for.

bufo_viridis From: bufo_viridis Date: August 27th, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Amen.

Cho's Japanese/Korean
Betting heavily she's Chinese. It's hard to find more typical Chinese surname then Chang. She might be Korean, but almost for sure not Japanese.

More fuss is being made about characters' ethnicity than is called for.
Because now for the book to be suitable for children, it must contain no less than 8% of minorities; the characters should vote 35% Labour, 33% Tory, 22% Liberal; mentioned should be 2.7% Muslim, 1%Hindi, 23% unspecified/atheist, but under no circumstances no 71% Christian etc.
Political correctness, how I love thee.

W/regard to your previous post, yes, why not, I will; seems our host doesn't mind v. much.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: August 27th, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Amen.

Betting heavily she's Chinese. It's hard to find more typical Chinese surname then Chang. She might be Korean, but almost for sure not Japanese

I stand corrected. :) Link's is in <lj user="weymss"?'s sidebar.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 27th, 2005 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm Not Bitter(s).

Thank you for yr kind words.

To answer the two questions for now (am vy busy gloating as England enforce the follow-on against the Aussies), one, JKR is less incompetent than Warner Bros, but she can't blazon arms correctly either, you're quite right. And, two, no no NO, there shd never be so much angostura bitters in a pink gin as to render the decoction actually, well, pink. That wd be akin to making a martini w the proportions of gin and It (vermouth) reversed. Also, please to use only Plymouth gin (a stricture applicable to all gin drinks), as 'London' gin is effectively a mere grain spirit w no character.
avus From: avus Date: August 28th, 2005 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Super flumina Babylonis....

...when we remembered, thee, O Zion.

Haven't any more time than just to skim. Dear God, I've only read HBP once, and if I even noticed that Zabini was black, it didn't register. But then I have enough idiocies & tragedies come to my office, I guess I don't need fandom to fuel angst.

RL is so damn busy. Sigh. And looks to remain so. Tomorrow, at least, my wife & I and some friends will go to what promises to be a good & professional production of MacBeth, getting all my nastier impulses out. So many, in my evil heart, I think that nothing would become them....

Have you sung the Palestrina? Couldn't resist, given your tag. Beautiful, though after skimming your essay, my thoughts turned to Sicut cervus desiderat ad fontes aquarum... ...so longeth my soul after Thee, O Wemyss. For your good sense & good humor. (My Latin fails me again. Sung that one, too? Ah, well, don't tell anyone, but I prefer Byrd anyway.)

Probably not around lj much. But I'm getting to spend time w/ my grandson on a regular basis, and there's a lot to be said for that. May you & those you hold dear have similar & quiet joys.


wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 31st, 2005 08:22 am (UTC) (Link)

Enjoy the Grand-Sproglet.

We'll see you when and as we can, and be gladdened by it.
backinblack From: backinblack Date: August 30th, 2005 11:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh my God, yoou're the best person ever. I'm adding you.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 31st, 2005 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)

In the Immortal Phrase...

... Likewise, I'm sure.

Welcome to my odd world, and thank you.
backinblack From: backinblack Date: August 31st, 2005 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: In the Immortal Phrase...

Of course, I'm sure your impression of me would have been better if I hadn't typo'd in the comment. Such is life.

Thank you! :D
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 31st, 2005 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)

No, No.

You see, had you not mentioned it, I shd have that it was intentional, as in dialogue.

Besides, you're friends w Fran, my opinion of you cd hardly be any higher to begin with: Fran's imprimatur is top-notch.
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