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Initial reactions, observations, and even two bunnies, all from HP&tDH - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
wemyss
wemyss
Initial reactions, observations, and even two bunnies, all from HP&tDH

Well, I was right about Godric’s being from the West Country, and Godric’s Hollow’s being located there.  And I was right about the subtle catch in the early description of Hogsmeade as the only all­-Wizarding village: that meant, I theorised, that there were mixed communities out there, and so it was.  And, thank God, I was right that all this fanon rubbish about a paganowiccawacky Wizarding world was indeed nonsense: leaving aside the clear prayer-book echoes in the marriage service, the Potter epitaph is from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, the Dumbledores’s, from the Gospel according to St Matthew; and where Harry buries all that is left of Moody, he carves a cross.  I may say that seeing William Penn’s words as an epigraph, when I had used them quite some time ago in Chapter – Ten, was it? – of GIGH, was rather pleasing.  And I trust that we all of us had felt that the Gaunts and Peverells were going to be important, and all these lineages be of moment?

 

Mind you, what I guessed wrongly would fill volumes.

 

And yet, as I see the reactions coming in, I wonder, as I quite often do, if I and others were reading the same book.  I suppose that, in some sense that Heraclitus might recognise, we weren’t: everyone brings to the task of reading his own critical apparatus.  But that is not to grant that the subjectivist notion is anything more than the most tiresomely persistent of critical heresies.  Some things simply are: objectively.

 

In any event, I find myself rather at a loss to account for some of the reactions I have seen to Dumbledore’s past and to Hermione’s actions vis-à-vis her parents.  In the latter case, her desperate measures in desperate times were not to my mind despicable: similar measures were employed in shielding Jews, Roma, and other targeted groups from the Shoah / Porajmos / Holocaust.  (Yes, in retrospect, those measures may very often have overreached, but when the collaborationists, quislings, and Gestapo are at the door, the best is very much the enemy of the good, and, just as in warfare itself, a workable plan now is better than a perfect plan later.)  I suppose what is troubling some of the critics of Hermione’s actions, is that she acted with – it is presumed – imperfect consent, and the objects of her actions were adults?

 

As to Albus, I cannot quite understand the contentions made by some that he became and remained evil, or that he dabbled in the Dark Arts.  Partly I think this comes of not reading closely enough: Doge, as is not uncommon in writers of obituaries, and Skeeter, as is all too common in popular biographers, both represent narrators whose unreliability is high on the Roger Ackroyd scale.  (Muriel Prewett, of course, is simply a vicious old gossip, the Wizarding world’s answer to Marge Dursley.)  What we know for certain from Albus himself and from Aberforth is this.  Distrustful of Muggles and their fears of magic after what had happened to his sister, by extension to his father, and to his improbably-christened mother, Albus, for two scant and youthful months of his long life, fell into a folie-à-deux with an attractive friend (don’t tell me: Bathilda Bagshot’s Continental connexions were the Bathorys, what?), an episode of Victorian Schwarmerei, in which he and Gellert indulged naïve undergraduate fantasies of being philosopher-kings.  Albus, at least, reflects in his studies his membership in the more remote and emotionless of Snow’s Two Cultures, for Alchemy and its lesser cousin potions-making are the closest things in the Wizarding world to the hard and abstract – ‘pure’ – sciences, and Transfiguration is not far behind them: and I think that played a role.  Grindelwald later acted out everything that Popper, Hayek, and von Mises could have warned him would be the consequences of setting up as a Platonic tyrannos.  Albus realised, in a moment of horror and grief, what was implicit in the Platonic political ideal.

 

His reaction was more than a choosing of a quietism founded in a sort of via negativa.  It was a Kierkegaardian leap; and of course, while that is always an option, such a leap is in large measure a removal of oneself from the battleground.  It’s certainly not what one wants in a commander, which is what Albus was forced to become in later life.  Still, the materiality, consequence, and sincerity of that refusal of power, that self-denying ordinance, must not be underestimated.  ‘Self-respect,’ said Rabbi Heschel, ‘is the fruit of discipline, the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself’; and it was I believe Chesterton of all people who noted that, if Marcus Aurelius was concerned to show that a philosopher could manage to remain a philosopher even in a palace, it was the Buddha who demonstrated that a better philosopher would walk away from the palace, and abdicate the throne.  Most of Albus’s failures, and all of his moral victories, are the consequence of his repeated refusals of power, and his almost exaggerated reverence for law: as witness his refusal, whilst Chief Warlock, to act extra-judicially to free Sirius Black even in the face of Black’s extra-judicial and illegal incarceration.  The case ‘was not before him’; and the law – the principle – was more important.  I believe it was one of the authors of the American constitution who wrote that government would not be necessary were men angels, but, as they clearly were not, a government of laws, not of men, was the only specific against their becoming beasts – or demons.  This must be true a fortiori in a world in which there are hardly any State institutions, the State has no monopoly of lethal force, and effectively everyone over the age of eleven years, and all persons who’ve attained their majority, are armed.

 

More legitimately troubling is the possibility of reading Book Seven as suggesting that there ‘are certain things man isn’t meant to know, study or tamper with’: a reading that may be superficially supported by such incidents as Albus’s injuring himself by a rash seizure of the Gaunt-Peverell ring and its Resurrection Stone, so eager literally to ‘get his hands on’ some arcane knowledge that he forget that the damned thing was a horcrux.

 

But this is, as I note, a superficial reading.  Admittedly, Rowling has moments of apparent authorial anti-intellectualism: for one thing, she seems to have a particular animus against historians, of all innocent people with whom to pick a quarrel.  Nonetheless, I do not see that as operating here.  Albus’s greed was not a matter of episteme, but of techne.  Alchemy and Transfigurations may be amongst the ‘purer sciences’ of the magical art, but at the end of the day, all the magical arts are applied sciences, mere techne, seeking, like their twins the Muggle sciences, man’s ‘control of nature’.  Albus’s haste to seize the Resurrection Stone was not in itself evil: he did not wish to use it to raise an army of Inferi, say: but it was selfish, and unscholarly.  That is why he was injured.  The thirst, the greed, for academic glory and for the satisfaction of having manipulated nature is the last infirmity of noble mind, and it has consequences.  It is not scholarship that is dangerous, nor seeking to learn: it is seeking to learn methods, techne, mere manipulations, for base or selfish purposes, rather than as part of a disinterested search for truth, that ‘man isn’t meant to do’ – or else.  And even Albus could forget that, and act wrongly, and suffer the consequences.

 

Oh, well, at least, as witness his ghostly counsel on the platform at King’s Cross, that scar that was a map of the Underground was of some use.

 

Moving onwards, let me say that I hope over the next month or so to compile a list of possible Points of Divergence for AH in the now-completed canon.  In the interim, I offer two for the use of fellow H/D shippers, in which – although I agree that H/D can never be canon – the ship may be canon-compliant.  The first is to set any amount of possible futures in the period of Harry’s seeming death, all of them atemporal, outside time: the notion that he can take a sort of metaphoric return ticket on a train of alternate events departing King’s Cross and, upon his return, resume without delay his destiny and the canonical future laid out in the epilogue.

 

The second is something like this:

 

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

 

Nemesis seizes, with scalding laughter, upon such rash pronouncements.  So might a decorated old soldier of the Great War have thought, in ’37 or ’38, seeing his children off to school.  Their peace was at an end, though they knew it not: the dismal ending of a victory half-won, a society not reformed, a home not fit for heroes.  Harry Potter to one side of the platform, Draco Malfoy to the other: neither could see in the steam from the Express the shape of the onrushing disaster, a disaster that would leave them, within the year, yoked in uneasy harness, two widowers fighting once more – this time, together – for their children and their world.

 

Have at it.

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Comments
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: July 24th, 2007 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)

Hypnogogic Hallucinations

"...his improbably-christened mother...

That was my only major quibble. And Dolores Jane, of course, because my name is Jayne Delores.

I'd put H/D between the last chapter and the epilogue. A bit melancholy, but genes must be passed. And, as I like Viktor/Ginny, maybe to resume thirty years later, with purest courtly love in between.

The fallacy of linear time. The film Jacob's Ladder. Spirit walking (I hate spirit walking; thank God for clonazepam).

You write it, I'll read it. Deep thinking makes my brains ache...
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 21st, 2007 06:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hypnogogic Hallucinations

I agree with your only major quibble. My grand-daughter's middle name happens to be Kendra and she was utterly delighted that she shares it with Dumbledore's mother.
katiemorris From: katiemorris Date: August 21st, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hypnogogic Hallucinations

I agree with your only major quibble. My friend's grand-daughter's middle name happens to be Kendra and she was utterly delighted to find that she shares it with Dumbledore's mother.
katiemorris From: katiemorris Date: August 21st, 2007 06:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hypnogogic Hallucinations

Very weird to see my comment posted twice. I forgot to log in the first time, is the reason, and amended the comment to be correct the second, only to find them both posted. oh well.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: July 25th, 2007 08:42 am (UTC) (Link)
I suppose what is troubling some of the critics of Hermione’s actions, is that she acted with – it is presumed – imperfect consent, and the objects of her actions were adults?

Correct. That's my main objection.
ionaonie From: ionaonie Date: July 25th, 2007 10:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Out of all the things I have complained about with this book, neither of them featured at all. Like you, I think Hermione was acting desperately in a desperate time. She wanted to save her parents and it was the only way she could think of. I can certainly understand why she did it. And I liked the whole Dumbledore refuses power because he knows how much he craves it. Character flaw = more human. And he was a young man who suddenly became the breadwinner in the family and had to put his life on hold. Not surprising that he rebelled just a little bit. Doesn't mean he was evil.
ladylavinia From: ladylavinia Date: July 31st, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Admittedly, Rowling has moments of apparent authorial anti-intellectualism: for one thing, she seems to have a particular animus against historians, of all innocent people with whom to pick a quarrel.

I love history very much, but I DO have a problem with many historians myself. I am just beginning to learn that many of them have a tendency to distort the truth to serve their own agendas or prejudices. If Rowling does have an "animus" with historians, I can understand why.
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: August 11th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Just come across this: very sound, especially your analysis of Dumbledore (and, come to that, of Hermione. It's obviously not a decision to took easily or lightly - and I could understand her parents being angry at it - but the poor girl is doing the best she can to protect people who will otherwise be without protection and in severe danger. Being Crucio'd into insanity is an even more severe violation of your human rights).

And I do like your opening paragraph. Lots to go at there!
tree_and_leaf From: tree_and_leaf Date: August 11th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and thank you for sourcing the Potter epitaph. I'm ashamed to say that I couldn't place it (though I could do 'Where your treasure is...").

I did spot someone the other day moaning about how unspeakingly Roman Catholic DH was, although I'm blowed if I can see what was so specifically Papistical about it!

I'm still convinced that 'Kings Cross' is a deliberate theological joke, though.
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