February 06, 2014

Ron, Hermione, and True Love...

Quoted in an article on ThinkProgress, J.K. Rowling says, "I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That's how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron."

Alyssa Rosenberg, who wrote the article, goes on to say, "it is interesting to me that Rowling apparently regrets what I see as some of the most sensitively written and emotionally well-realized passages in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as an error of judgement." At the beginning of the article, she says, "It's frustrating, but probably inevitable in this age of voracious fandom, to see authors attempts to tweak, or litigate, or modify their work via interview long after the pages have gone to the printers and the work has wandered out into the world to be read and loved." 

All I can say is, Word. Sometimes I don't need to know every detail of the backstory. Sometimes it's what isn't explicitly stated that creates its own magic in a story; the unconscious resonance created by the layers being woven together, intentionally or unintentionally, and to change that might be to unravel the whole thing.

We talked about this a bit today in our writing group, using a recent Hunger Mountain article by Stephanie Friedman called "Conjuring the Magic of Story" as a point of departure. The idea of resonance as magical really, well, resonated. And I can't help but feel like, beyond a certain point, over-explanation dissipates the power of that magic. Sort of like, when you try too hard to explain a joke, it isn't funny anymore--humor and laughter being a kind of magic, too. The magic is an emergent property, the result of some mysterious, invisible alchemy that occurs between the writer and the words and the reader. And once it's out there, it's out there.

[I suspect that's one reason why sequels are a challenge: the writer has their experience of the story, but the reader's may well be different, and their expectations may not be met by what the writer writes next--and that's not the fault of the writer. It's not a fault situation at all, really. But I digress.]

I acknowledge the fact of Reader Greed. I've been guilty of it myself: there are times when I want to know more, want to read more. There are plenty of times where I just plain don't want to leave the world of a story. But, I guess, what we want isn't always what's good for us, right? Sometimes we eat that extra piece of pie and then feel a little sick...


tanita✿davis said...

"...beyond a certain point, over-explanation dissipates the power of that magic."


Many years ago, Mitali Perkins did a poll about bowdlerizing kids books, and talked in the SLJ about how she'd rewritten a piece of her book to change something to do with ethnicity and identity and culture that was deeply important to her. Mitali was changing something because of an unfortunate negative MESSAGE she inadvertently underscored, in the original way the book was written. Unfortunately, JKR is changing details - repeatedly, hello Dumbledore? - because, I fear, of both ego and an inability to let the books belong to the readers. Reader response stresses the importance of the reader's role in interpreting the story - but Rowling keeps injecting her inherent importance as the writer, as if she holds the single, fixed point of information and subtext, and that the readers are simply there to continue to receive, instead of bring their own ideas, concerns, and experiences to the reading.

Even though the book is already written, she's lost sight of her audience.

Sarah Stevenson said...

I don't really know a ton about the situation, but I also wonder if the opposite is true: if it's readers (many of them adult readers) that are pressuring her to release some of these changes and "revelations," and it's an attempt to please. I have no idea.

I do agree that what Mitali is talking about is different--it's a correction, rather than a justification, if that makes sense.