I've recently finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - yes, I know, I may very well be the last (interested) person in the world to get around to reading it and I've been surfing the web on tenterhooks for months hoping to avoid spoilers. And now I'm surfing trying to find all the spoilers I tried to avoid to see what other people had to say when they finished it.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the wrap up of the series - books 6 and 7. It took me a little while to put my finger on exactly what was bugging me about it, and then I realised it was the very same thing I try to drum into my critique clients - Rowling held the reins too tightly. (Okay, so now you have a perfect excuse not to listen to me on that one, because JK Rowling does it too!)
Here's why: Rowling controlled every aspect of the story for seven books, which forced readers outside into observer mode, rather than allowing readers in to experience the story for themselves. There is no room in the final wrap up for the reader to read between the lines anymore.
The clearest example of this is in the epilogue, where every main character's life is mapped out for the next 19 years and beyond. This is the part of the book where the reader usually gets to let their imagination go based on the possibility hinted at in the final pages, rather than being left with everything so firmly tied up that the only thought remaining is: "Well, that really is the end."
I know Rowling wanted (and in some ways was forced, by fans, by the popularity of the books, and by scammers) to conclude the book in such a way that there would be no doubt that it had ended to avoid fan/scam fiction follow ups and people being caught out by "another Harry Potter book after all". It's unfortunate, though, because it dents an otherwise good story.
I would have liked to see Rowling end this series with Book 5. And while I'm on critique mode (and I know I'll get flamed for this), I would've suggested combining Books 1 and 2 together, and Books 3 and 4 together - much of Book 1 and Book 4 could've been cut, in my opinion, leaving room to combine the important backstory aspects of Books 5, 6, and 7, but ending with the battle at the Ministry.
But that's just my take on it. It's still a great story.
Selma - I haven't read the final book yet. I just can't seem to bring myself to do it but I know what you mean about Rowling being a control freak. Epilogue, you say? Bleh. I am not a fan of the epilogue. I'd rather imagine.... Now you have made me realise that I am probably the only person in the world who hasn't read the final book. Guess what I'll be doing tomorrow after work?
Posted 15 April 2008
DavidM - I was watching Oprah once and one of her guests was the woman (I can’t remember name) who was instrumental in getting Rowlands published. The first Potter was in the slush pile (it had been rejected by other publishers.) This woman read it and persuaded the powers to publish it. I can’t remember the exact wording of the interview but it went something like this:
Oprah: Did JK ever thank you?
Woman: (Great big beaming smile) Oh yes, she sent me a thank you note and an autographed copy of the book.
Oprah: Anything else?
Woman: (still smiling) No.
The expression on Oprah’s face when she asked “anything else: was priceless because from it I believe I could tell that she was thinking what I was thinking: “This woman is now one the richest women in the world because of you and ALL she sent was a measley thank you note and an autographed book’?
Man, if the day comes that somebody makes me one the richest men in the world, that person will be set for life. I mean, c’mon, even if Rowlands had given the woman something like ½ of one percent of the net profits of one book, and it would have been a good bonus. James Brown gave his sound engineer the rights/royalities to one song “Sex Machine” and the guy never had to work again
I haven’t, as yet ,read ANY of the Potter books or seen any of the films. From discussions I have had with friends and rellos, I get feeling that when I do I will feel as if I already have.
Posted 17 April 2008
Elle - Hi David - thanks for dropping by!
I saw that Oprah show and I remember her reaction too. I'm not sure where I stand on whether Rowling owes that woman anything more. I do know that Rowling was very lucky to have her manuscript read because she broke every rule in the book for submissions (it was ring bound, and I think it was printed on both sides of the paper). So maybe she does owe the slush pile reader a lot - and maybe a grand gesture would encourage other slush readers to take a chance on a manuscript that "breaks the rules" but they feel something intuitive about it anyway. If there's a greater chance that they could become rich off a decision like that, who knows who might get a lucky break.
But on the other hand, all she did was read the manuscript and pass it on to someone higher up who made the real decision. The publishing company who said yes (Bloomsbury) has already been rewarded extensively by being part of the Harry Potter phenomenon, and maybe it is the publishing company who should be making a grand gesture towards the slush pile reader who put them in that position. Perhaps they have already.
Selma, my dear, I'm so glad I'm not last! Email me when you finish, I want to know what you think!
Posted 18 April 2008
Inspired Writing Research blogger - Hi Elsa, this is an interesting 'out of the box' angle on JK's writing. I must admit her books have never attracted me as a reader - although my sons did love the films. Later I read that critics didn't rate the actual quality of her writing. I suppose you have to admire someone who does have the writing skill to tie up a plot so rigidly.
Posted 20 April 2008
Elle - Thanks for visiting, Inspired Writing. JK Rowling is a fairly good writer (although one who suffers from bloated writing syndrome), but even she admits that she could've done with some more editing assistance. One of the biggest problems with writers who make it big with their first major project is that they lose the introspective time to develop a second (usually more critical) perspective on their work. Rowling battles with letting go of control of her work, and she battles to trust the reader. It's not a good combination when you're hoping readers will escape into your story.
Posted 20 April 2008