The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HP Monday – A Stone by Any Other Name…

So, right off the bat I have to apologize. This is the first time I’ve re-read the first Harry Potter book since completing a rough draft of my own novel – my perspective is totally different now. I remember enjoying book 1, I remember liking the arc of the story as well as the storyteller qualities; but I’ve kind of always thought JK Rowling grew into her writing; like it wasn’t really that good to begin with. And (I can’t believe I’m admitting this in a post that will soon be right out there in cyberspace for anyone to read) I always felt like if I had come up with the idea of the first book I might have done a better job. Wow, I am SO wrong! JK Rowling has got it going on right from the beginning. I can’t believe her foreshadowing skills – and her plot braiding is ridiculous…

I’d really like to know what everyone is thinking. Are you enjoying the re-read? Is this your first time reading it? I’m ecstatic about the first week if only to see someone pick up this book for the first time – and hopefully she will get her children (Seriously Demolition Duncan: Do you know who your parents are? How can you NOT be into this stuff?) to read them too.

I’d like to point out that reading the Philosopher’s Stone version has me asking my British husband lots of questions. Evenings go much like this now:
“What’s a cine-camera?” I ask as I read about Dudley’s mound of birthday presents.
“It’s a movie camera. An 8mm hand held predecessor of the camcorder.” My husband replies.
“Huh, so what does the US version call it then – a video camera or something?” I wonder out loud.
My husband is very patient with me sometimes, and at this point he actually pauses the Wii, gets up from the living room chair and goes into his office to find his copy hiding on an upper shelf somewhere. I just keep reading.
“Yes, video camera is correct.” He answers from the doorway of his office. Then I can hear him half climbing up the shelf to replace the book.
“Huh, so when Mrs. Dursley says Dudley’s first word is shan’t, is that actually his first word in the US version?” I ask a second later.
My husband has just made it back to the living room where I hear a little sigh as he turns around to go fetch the book again. I really should look up and acknowledge his acrobatic acts of book discovery; especially when I hear one hit the floor and an exasperated, inaudible comment follows. But I just keep reading, engrossed in the letters flooding into the Dursley house and the madcap drive to the shack on the rock.
“His first word is won’t.” He replies from the doorway again.
“Thanks.” I mutter and then turn back to my book.
You will all be happy to know that both versions are now sitting on the table for easy reference.

After Karen’s comments on the Philosopher’s stone and her children, I asked my husband if there was some sort of English story to go along with kids being interested enough in the title to read this book. He wasn’t sure, but thought it sounded familiar enough for me to do a quick google search…So yep, it’s a world-mystery – not just English – relating to the study of Alchemy. Apparently the goal of Alchemy is this stone and it is used to perfect any substance or situation. Now – modern times – the Philosopher’s stone is a symbol of true, incorruptible wisdom: Using both the right and left sides of the brain with the intuitive knowing of the heart (

OK – so after that enlightenment – many more points going to JK Rowling! You don’t have to dumb-down your advanced learning to speak to children or young adults. Alas, I do wonder know why the US version changed the title at all? Especially as this was the only title they changed…

For those who’d like something to discuss this week: What are your first interpretations/impressions of Hogwarts? What does Harry see when his eyes are finally opened to the world of magic (I was blown away by the undercurrents in the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley during Harry’s shopping trip with Hagrid)? What kind of wand would Mr. Ollivander have found for you? Or again, whatever you want to talk about/say. Comment away! If you’ve finished book 1 already, watch the movie this week. I may blog a little about the movie next week as well, so everyone has some time to comment about it before we move onto book 2. Feel free to read ahead too; I know book 5, 6 & 7 are twice as long as 1 & 2. The rest of us will catch up eventually.

Happy reading!


  1. I had a Harry Potter week-end. Saw the Half Blood Prince on Saturday and watched the Order of the Phoenix on Sunday. Should have done it the other way around since Half Blood Prince left me with a lot of questions that I would have been able to answer if I would have remembered the events in the Order of the Phoenix. But I digress.....

    I finished the book last week and thought I would watch the movie last night but it has disappeared from the case. Grrrr! So I will be borrowing it and re-reading portions tonight. But I do have some thoughts - in no particular order....

    I agree that Ms Rowling does a great job with her foreshadowing. I wonder if she had the basic story line for all the books in one "aha" moment because the movies seem to flow together so well. I'm hoping the books do too.

    I find myself curious about Snape, especially after seeing the Half Blood Prince. I know when I first watched the movie I thought Snape was out to get Harry. Snape's dislike of Harry is obvious and I actually admire him a bit for helping Harry despite his strong feelings.

    I'd also like to know more about Hagrid. I know we learn more about him in a later book, but reading this, I'm wondering about the relationship between Hagrid and Dumbledore. Hagrid is entrusted with some very important business/secrets. I wonder why him and not McGonagall or someone else?

    It was nice to delve a little deeper into the friendship that forms between Harry, Ron and Hermione. I remember wondering why Ron seemed so insecure and shy. In the movie - I didn't get that he was nervous about living up to the reputation of the brothers that went before him. I also remember that the three of them became friends on the train to Hogwarts. I guess I'll find out once I get my hands on that DVD.

    And I hate to admit it but living with the Dursley's was probably a good thing for Harry. The Dursley have taught (albeit backwardly)Harry humility and compassion. If he had grown up in a magical family where he would have been treated like the hero he is, I think he may have turned out to be more like Malfoy.

    That's all I have time for now. I'll be back after I watch the movie.

  2. Harry being like Malfoy is a little scary, but you have a point Karen. I start to miss the Dursley parts in the later movies - I think tying Harry to his muggle relatives is part of what makes this story work on more than one level(as well as makes Harry who he is).

    Can't wait to hear your comments on the movie now that you've read the book...