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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

HP Tuesday - The Eyes Have It

Last time I left you all in the midst of book 7, a rather large, dense novel. I could continue on with mothers because they appear more and more as time passes in the book, their importance becoming stronger and more fleshed out. But I have other things to discuss, so I’m moving on. Eyes. Yep, I’m going to focus on one body part today; an important part – the windows to the soul and all. Other eye imagery? I keep thinking of writers like Fitzgerald and Orwell – using eyes to watch and see; Big Brother/billboard-esque type imagery. Bespectacled eyes – like Harry’s, James’, and Dumbeledore’s – usually mean wisdom. They also mean God, but I don’t think Harry or James or even Dumbledore is supposed to represent God in this series. Harry is an everyman character, to the extent that we champion him BECAUSE of his lack of knowledge, pig-headedness and general teen-angsty self. Sure, he figures it out in the end; but because of his entire supporting cast (do I sound like Voldemort there?). His sacrifice is only his own, which is why he succeeds, but the figuring out comes from a lot of different people. I think the only God-because-of-his-disembodied-eyes character in the novel is Aberforth Dumbledore – what the heck does that mean? (PS – That link back there is one of my very favorite vlogbrothers – yes, them again – videos ever!) I haven’t figured out what it means. But Aberfoth’s piercing blue eyes – the same eyes as Dumbledore – look at Harry at the beginning of this last quest, they continue to look out of the mirror each time Harry needs egging on – forward motion. I love that this disembodied eye is in a mirror and always turns back into Harry’s own, green eye – the same eyes as Lily. There are so many eye-like parallels here.

Some Thoughts on Imagery
Thinking about imagery, I started thinking about Shakespeare. Truth be told, I think about Shakespeare a lot – rat bastard. It’s because of him I care so much about symbolism and imagery in the first place. Shakespeare finally made me stop asking, “Does every writer mean to add these things to their works or are we just critiquing to sound smart?” and start asking, “What is this author saying about the human condition when she adds symbolism and imagery?” So Shakespeare and eyes; he does it a lot but HP 7 makes me think of King Lear the most. King Lear could not see what was right in front of him and literally lost his eyes. (Side note: This also makes me think of season 7 of Buffy; add Joss Whedon to my growing list of rat bastards who make me think too much…and for making me use the phrase rat bastard come to think of it.) Who’s the sightless character in HP 7? It is Voldemort, who can not possibly win because he doesn’t see what is right in front of him; so many things that are right in front of him. And where are his human, Tom Riddle eyes – his windows to the soul? They’re literally a piece of his soul. One he cut off and discarded in an attempt to seek eternal life. His eyes are a bit of soul, shielded by a window in a locket that belonged to his greatest descendent; it’s become a horcrux. Voldemort gave up his sight and soul and replaced them with snake-like slit-pupil, red eyes. And in the end, the last thing we read of Voldemort are his scarlet pupils rolling upwards as he dies. In the next sentence, Rowling gives the lifeless body lying on the floor Tom Riddle’s name once again. Neither Tom nor Voldemort can cheat death.

Some Thoughts on Symbolism

Thinking about symbolism, I started thinking about the symbol on the spine of my book (British edition) and also the name of this book, the deathly hallows symbol. When first mentioned, at the wedding, as worn by Xenophilius Lovegood, it is rather like a triangular eye. Actually, the exact sentences – just in case you didn’t get that eyes were important in this novel – read, “Slightly cross-eyed, with shoulder-length white hair the texture of candyfloss, he wore a cap whose tassel dangled in front of his nose and robes of an eye-watering shade of egg-yolk yellow. An odd symbol, rather like a triangular eye, glistened from a golden chain around his neck.” (Huh, apparently color is also important in this book – maybe we can discuss yellow, gold, red, green and blue next week?!) This symbol, much like the swastika – which once stood for life, sun, power and good luck – changes over centuries from something good to something inherently evil. The mark of the hallows is a clue that must be followed throughout its history, understood but not conquered; the hallows must not be wielded for power or for eternal life. In other words, the only way to truly understand and use the hallows is to know; wisdom and strength, but also a healthy dose of humility. Harry has the strength to break-up and scatter the hallows; only keeping the invisibility cloak passed down to him.

Lily’s Eyes

Throughout all seven books we’ve been bombarded constantly with the knowledge that Harry has his mother’s eyes. Her soul and his are intertwined. Not just because they are son and mother, but because she sacrificed herself for him; that great, mother-protecting magic coursing through the very soul of these novels. Whether we mean to read into this or not, every ounce of good Harry does seems to generate from this connection with his mum. Lily’s eyes, reappearing in her son’s visage, are what ultimately makes Snape turn toward the light and what keeps him from straying back into the dark. Even at his end, Snape asks Harry to look at him – not because he’s the boy who lived – but because dying is easier when looking into Lily’s eyes. Nineteen years later, who is the only child of Harry’s to inherit Lily’s eyes? Albus Severus Potter – eyes really are the windows to the soul.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Month of Fun Days

I have a plan! Well, I have a project that I’ve been pondering for about 6 months now. It’s taken on many forms but now I just want to get on with it already. At first I thought about pitching it as an article idea, and then I thought I’d pitch it to a company like Disney as a blog idea, but I never quite figured out how either would work. Possibly just doing this thing on my own blog would make it easier to earn money on another blog or article in the future. For this to work though, I’ll need your help and lots of suggestions.


A month of daily blogs about fun stuff I’m doing. Now, who doesn’t want to read that?! OK, there’s more to it than that. I want to stalk wonder and I want you, blog readers, to join me in the pursuit of fun. I’d also like you to *gasp* comment about it right here on the blog…

Well, because it’s fun! No, seriously. I’m an unpublished writer and therefore, I spend much of my time depressed about this fact – and the lack of money, or running out of money (I did bills today and realized my savings is dwindling and I haven’t done any freelance stuff in a little while and the part-time job hobby is great, but not really meant for me to live off of without other sources of income). And yes, I do realize I rant about all of these things more than I should on a blog; however, there is a silver lining. Most of the time I am a happier, healthier person than when I had more money and a 40-hour a week office job; I realize this and want to share the fun with others. I think we pretty much live in a craptastic-economy-driven world but there is still fun to be had. We just have to embrace that fun!

Well, I was thinking the month of June, because June is a month with decent outdoor weather for most of the globe. Then again, maybe June already has plenty of fun in it and doesn’t need my help. Also – if I haven’t already beaten this into your heads by constantly talking about it – I will be traveling in the UK and Ireland for the better part of June. One, this is a good thing because traveling lends itself to spontaneous fun times; but two, I may not be able to get to the internet everyday and I may not have time to write a blog post everyday. I think a month of fun days can, and should occur wherever you happen to be and with whomever you happen to be with; but maybe for easier navigation I will wait until July to begin.

In the Meantime…
Feel free to offer suggestions on any of this. I am looking for 30 fun things to do. I do think a lot of fun things happen spontaneously, so that can always be a factor; but if I leave at least a week’s worth of fun activities – people will be able to do them and comment on them on the actual days I do these fun things too. (That was an incredibly awkward sentence.) I also believe some of the fun things I do won’t be remotely fun for some of you; in which case, you would comment with something else fun that you did that day. Yes, this is why I’ve been mulling it over for 6 months now. I think I may have mulled too much at this point.

Fun thing ex: Find a crazy or unique sign and take a picture of it for the blog.
Fun thing ex: Go on a road trip to a little piece of Americana (i.e. Giant ball of twine or that ketchup shaped water tower) and experience its cheesy awesomeness.
Fun thing ex: See a movie on a rooftop with a group of friends.
Fun thing ex: Go to dinner with a group of friends and pretend it’s someone’s birthday. Extra points for best birthday song and best free-birthday treat.

You get the picture; and no, after 6 months of thinking about this, these are NOT my best examples…where would the fun be in that!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Harry Potter Friday – Book 7: Deconstructing Mother Love

I started this Harry Potter book club idea on my blog two years ago for multi-faceted reasons. First, it was a good excuse to re-read a series that has some staying power in a genre I choose to write in. Second, it was a good excuse to build a YA platform for myself (I’m selfish this way but then hey, it’s my blog). Third, the book to movie conundrum is one that hits close to my own heart; I love books and my husband loves movies but we both make an effort to enjoy the other medium so we have something to do together. Fourth, originally I thought the writing got better while the plot went down hill in the series and I wanted to see if on re-reading my opinion stayed the same. Finally, I noticed people have severely strong opinions about this series – from writing fan songs to book burning and everything in between; I just wanted to figure out why people have these strong ties. Selfishly again, if I can somehow harness these reasons I could be a world famous author…or really, I’d settle for a published author.

I think trying to resolve all of these reasons may be why it’s taken me so long to write about this last book. What amazes me the most about the re-read is just how my opinions have changed. I may keep harping on how concise JK Rowling is; but that’s only because I’m completely surprised that my opinions of her writing prowess are so different then on the first read. Seriously! This is exciting stuff for me, and probably only me.

On that note, I’m ready to have some serious discussions about HP 7. Yes, really! Let’s do this thing. Many of you have showed some interest in a feminine read of HP; more precisely the lack of a good, strong female character. I realized something about myself while trying to souse out the great feminist character in Harry Potter: I’m really not a feminist. I’m all about women power and dig me some Buffy and Veronica Mars; I want to write fiction for young adults because of literary characters like Nancy Drew and Anne Shirley; but as a literary critique, I’m crap at the feminine mystique. I’m really more of a deconstructionist. So, try as I might, I don’t see anything wrong with Hermione, Ginny, or Tonks. Considering just how many characters exist and have reoccurring roles in the Potter-verse, I think most are well developed. I have actual feelings about Mrs. Malfoy at the beginning of this book – and who is she really? I mean all of these characters have a first and last name, which you remember. I can’t imagine the notes Rowling must have kept to keep the continuity going through 7 books.

I’m getting ahead of myself. For this blog post I mostly wanted to talk about mothers and how there is one in each opening scene. I’m not sure if this helps or hinders a feminist critique; I guess you could say Rowling only knows how to write one type of female and thinks that motherhood is the most important thing in each one’s life. Who knows, maybe it is? I’m not a mother, so I’d have to defer to those who are. From a deconstructionist standpoint, all of these mothers are intriguing and thought pondering: What does ‘mother’ even mean? Is Rowling trying to make every mother the same?

To start with, it’s amazing plot braiding to juxtapose Narcissa Malfoy, Petunia Dursley, Andromeda Tonks and Molly Weasley. Obviously some of it is foreshadowing, Narcissa Malfoy and Molly Weasley are both pivotal to the plot towards the end – and also again because they are mothers. I don’t just think it is foreshadowing or plot braiding though. It’s more because Rowling doesn’t need these mothers to create the scenes, but they are all pivotal to each, separate scene. Maybe pivotal isn’t the right word, they each advance the plot by defining the character of motherhood.

Narcissa Malfoy
Narcissa is clearly the one Malfoy with her senses intact in the first chapter. She stands out by looking downcast yet clearly being in charge of her household; she keeps her son and husband in line and alive with firm glances and nudges.
MOTHER LOVE MOMENT: The last we read of Narcissa in chapter one is, “Draco Malfoy looked in terror at his father, who was starring down into is own lap, then caught his mother’s eye. She shook her head almost imperceptibly, then resumed her own deadpan stare at the opposite wall.” She is showing her family exactly how to act and what to do; clearly she is already prepared to make her family survive by any means necessary.

Petunia Dursley
Petunia Dursley remains her steadfast self when it comes to her son Dudley; she’s in three or four pages of this massive novel, yet she still manages to call her son Diddy, Dudders and Popkin in that space. Her life is her family; and like Narcissa, she is quite single-minded in her protection of them.
MOTHER LOVE MOMENT: Rowling peppers Petunia’s exit from the series with these final words, “She gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little jerk of her head, she bustled out of the room after her husband and son.”

Andromeda Tonks
Harry could have gone straight to the Burrow when he leaves Privet Drive, but Rowling sends him to the Tonks’ first. Although she is talked about quite a bit, Andromeda Tonks hasn’t appeared before this book; we already know she is sister to Narcissa and Bellatrix. Here’s yet another mother, and also a sister (like Petunia and Lily); one who is going to extreme lengths for the sake of her daughter.
MOTHER LOVE MOMENT: Although she’s talked about and referred to quite a bit in this book, she appears only once, briefly to ask, “What happened to our daughter? Hagrid said you were ambushed; where is Nymphadora?” We know she’s a pure-blood, a healer, a strong female who resembles her sister Bellatrix in many ways, but she only speaks one line – and it’s about concern for her daughter, the Auror who married a werewolf.

Molly Weasley
Molly is Harry’s surrogate mother – also mother of his best friend and his girlfriend. She is as worried about Harry as she is for the rest of her family; there really is no distinction anymore. Not once do you see her regret the friendship that’s sprung up between her family and Harry. The Weasleys (minus that prat Percy) are all loyal toward Harry and the Order. Molly is different from the other mothers we’ve seen so far – they are all worried about one child, she is worried about ten (counting Harry, Hermione, and Fleur too). We’ve seen Molly a lot in the series, she is the most complete, well-rounded mother character; she gets a full range of emotions including scatter-brained and sometimes ridiculous. I like this about Molly; it makes her into many mothers I’ve known, not just the outline of a mother-type character. And let’s be honest, at the end she gets the best line of the entire series!
MOTHER LOVE MOMENT: In the opening scene at the Burrow, Harry, already feeling horrible about putting others in danger, can’t quite figure out why she doesn’t hate him yet. “He could hear the self-justifying note in his voice, the plea for her to understand why he did not know what had happened to her sons, but –
‘Thank goodness you’re all right,’ she said, pulling him into a hug he did not feel he deserved.”

Kendra Dumbledore
Brilliant! No, seriously! Dumbledore is dead and now he gets a mother and more face-time than when he was alive. Why put Kendra in here now? I have no idea what kind of mother Kendra Dumbledore is. Through conjecture and hearsay she appears to be quite a bad one, but how do you explain the goodness of Albus and even Aberforth Dumbledore? At least some of it has to be nurture.

Lily Potter
The mother all other mothers must me compared to throughout the series. She’s here at the beginning…and in the middle…and at the end. I think Lily’s note to Sirius separates her from the Lily & James Potter duo in the scene at Grimmauld Place; stressing her ultimate sacrifice more than James’.

Appoline Delocour & Tonks
We also meet the mother of the bride, Appoline Delocour, who must be at least half Veela – a mythical creature and not just a wizard. And finally, we find out Tonks is pregnant with a baby who will also be more than a wizard – his dad being a werewolf and all. It’s sort of like tying up all the loose ends. We see mothers at very important, life moments and we get yet another dose of magical-creature-unity-and-equality vs. magic-is-might-dark-wizard mentality: A true good vs. evil moment.

I definitely think Rowling pulled the women into the foreground during the first quarter of the book. No, not necessarily in a feminist way, but in a sort of roto-scope, look-at-this sort of way to emphasize what’s coming, what’s been, what’s most important, and inevitably what’s dark magic conquering: LOVE. Yes, it’s so simple and obvious, but I really do admire the way in which it occurs.

I so want opinions in the comments on all of this. Also, feel free to add in your feminist reading – or any other literary theory you’d like to. Of course, coincidentally it is Mothers Day on Sunday. The picture attached to this blog is all my own. (Yay, no copyright infringement this week!) It’s a picture of me and my mom – she’s a much better person than I am, so I know all of my good parts are from her nurturing. Happy Moms Day to all of you mothers. And in case you don’t think I’m excited enough about the arrival next week: Mara Corey you are going to be an awe-inspiring, remarkable mother! Matt, you of course will be an amazing dad too!