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"The saints out walking, puzzled to be raised..."
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I am trying not to wibble about there being only 63 days left in the year. Many of the things on my want-to-do and ought-to-do lists will be just as do-able next year: the house will survive another season with ooky curtains; books and DVDs can be re-borrowed from the library; no one specific is waiting on more poems or blankets. Time enough to do all these things once I tackle the promises I do need to keep.

Still. Only 63 days left! *wibble*

But first, some good things:

  • Mark Jarman's The Black Riviera, from which today's subject line is taken (from a poem called "Good Friday")

  • The "poetry and tea" event at church. Our congregation includes a professional DJ whose speaking voice is so beautiful people have been known to declare they'd pay good money just to hear him read the Finnish phone book. So, yesterday afternoon, he read aloud poems by Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Carl Sandburg, and the fundraising committee poured tea (into Royal Windsor china cups-and-saucers with cute little gold spoons someone's grandmother had owned) and served goodies such as scones, cucumber sandwiches, and chocolate-dipped orange slices.

    There were also nifty conversations -- one of my tablemates and his wife had recently attended his 40th reunion at the Air Force Academy, so we talked about the mortality rate in his class (60-something out of 500 or so -- much of it due to Vietnam and aircraft crashes, but they've now reached the age where disease is becoming more of a factor), his visit to his old dorm room (now occupied by female cadets), and a fine moment during a forum: an Academy spokesman had been talking about its current challenges, some of them sex-related (harassment, students sneaking about with each other, etc.), and one of the alums had tried to blame it on the Academy now being co-ed. At which point the spokesman reportedly shot back, "My daughter is a graduate and is currently flying combat choppers over Iraq," which effectively ended that line of attack.

  • James Salter's Burning the Days. I've only read a few pages in, but it's excellent so far.

  • Really gorgeous weather. Currently 49 F and sunny.

  • Potato salad and ribs.

  • Following the World Series via the NYTimes blog. The game needs more Papelbons. :-)

  • Two sonnets sold! (Also a heap of rejections. Tweaking and tightening...)

  • The "Dumbledore is gay" brouhaha. I've been sitting on my hands through most of the discussions about Rowling's motives, the validity of her making such a claim outside of the books, etc., but I've sorted out my own feelings to this extent:

  • IMNSHO, Deathly Hallows was enough of a mess that it killed my interest in the HP series as literature. (There's an extra edge to my annoyance because I have a not-yet-published essay on children's literature that was due long before DH's publication (although I was well aware it wouldn't reach print until afterwards -- it was a very interesting challenge), and I had not anticipated my admiration of the series deteriorating to the extent it has.)

  • That said, my interest in the Potterverse as a playground remains strong. The things that trouble and/or irritate me as a critic make it all the more fertile as a starting point for fandom artists and writers to work their magic (so to speak).

  • As far as I'm concerned, authorial statements re: their characters outside of published canon do not automatically carry literary value. This goes not only for JKR, but for Dorothy L. Sayers (e.g., her oft-cited claim about a certain character dying in the Second World War) and everyone else. They can be consulted and cited where useful, particularly in discussions about authorial intention, but with regards to interpretation, they can be disregarded with impunity. Many readers do not have access to the author's extraneous (and often extemporaneous) commentary, and it's not playing fair to treat it with the same weight as the details the author took the trouble to incorporate into canon.

  • That said, JKR's pronouncement has prodded quite a few non-academics to ponder intention vs. interpretation. It can be all too easy for those of us with backgrounds in lit crit to forget that many mainstream readers seldom contend with that issue; when I taught a course on Sayers and Rowling last spring, the idea that there could be so much more to reading than "just" reading was something several members of the class said took getting used to.

  • Participants in HP fandom are accustomed to analyzing and debating JKR's every utterance at length, many of them through slash-friendly lens. Mainstream readers, not so much. As I see it, JKR's declaration of Dumbledore's sexual orientation has definitely made some heads spin; since she's an author that millions admire and adore, it will likely prompt some readers to examine their own beliefs re: homosexuality. And if that, in turn, translates into one less kid taunting or bullying others or going along "with the crowd," or if it helps create a more accepting climate for gay teachers and administrators, then she's done some good, whatever her motives.

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