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July 14, 2005

Comments

Radactrice

It never ceases to amaze me that people feel very free to criticize that which they have not read. I'll never forget the woman who was vociferous about her condemnation of Harry Potter. When asked if she had read it, she replied she wouldn't not let such filth near her house. I've read all the Harrys and the one thing that has struck me throughout is the insistance that each of us has certain gifts from birth that we can use for good or for evil. How we use those gifts profoundly changed the entire world. Which is hardly a Satanic concept. Kudos to Mrs. Dolman for an articulate overview of the work.

Zhou

Well, I'll make my one and only Harry Potter comment on this posting.

Do you know that in Japanese his name sounds like "Hairy Potato?" Ick. Listen to the Japanese narration on the DVD Trailer at the official Japanese site.

Jeff

Very interesting. I think the worst part about this controversy is the groups of Fundamentalists who take overreaction to a whole new level when it comes to Harry Potter. In the news report I saw this morning about Pope Benedict "condemning" the Harry Potter series, they were also showing video of Christian groups burning piles of Harry Potter books. Just more fuel for the MSM to paint Christians as a bunch of wackos.

Paul

What a great essay!

I've also noticed passing references to Christmas and Easter in the books, as well as Halloween, though no real discussion of anyone celebrating these holidays.

Regarding the Weasley's, I have a sneaking suspicion that they're somehow really Irish Catholics, with their red hair and large family.

Nguoi Dang Chay

>>When I was growing up, I was encouraged by serious Christians to avoid The Lord of the Rings because the book was thought to encourage interest in the occult. .... But now Tolkien’s book is hailed as a Christian classic, simply because it has passed the test of time.

A number of Christians still oppose LOTR. It was silly then and it's silly now. Of course if you tell most of these people "Tolkien was a devout Catholic" they just move LOTR from the "bad" category to "evil". ;)

But frankly I gotta say the idea that HP will ever be a Christian classic is Ludacris.

>>Just as organized religion is noticeably absent from Tolkien’s imaginary world, there are no spiritual powers in Rowling’s world for the characters or the reader to worship or put before God.

The lengths to which HP fans will go to tie the series to LOTR are getting quite silly. There most definitely ARE spiritual powers in Tolkien's world, God and angels and demons. Creating a world with no higher power is surely not a praiseworthy accomplishment!?

I've read the books, they're enjoyable and well-meaning, but to completely reject any possibility that they could have adverse effects on young minds..... well I'm sorry, that's just obsessive.

Nancy

Let's let other people do our thinking for us. Popes, Cardinals, whoever. Even as to what books we like.

julie

In fact, though O’Brien has accused the books of having a “spicy” sexuality, the books are remarkably free of any suggestiveness.

~snort~
Maybe O'Brien has mixed up his HP Fanfiction with canon Potter. Harry's (and Ron's) dealings with girls have been so innocent and clueless as to be almost shocking in this world of hyper-sexualized 12, 13 and 14 year olds.

Sandra Miesel

Regina has given an eloquent defense. She's hitting points that were greatly misrepresented by some early Catholic critics. For example, Karen Rust writing in HLI's journal quoted a statement by the villain Lord Voldemort about power being the ultimate good and claimed that was Rowling's theme. No good will come of such distortions.

Gene Branaman

An excellent piece. Thanks Regina! Strong points made & very well supported. Thanks, Amy, for posting it. This one's definitely a keeper!

Peter Nixon

This is one of those stories that makes me want to bang my head against the keyboard. I don't know who to be more frustrated at: 1) media outlets that will give this story more play than anything else the pope says this year; or 2) my fellow Catholics who actually think we are obliged to seriously consider the Pope's taste in children's fiction.

Benedict is my pope. I pray for him every day, I've found his theological writings stimulating, and I strive to conform myself to his teachings on faith and morals.

But there is absolutely nothing in the tradition of the Church that requires me to care one whit what the Holy Father thinks about children's literature. His background suggests no special competence in this area and the charisms that come with Holy Orders or the papal office do not include a talent for literary criticism. His opinion about Harry Potter carries no more weight with me than whether he thinks Parma will edge out AC Milan for the Italian football cup this year.

As to my own views on HP, I have to say that I avoided reading the books for a time because they looked a tad juvenile for my taste, but when I actually did so I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were.

jane

Is regina related to martin doman, the Catholic singer??

Victor Morton

Maybe Cardinal Ratzinger should have just said "it is as it was."

Sonetka

Excellent article; she's said it very well.

I think I'm the only one who wishes the Pope would actually say that he's going to release a Statement about Harry Potter, get the media in a frenzy over "What will he say? Yes or no?" (not to mention numerous St Blog's discussions) and then finally issue a statement that says "I've never read the books and don't give a damn whether you do or not. Of course, if you want REAL adventure, try some Karl May!"

Nguoi Dang Chay

>>But there is absolutely nothing in the tradition of the Church that requires me to care one whit what the Holy Father thinks about children's literature.

How about, the Pope is a prayerful and holy man whose judgment (or agreement with another's judgment) about what may be spiritually harmful one would be wise to consider?

You don't HAVE to listen to everything the Pope says but it is arrogant to say he has nothing worthwhile to offer than isn't an infallible statement.

Nguoi Dang Chay

Carl Mays? The Sigrid Undset-era pitcher?

Sonetka

Hmm...all I know about Carl Mays is that he managed to kill someone with a pitch (that was him, wasn't it?) No, Karl May was a German writer of adventure stories; lots of stuff set in the Mystic Orient and Wild West, all very dramatic and technicolour. Very much read back in the day, and maybe he still is. Ratzinger would actually have been a little old to grow up reading Karl May books, but they were wildly popular with subsequent generations of German youth.

(BTW I haven't ignored your question about differences in the two translations: I have to dig up a copy of the Archer translation before answering, is the thing. There were definitely some ... excisions, though. Apart from the stylistics issue :)).

Barbara

Comments by Cardinals about disturbing books are rare - rarer still that Ratzinger goes out of his way to make his comments public... so, rather than being legalistic about what our wise guides warn us about, I think that our spiritual posture toward these comments should be welcoming. And, YES, I previewed the early books. I found their imagery disgusting and disturbing - especially when they yank those screaming Mandrake root babies, green and mottled, out of the ground, and then they rebury them, still screaming. Sorry, but any novel that uses imagery of babies to inspire disgust and revulsion is NOT what an eight year old, growing up in this already anti-nature, anti-life culture needs. Unlike Tolkien, Rowling doesn't give a flying fig for Christian culture, personally, or on paper. But, the lure of "fantasy," is quite a powerful one, and causes otherwise sensible people who fancy themselves connoisseurs of art to miss the obvious and justify their romantic cravings with every sort of machination. To go so far as calling the Harry Potter novels "Christian fiction) is a hoot (if only all the terms were changed).

What could Doman ever mean by insinuating that the advice given by the Cardinal then and now as Pope would change with his political situation? He is an extremely refined and cultured man who knows how art forms the soul, and how music forms the soul, in addition to being politically brave. And her poo-pooing the sensibilities of fundamentalist Christians is horrible, and ill-educated. These people are really the leaven of our communities when Catholics have politically fallen apart. Catholics are more likely to have abortions, legislate against homeschooling, and vote an anti-life ticket. If the gut-instincts of people of real civic character are alarmed by Harry Potter, then I'm listening. I would rather not bite the hand that feeds me - and makes my community a sane place to raise children, especially here in the South.

Of course, the Pope is only infallible on matters of faith and morals, but not to be open to what he says (when he says something we don't like) and then praise him (when he says something we do) is so tired that it makes me want to scream. Imagine the saints doing this in a public forum. Imagine Theresa of Avila saying to the Pope "But, I just LOVE my Harry Potter, no matter what you say; you do not bind me in areas of liturature!" And then publishing her disapproval. Please tell me: why do Catholics cling to such a silly thing, in an age where the habit of gracious obedience is such a rarity? The only way to encourage that kind of virtue is to practice it, in small things as well as large ones.

Publius

How about, the Pope is a prayerful and holy man whose judgment (or agreement with another's judgment) about what may be spiritually harmful one would be wise to consider?

What is there to consider? In his one sentence he gives us no indication of having any familiarity with Harry Potter beyond Kuby's book or why he agrees with Harry Potter being seductive. If he had read all the books and had written an op-ed in L'Osservator Romano you might have a point, but as it is there's virtually nothing to work with (except if the Pope's teaching authority is extended to pre-papal private correspondence).

Mary

Excellent essay. The only thing I disagree with is Ms. Doman's argument that wizards and witches are a separate species from that of humans. A witch and wizard can marry and can produce a child with nonmagical powers (a squib). Similarly, two Muggles can marry and produce a child with magical powers (a mudblood). It is impossible for two creatures of one species to mate and produce offspring of another species.


Mark Shea

Barbara note is a classic example of the congenital inability of conservative Catholic Harry-haters to refrain from calling into question the fidelity of fans of the books. Harry fans are not simply people whose tastes differ. Nope, they are rebels against God Almighty himself. Rowling (a self-professed member of the Church of Scotland who is on record as saying she doesn't discuss her faith publicly much because she doesn't want to make the ending of the series too obvious) is tried, convicted and executed as someone who "doesn't give a flying fig for Christian culture, personally, or on paper."

It's these annoying tendencies to calumny and judge that I find most objectionable among the Catholic Harry-haters.

Fr. Shawn O'Neal

This HP jazz makes me conclude that it's a race between the libs and the cons as to who wants the Index of Forbidden Books back in action.

The libs can have something either to ignore or to insult.

The cons can have extra ammo to act like know-it-all goon squad cops (whose help was never asked).

God bless the _Caelum et Terra_ crew. That was a welcome journal. It was like a good chill pill after a hard swallow of something in either _Crisis_ or _The National Catholic Reporter_.

Victor Morton

Mark Shea wrote:

"Rowling [is] a self-professed member of the Church of Scotland..."


I KNEW IT!!! I KNEW IT!!! Those books ARE Satanic!!! Burn her!!! Burn her!!!

James Kabala

Rowling's Christianity was not generally known when the first books came out, and I remember that some early anti-Harry articles assumed she was a secularist without evidence. I'm sure her theology is more liberal than ours (the Church of Scotland has women clergy, a tolerant attitude toward gays, and all that), but to be a Christian of any kind must count for something in today's Europe.

regina doman

Thanks, Amy, for posting my letter on your blog, and thanks to all you above for your kind words.

I just wanted to say that Mary is probably right to critique my calling wizards a separate species (I forgot about squibs. My excuse is that I was trying to drive home the point about it not being mortally sinful for them to practice magic). But there's probably wiggle room there.

Also, I wanted to let Jane know that I am related to Martin Doman, the singer. I am his older (non-singing, non-guitar-playing) sister. :)

And Victor, you crack me up.

Sandra Miesel

Barabara, what part of "the pope never read HP" don't you understand? He was trusting the opinion of someone who has misrepresented the contents of the books, a tactic used by several critics of HP.
If you found the mandrake babies disgusting, best not read any original Grimm's fairy tales. These creatures were plants, not as one critic represented them, "living human babies" being killed for a spell. Good thing Rowling left out one part of the traditional lore of mandrakes, ie their origin. Believe me, you wouldn't like that at all.
I am a longtime editor, critic and writer of fantasy fiction. On this one subject I can join Maureen (on another thread)in claiming to have more expertise than Pope Benedict. I also have used magic in my fiction--want to set the posse on me? Good luck!

Mark Shea

Victor:

Only if she weighs as much as a duck.

Victor Morton

And ... she turned me into a newt.

Cranky Lawyer

Mark--

And what else floats on water?

margaret

Thank you, thank you Amy and Regina!

Margaret

Michael Gorman

I think it might help if we had the FULL original text of Ratzinger's letter IN GERMAN. Here's the passage quoted by Kuby in a Zenit interview:

„Es ist gut, dass Sie in Sachen Harry Potter aufklären, denn dies sind subtile Verführungen, die unmerklich und gerade dadurch tief wirken und das Christentum in der Seele zersetzen, ehe es überhaupt recht wachsen konnte.“

Quick and dirty translation: "It's good that you are clarifying things about Harry Potter, for these are subtle seductions that operate unnoticed and therefore profoundly, and that undermine Christianity in the soul even before it can rightly grow."

Now the big question is: WHICH are the subtle seductions? Did Ratzinger mean to speak of specific things in the Potter books? Perhaps it was nothing of the sort. Perhaps the overall drift of the letter was only this: "Dear Ms. Kuby, Thanks for your communication. Wow, our culture has many dangers, and bad literature contains horrible things. So I'm glad you're doing research on Harry Potter, because THESE THINGS [the dangers I mentioned earlier] are really awful [but of course I'm not actually commenting on the value of your analysis, because we Cardinal Prefects actually don't spend a lot of time reading children's novels]."

Has the letter been made public? Jimmy Akin's site quotes someone saying he didn't know whether it had been. If all we have is this one sentence, quoted by Kuby herself, then I think we should all strongly embrace the conclusion that we don't even know whether Ratzinger has an opinion on the books--and still less do we know what that opinion is, or how valuable it is, or how much it should bother us if we don't share it....

Mark Shea

Cranky:

Very small rocks!

Cranky Lawyer

Mark--

Excellent!

But you forgot two of my favorites, one of which is quite relevant for this discussion:

Gravy.

And...wait for it...

Churches!

Michael Gorman

To put my point another way, bouncing off of something that Sandra Miesel said, viz., "He was trusting the opinion of someone who has misrepresented the contents of the books. . . ."

What if there's even less to the story than that? What if he didn't mean to comment on the books' contents at all, but only (a) to speak generally of problems in our culture and (b) to commend someone for making an effort to study the books, without in the least suggesting anything specific about them at all?

Mark Shea

Cranky:

It's a fair cop.

Mark Shea

Michael:

Then it could well mean that Benedict is, along with all other Catholics who do not declare, pronounce, and define Harry to be Evil Incarnate, a dreaded "neo-Catholic" and "Weigelite", at least if we measure his fidelity (as Our Lord commanded us to do) by the flawless standards of Hilary and the gang at Life Site News.

I just hope he is able to measure up to their rigorous criteria for True Catholicism[TM]. God knows I've already failed the test horribly. But then so has most of the Church.

Anne-Marie

Thanks, Amy, for pointing me to Doman--I'm always looking for good books for 13-year-old girls, too.

Although I agree with much of Doman's analysis, I think she's a little too enthusiastic about the HP books. They're fun, they're entertaining, they're clever, they're wholesome, but they're simply not well-written enough to be timeless classics. The comparison with LOTR actually brings this out: whereas the world Tolkien created has a complete history, languages, geography, etc., the co-existence of Rowling's wizarding world with the Muggle world is full of inconsistencies and improbabilities.

Similarly, HP also suffers from a common problem of Good-vs.-Evil stories set in everyday life: having to pretend that the everyday world somehow developed without Christianity, so as to make it possible for Good vs. Evil to be played out in the story's own terms.

Of course, these are literary, not moral, flaws.

Maclin Horton

Bravo, Regina. You've laid out systematically all the factors that lead me to say, as I did in one of the other Potter threads here, that there is no scent of evil in these books. I'm putting a link to your post on the Caelum et Terra blog right now.

Let's hope Rowling doesn't disappoint us with these last two books.

Anne-Marie

I have seen one anti-HP argument that was not addressed in the article; actually, it's not specific to HP, I suppose, but would aply to lots of books involving magic. I'd be interested in Amy's and Regina Doman's take on it; I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

It's that in today's climate, where some people proudly claim to be witches and warlocks, to use "Magicke," and so on, it's just too dangerous to give children *anything* that might lead them in that direction. Whereas, a generation or two ago, there was a clear distinction in the popular mind between, say, fairy-tale witches and crazy women who danced around bonfires naked, today there are many intermediate steps that make it far easier to go from enjoying the first to joining the second.

By this argument, for instance, although the magic in HP is not occult, reading about it could be the first step on a slippery slope to occult or even Satanic practices--the more slippery because some people will deliberately obscure the distinctions in order to corrupt children's relatively unsophisticated minds. The second step would be the inevitable make-believe games in which you perform HP-type magic. Perhaps the third step would be a kit I saw in a bookstore, aimed at pre-teen or teen girls, "How to cast your own spells," including a genuine crystal and instructions for drawing a pentagram.

Anne-Marie

Maureen

Sandra --
Hee! And of course, I probably would cede that you'd beat me there! But it's the guys who attend Pulpcon who really make me feel like my personal library is small and my breadth of reading modest.... ;)

Anne-Marie --
Well, in fifty or seventy years, we'll know how Rowling's books hold up. (And more to the point, whether books six and seven are any good.) Until then, we can all have our own opinions, ne?

Ronny

Of course, the Pope is only infallible on matters of faith and morals,

-- and, lest we forget ONLY WHEN HE IS THE POPE --

but not to be open to what he says (when he says something we don't like) and then praise him (when he says something we do) is so tired that it makes me want to scream.

That would be a good point... if we were talking about something that Benedict had said or written during his reign as pope.

reluctant penitent

Regina Doman's books are quite impressive. Her website is worth a visit too--very nice artwork.

Her first point is particularly strong. The wizards in HP do not derive their abilities by communing with demons or spirits. Rather, they are born with these abilities and their education teaches them how to use these innate abilities.

If HP is problematic then so is Superman--he too has innate powers that he had to learn to use. Ought not the anti-HP people organize an anti-Superman campaign? How about Mighty Mouse?

James Freeman

Mark Shea writes:

Barbara note is a classic example of the congenital inability of conservative Catholic Harry-haters to refrain from calling into question the fidelity of fans of the books. Harry fans are not simply people whose tastes differ. Nope, they are rebels against God Almighty himself.

Exactly.

If certain Puritan elements of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism and other Jansenist elements of Catholicism had been triumphant everywhere and always, communist-era Bulgarian high-rise apartment blocks would be the crowining glory of Western civilization.

Radactrice

The idea that somehow children will be tempted to witchcraft by Harry Potter seems to overlook the fact that Rowling clearly makes: people are BORN witches and wizards and no amount of pretending can make it otherwise. Since no children are born witches or wizards in our world, her books clearly say it's no point to try to become one.

jane

Sometimes my family thinks I am a witch.

little gidding

I must say that, although I have a lukewarm interest in this subject, and have read the books and seen the movies, the level of emotion in this thread and all the other HP-related ones here over the past few days really gives me pause. Judging only by what has been written in these threads--since I haven't ever been involved in a discussion of this--I would have to say that, in general, the anti-HP crowd comes off as more calm and gracious than the pro-HP group. I am alarmed that so many on the pro-HP side appear to have racheted up so high their support of the books to the point where, it seems, simple criticism of the books and their themes on moral grounds--but no calls for inquisition here yet or religious thought police--or declarations that a parent would have reservations about having their children read them or whether to talk to them about the themes, making clear how the book's premises are questionable, elicits quite extravagant efforts to belittle the critics as troglodytes or morons and caricature their positions. This is genuinely bewildering to me. It makes me quite uncomfortable. And it actually makes me consider whether concerns about the influence of the book--and not just these books, but perhaps other iffy but fun books and movies that we assume we can absorb without harm--may not be justified. I can only hope that the reaction here--which looks fairly over the top to me--might be explained as motivated by other criticisms of the book (presumably more "Taliban"-like) that I haven't been able to see by looking at these discussion threads.

cw

Don't make me get the flying monkeys!

francis

Is regina related to martin doman, the Catholic singer??

Yes, Martin is Regina's younger brother.

Emily

Little Gidding,

Hmmm, so far the worst insults I've seen the pro-HPs throw at the anti is "no literary taste," "irrational," and "hysterical". The worst insults I've seen the anti-HP's throw at the pro are "on the slippery slope to hell" and "trafficing with evil." Now really, which seems more calm and gracious?

BTW: Thanks, Regina. I'm emailing links to what you wrote to my VERY CONCERNED FRIENDS. You've saved me the trouble of composing elaborate responses.

WRY

little gidding,
I think some of the commenters are responding to more extreme remarks made on anothe blog, since most of the Potter critics I've read on this one seem to be saying that maybe we should weigh the merit of what Ratzinger wrote and consider whether he doesn't have a point. I fail to see that if I were to condemn a book that someone else likes I am therefore condemning that person and his religious faith, but that's how some of the Potter fans seem to be reacting.
I think there may be some literary defensiveness here, too. Fantasy/SF buffs have had an uphill climb for years trying to make the case that their favorite books are "literature" worthy of admiration in the way we look, say, to Hemingway or Faulkner or Twain. Many years before Potter came along I ran into this defensiveness on the part of fantasy/SF fans, who seemed to get a little too riled when someone questioned their tastes. Question: are there any fantasy/SF readers out there who don't like Potter on the "witchcraft" (as opposed to style or technique) grounds? And are there any pro-Potter folks who never read in the fantasy/SF genre?

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum

Question: are there any fantasy/SF readers out there who don't like Potter on the "witchcraft" (as opposed to style or technique) grounds?

How about fantasy/SF readers, like me, who have never read "Harry Potter" and who have no intention to ever do so? Seriously, what does "Potter" have to recommend it over "Narnia" (an explicitly Christian allegory) or "Prydain" (a fictional exploration of Welsh mythology) or even "Redwall"? Like most ordinary people, the time I have allocated to reading this sort of thing is limited and I usually spend it reading to my kids. Is there a reason I should read them "Harry Potter" rather than the aforementioned books, or perhaps one of the "Fairy" books by Andrew Lang?

WRY

Anne-Marie,
Your concern is the one I share too, as one who was lured into the occult as a pre-teen. But I should say too that I doubt a clearly fictional work would have been the decisive factor for me. Memories are murky, but the most influential book that I can recall that may have had a role in my interest was a little series of paperback books that gave little one or two page vignettes about "weird but true" incidents from history: I'm sure Nostradamus was there and some others who had "prophecies", as well as people who had encountered warnings from the dead, etc. etc. I'm sure there were spells, too, but spells that had supposedly really worked in real life, not imaginary "she-turned-me-into a newt" stuff. Kids *are* smart enough to tell the difference.
That said, I'm many years past being a kid and worry that the more available (and acceptable) influence of things "wiccan" etc. could make a difference to some kid who was "primed" by the Potter stuff. I'm sitting here looking at a newspaper picture of a Potter kid fan who is sitting in a dark room in front of a lighted candle and, presumably, anxiously waiting for the new book.
But back to my occult period for a second, the *most* influential thing was another kid who claimed to be a practitioner of some success.

Maureen

Re: my own vehemence
I can't speak for others, but here's what I know about my own tone. I've been spending way too much time in the blogworld, and I admit I've seen some bad effects on my temper. But I'm sick and tired of dealing with idiots on just about every subject, not just on this one. Perhaps I seem shriller on these threads, but it's just that this subject offers me so much more scope to strike back, as it's not exactly a sensitive subject requiring much tact or theological exactness.


Look. Let me lay it out for you. As an active science fiction fan, I spend a lot of time with people who don't have much in the way of a steady influence in their life except science and reading. They often had rough childhoods and bad family life, and they have lots of intelligence and practical skills but not much wisdom. If they ever had experience with a church, it usually was either traumatic or unsatisfying to mind and spirit.

So a lot of them are pagan, agnostics, atheists, or Unitarians (well, mostly that's the neopagans who want to have a church building). There are also an uncertain number of people who aren't particularly open about what faith they are. For perfectly understandable reasons, because those of us who are openly and traditionally religious face a lot of fire from all the folks with issues.

These openly religious folks are mostly a lot of Klingons for Christ evangelicals, and a lot of Jewish people of various stripes. The rest of us are a mixed bag of various Christian denominations.

And once we've spent a weekend with our friends being shocked and worried by what some have been doing to their lives and being buttonholed with every problem they have with God by others, we get to go home and get told by our congregations and shuls that our interests and imaginations are silly or dangerous, and that we are in any case going to hell in a handbasket.

This is one reason why so many folks gafiate (Get Away From It All). I haven't. What with this and the way I kept having politics slammed down my throat at the '04 Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention), I really must love slamming my head into brick walls while being two-by-four'd by both my communities.

But the pagans and atheists of fandom don't necessarily know any better -- and my Christian brothers and sisters should, given that their Lord and Master was constantly telling stories.

When are people like me going to get any support from the Christian community? When is the Christian community going to stop whining about a nice lady like Ms. Rowling when they should be condemning books which openly advocate pagan religions and/or all the Seven Deadlies, and are sitting on your supermarket's shelves? Why the heck aren't you more worried about the huge numbers of smutty and degrading romance novels now so popular? And let's not even mention the crud that doesn't even have anything to do with sex....

So I will stop getting so upset about this stuff when everybody else stops being so blind and stupid in what they choose to attack.

Or when I remember to calm down and take a deep breath before pushing the Post button -- whichever one comes first.

Idiot

Maureen, you are usually very reasonable in your tone. But really, if people with whom you disagree are "idiots," then it is best to let it pass and focus on what matters in life.

c matt

His background suggests no special competence in this area and the charisms that come with Holy Orders or the papal office do not include a talent for literary criticism.

I keep banging my head against my keyboard every time I here this type of clueless remark. Use your BRAIN, man. He is not considering whether HP exhibits intelligent alliteration, has strong character development, or a coherent plot (and frankly, I would not be interested in his opinion on those issues).

HIS CRITICISM IS NOT LITERARY. His criticism, the the extent it exists, is whether it presents dangers to spiritual formation. On that, I'd say his background DOES suggest special competence in that area.

c matt

Parma will edge out AC Milan for the Italian football cup this year.

Irrelevant - Juve will take it all.

Joe


Sandra miesal noted that she has in the past been involved in editing fantasy. Any chance Sandra, that you're the one mentioned in the acknowledgements in David Drake's Lord of the Isles series? Just curious.

Ed the Roman

HIS CRITICISM IS NOT LITERARY.

And it is also not first hand. It depends entirely on the view presented in Kuby's book. Ratzinger's 'limit of error' as a critic has to be at least as great as Kuby's.

I haven't read Kuby's book, and my German is probably not up to it. But I have read all the HP (except the one coming out tonight) and if HP is unacceptable, most of Grimm and all of Greek mythology are, and probably most science fiction is as well.

Gerry O' Neil

Who does Benedict think he is? How dare he suggest that children's souls may be subtly endangered by the HP novels.

And he doesn't even have a degree in English Literature!

c matt

little gidding:

you make an interesting observation. My two daughters read the HP series (and are making me attend some midnight brouhaha for the next book), and we have the movies, etc. My youngest even did a "Hogwarts" camp where they learned the "science" behind HP - introduced them to a little bit of chemistry and physics via HP props. Seemed harmless enough. The movies/books were enjoyable enough as entertainment, so I can hardly be considered a

Maureen

Well, I could have said "illogical, insensitive, hateful fools who think New York is the whole world, Catholics fight abortion so they can eat babies, and Republicans are animals or an alien species", but that would have been flaming. And if I'd said "bakas", I would only have been speaking to the anime fans -- and half of them would have been mad at me for mixing Japanese words into my English. And unfortunately my rant-defining [rant on][rant off] labels disappeared into the ether. Sigh.

I freely admit to being yet another broken soul who is really really interested in art because it helped her survive the tough times. I'm luckier than a lot of my fannish friends, frankly, because my home life was reasonably good even if my school life was constant torment. Next to some of the things they've gone through, or some of the ways they were neglected, my troubles aren't even worth mentioning.

But I know that telling people not to read or do art is not the answer, and attacking artists who are trying to spread good values (like Rowling) isn't the answer, either. If there's a struggle for the soul of all the artforms, Christians have to stay in there going at it. And for that matter, I think it's foolish to resign folk culture (like the words 'witch' and 'magic', not to mention 'gay') to non-Christians every time they decide to try subverting a paradigm. If we keep using words the way they want us to, they will keep taking them over until we have no words left.

Think of the Church Fathers. Did they refuse to write in Latin or Greek, because all the literature was pagan? Heck no. They made those languages so completely their own, that the pagan literature only survives because Greek and Latin became languages of the Church.

But I'm not really a people person, and I'm not a debate person, and I'm not up to dealing with all this. But it does not seem to me that God wants me to go, so it's not exactly like I have a choice. (Well, yeah, I could slink off like a coward and take whatever horrible consequences ensue. But there always are such horrible consequences, even if it's only finding out what people got up to when you did retreat.) I hate errors in truth, and I love my friends and fellows (even when I want to smack 'em around and can't, thanks to that pesky cheek-turning thing).

But it would be nice if people commenting on science fiction and fantasy were more like Jimmy Akin (defending truth even when the books aren't to his taste) and less like Michael O'Brien (who needs an editor to work on his factual errors, much less the truth of his theses). I could use the reinforcements.

Look, I don't so much care what happens to me. But it seems to me that Rowling's little books have turned into something very big, and it seems to me that the reason is that her story is a sort of Christian school story, mystery story and panto in one. And it seems to me that she is also getting whacked from both directions by the two-by-fours, which has to be discouraging to every would-be Christian artist out there.

For all I know, her next book may stink to high heaven with bad writing or advocate gourmet cannibalism. But I'm not about to accuse her of going straight to hell until there's some reason for it.

c matt

To the extent his criticism is not firsthand, yes, his opinion is limited. But my comment was not necessarily directed at those who discounted his opinion b/c of lack of firsthand knowledge - that is valid. It was directed at those who discount his opinion b/c he is not a literary critic, has no literary background (although he has written quite a few books), or

"I am a longtime editor, critic and writer of fantasy fiction. On this one subject I can join Maureen (on another thread)in claiming to have more expertise than Pope Benedict."

It seems this type of "expertise" is misdirected. Of course there are more qualified literary critics out there than B16. But its literary merit is not on what he would focus his criticism.

c matt

And, as I was saying above before I hit the post button prematurely, I am hardly a HP hater. I rather like them. But when a demonstrably spiritual man as B16 indicates caution may be warranted against possible spiritual (not literary) pitfalls, I'll listen. Forewarned = forearmed.

As for JKW's Xian creds - I have no basis to doubt them (except to the extent she is not in full communion w/ Rome) nor her intentions. But that seems to be ol' Screwtape's way, idn't it - use us without letting us know we are being used. Not that it is necesarily happening w/JKR and HP, but that it can (and does) happen with ANY of us.

little gidding

Okay, Wry and Maureen, I thank you very much for your insights.

I've always been a fan of science fiction--but not so much of fantasy, although I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings, but could not get hooked on Narnia. I very much like Phil Dick's work, as well as cyberpunk, steampunk, and beyond. And I recommended many such works to my children when they entered their mid-teens. Lately, I've enjoyed going back to sample some 1940s and 50s true, pulpy stuff, still fragrant with Tom Swift, just to immerse myself in the atmospherics of it all.

But I think we live in a weird time. This stuff is no longer sheer escapism and it is no longer marginal. To overstate it, Phil Dick's schizophrenia now looks like it's spread through society, and Horselover Fat's Gnostic delusions about evil conspiracies are broadcast through our culture. What are we to make of that?--and I don't mean to suggest that Dick's books are the cause of it. Magic is now more than a special effect, it is widely believed to offer its practitioners a serious spiritual path. Now that it raises itself up in this way, I take it to be necessary to clarify and explain why it is not.

Tonight more than five *thousand* bookstores across the country will be hosting HP parties, and Harry Potter--if you'll pardon the John Lennon imitation here--is bigger than Jesus. The size and scope of the phenomenon is really unparalleled, and that, in itself, makes me wonder uneasily about the source of its strength because I have not yet found a satisfying rational explanation for it. If Harry Potter is not mainstream, then nothing is. I think he can easily bear some pointed criticism without the need for his supporters to break out Thor's Hammer to squash the opposition.

Peace to us all.

Maureen

Um...not having read Harry Potter, and only knowing about it from a book by Ms. Kuby (who has baffling reading comprehension problems in relation to HP) would seem to be a near-insuperable obstacle to having anything sensible to say about the HP books.

It would be like me making comments about Stargate: SG1 if I only knew what I'd read about it in a book which thought Colorado Springs was a water treatment plant, and the US Air Force was a sort of American air hose. I don't care how smart or wise you are; you can't make bricks without straw or good conclusions without true data.

Re: remarks above --
On rereading, I conclude that the poster was probably saying I should step away from reading blogs. Which is probably true. When translating Russian fantasy novels is a pick-me-up, it's some sort of sign. ;)

Gerry O' Neil

Radactrice:

I haven't read 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. Does that mean I am not entitled to voice any criticisms of it's ('alleged') contents?

I have it on good authority that it is a vile, anti-Semitic tract. But maybe I should keep my mouth shut until I've studied it in detail for myself.

Sandra Miesel

I second Maureen's account of sf fandom in which I was active for almost 30 years. In fact it was my experiences with Pagans in fandom that led to my career in the Catholic press. Fandom is to say the least a difficult environment for a Christian.
An additional factor in my own vehemence is that I've been debating the HP issue with Michael O'Brien since he first popped up. Google his name with mine and see. I get particularly irritated with Catholic critics of the books who misrepresent what's in them, which appears to be the case with this German woman, too.
The controversy generated by the LifeSite story--and its subsequent play in the national media--has done an incomparable job of making Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church look ridiculous.
Has anyone considered that HP might actually immunize children against magic? The spells after all don't work. It's make-believe!
People have testified that they were drawn into Paganism by a love of nature. Would anyone suggest that we keep children away from trees lest they become Druids? The main attractions of Paganism are that it makes people feel special and powerful. Fill those needs with faith in Christ instead.
In case any anti-HP readers would like to learn about Wicca and what Wiccans actually do, try PERSUASIONS OF THE WITCH'S CRAFT by anthropologist TH Luhrman. Confirm for yourselves how distant it is from HP.

c matt

Harry Potter’s villains are uniform in their personalities and tactics – they act out of pride and selfishness, and are not very interesting as characters.

I disagree with her here - Lucius Malfoy is an interesting character

Sandra Miesel

To Joe who inquired about me: yes I'm that Sandra Miesel. David Drake is an old friend. We co-edited two anthologies of sf influenced by Kipling, A DIFFERENT STAR and HEADS TO THE STORM.
The argument from authority still requires that somebody with knowledge and intelligence--not to mention sense--actually analyzed the work in question, be that HP or the PROTOCOLS. Ratzinger didn't evaluate HP for himself. He's relying on the opinions of Madame Kuby who has who knows what qualifications. I am confident that Maureen and I could beat her all hollow.
Before invoking the PROTOCOLS, remember that Fr. Denis Fahey, an authority revered by the RadTrads, trusted them and quoted them approvingly. Hey, what does a London TIMES reporter or *gasp* Will Eisner know compared with a Catholic priest!

c matt

I think a lot of you are still missing the point - perhaps, of itself, HP may not seem to present a problem. For a person familiar with "PERSUASIONS OF THE WITCH'S CRAFT by anthropologist TH Luhrman" which I have never even heard of, the differences between Wicca and HP may be glaringly obvious. For the other clueless millions lining up tonight for HP, it may not be. Having READ the series and seen each movie several times over, I can see where, if not informed, one might see magic as a neat thing. Sure, in HP's world, we'd all be muggles. But what if this is the first brick on the yellow brick road that leads to the Wiccan of Oz? And some wiccan you bumps into on the 'net in your HP chat room hooks you up with the Real Deal? We are talking about KIDS 8-14 or so - not the most discerning bunch on the planet. Let your kids read them if they want, but what is so wrong with a little caution and forwarning? Why does it seem, as little gidding points out, any caution is met with the wrath of Thor?

Victor Morton

Sandra wrote (echoing Maureen):

Fandom is to say the least a difficult environment for a Christian.

Here, here. My personal experience is arthouse cinephilia, but all the same points apply.

regina doman

To reply to Anne Marie,
<>

I can understand that concern, and I do share it. You might want to see some of what I wrote in my interviews with Ignatius Insight

http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features/rdoman_intvw2_oct2004.asp

which has my more conservative take on the subject. It is a concern that people do use these books to promote witchcraft.

However, it's my feeling that the pull of the occult on humans in general is a bit overexaggerated (including by demons themselves). I still think that The Screwtape Letters is the best primer on how the Devil tends to operate, and the sins that are most likely to damn us and which do the most danger to society are the ones we barely think about most of the time (like selfishness, pride, gossiping, lying, etc.). Occultic and homosexual sins are 'sensational' sins that garner a lot of condemnation, but I suspect that one reason is that statistically few people are tempted by them (so therefore most of us feel comfortable sneering at those who are). Alcohol abuse, pornography, cohabitation, divorce, and birth control wreak far more damage on souls and society than "Satanists and sodomites." And some of the former are very respectable vices.

The question is really whether you yourself or your children are subject to that kind of temptation. My husband is a revert who spent some time in the New Age movement, so this was a concern for us. He had more reservations about the books than I did. But after reading them all the way through, he had to admit that in tone they're not at all similar to the works of fiction that first drew him into the occult.

I tried to describe this quality above as a kind of "occultic kick" that comes from wanting to be part of a secret group in order to be enlightened or to get power. Some books that aren't about the occult are steeped in this kind of ethos - I find some of Madeleine L'Engle's books are full of a kind of spiritual elitism that makes you feel special for understanding them. Even Tolkien has touches of this. But J.K. Rowling's books have a sort of genuousness, openness to them, and her elistist characters like Snape and Malfoy are so stingingly condemned that ironically, the books don't feel like occult fantasy at all (this bland openness is, I think, one reason why they are so popular mainstream - it takes a certain personality type to appreciate the elitist flavor).

(BTW I'm not condemning L'Engle or Tolkien, who are both among my favorite authors, just noting the tone they share that Rowling doesn't. Hold off the bricks please!)

It seems to me that if a child was drawn to the occult, Rowling's books might interest him because of their complexity, but he'd quickly move on to 'harder' stuff that fed an elitist "no one understands me" obsession. Actually, Rowling might even be an antidote for such kids (on her website, Rowling chided some of her fans for behaving too much like "Slytherins" - the elitist House of wizards in the books - and I can't help wondering if her rebuke woke them up a bit.)

BTW since my interview with Ignatius, we have decided to allow our children to read the books, and no ill effects have followed thus far.


V, M: "How do you know come to know so much about sparrows?"

c matt

Barbara note is a classic example of the congenital inability of conservative Catholic Harry-haters to refrain from calling into question the fidelity of fans of the books. Harry fans are not simply people whose tastes differ. Nope, they are rebels against God Almighty himself.

Exactly.

If certain Puritan elements of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism and other Jansenist elements of Catholicism had been triumphant everywhere and always, communist-era Bulgarian high-rise apartment blocks would be the crowining glory of Western civilization.

Emily - I guess you missed those comments.

Nguoi Dang Chay

"When is the Christian community going to stop whining about a nice lady like Ms. Rowling when they should be condemning books which openly advocate pagan religions and/or all the Seven Deadlies, and are sitting on your supermarket's shelves? Why the heck aren't you more worried about the huge numbers of smutty and degrading romance novels now so popular?"

Maureen, that is EXACTLY what Cardinal Ratzinger addressed. Books that are obviously immoral are easy to recognize. It is those that are subtle, seductive, and insidious that creep in under one's guard and pervert one's faith without the reader being aware.

WRY

Food for thought. Of course, you could probably find a Nazi that likes HP too and prove it's advocating the Master Race.

POTTER CHARMS MODERN DAY WITCHES By Deepti Hajela - Associated Press Writer

July 2001

NEW YOR (AP) He's a charmer, that Harry Potter. The adolescent hero of J.K. Rowling's series rides a broom, owns an Invisibility Cloak and has cast a spell over young readers the world over. He's got modern day witches enchanted too. "For once, the witches aren't ugly old hags," said Michael Darnell, a 39 year old computer programmer from Winnipeg, Canada, who has been a practicing witch for 25 years. "For once they're the protagonists rather than the villains." Darnell is one of the thousands of North American adherents of Wicca, a faith linked to witchcraft. No one knows how many people practice Wicca, but estimates run from 300,000 to more than 1.5 million people following what they describe as a nature based belief system that existed in Europe before Christianity. However, witchcraft has always had a darker image in popular culture, often linked to devil worship and decried by some Christians as an affront to God. From Shakespeare to Salem, witches have usually been portrayed as evil, curse casting troublemakers.

Not in Harry's case. He and his friends go to school to learn witchcraft and have all kinds of magical adventures along the way. In his world, the non witches are the weird ones a welcome change for witchcraft practitioners. "If somebody wants to write about us as being fun, interesting, magical people, we don't mind that at all" said Jane Raeburn, 35, a writer in Wells, Maine, who has been practicing Wicca for 10 years. The Potter books - the fourth volume released in July 2000 don't actually deal with the philosophical precepts of Wicca or any specific religious tradition. Instead Harry and company fight the good fight against the forces of evil aided by the stereotypical pop culture notions of witchery - flying brooms, magical instruments, spells.

That in itself has been enough to concern some Christian parents. Last year, the series topped the list of books that parents or certain groups tried to have taken off shelves, according to the American Library Association. The books were removed in some schools after parents raised concerns that the series was promoting witchcraft. Modern day witches find that laughable. "They don't have anything to do with Wicca" said Patricia Allgeier, 57, a witch in Springfield Mo. It's this generation's version of "The Wizard of Oz" That's not to say witches don't have any concerns about the books. Anything that promotes stereotypes even positively, can make it harder for Wiccans to deal with non Wiccans. It portrays witches in positive ways - but it does not portray my religious beliefs said Chad Anctil of the Witches' League for Public Awareness. A big admirer of the Harry Potter books, Anctil loves the writing and the entertaining stories. But he said "it is difficult for the religion to be taken seriously when books like this portray it as magic. The common thread that draws witches and non witches to the book is its engaging storytelling, which explores the difficulties of growing up and has kids dealing with issues of right and wrong and standing up for what they believe. What you're talking about are the choices people make, said Christina Aubin, parenting coordinator for the Clearwater, Fla based Web site, the Witches' Voice. Her 10yr old daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan. "It teaches her to think for herself" Aubin said. "I don't think that's a bad idea"

Nguoi Dang Chay

>>Is there a reason I should read them "Harry Potter" rather than the aforementioned books, or perhaps one of the "Fairy" books by Andrew Lang?

No, no reason. HP is fairly well down the list. The E. Nesbit books would be an excellent choice as well. Also Laura Ingles Wilder. Robert Louis Stevenson. Kipling.

WRY

or this: from "Laurel Leader" in Md.

Store serves pagan clients

10/02/03
By Diane Reynolds

The Crystal Fox thrives because both pagans and non-pagans frequent the store.

At the Crystal Fox, owner Sterling Gallagher breaks down his customers into the "pagan-friendly"; "pagans," whom he defines as people who worship multiple gods; and the few who are not pagans or pagan-friendly but who come to buy a particular item such as incense.

Unitarians are a "classic example" of the pagan-friendly, he said _ those tolerant of pagan practices without necessarily embracing the religion. In fact, many pagans network through CUUPS, the covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.

"More than half of our customers are non-pagan," Gallagher said.

Gallagher acknowledges a connection between popular culture and paganism. His store, a cornucopia of all things New Age, would fit seamlessly into the wizard world of a Harry Potter book. Oils, herbs and incense; crystals and tarot cards; brightly painted dragon statues; Celtic and Egyptian goddesses; crystal balls and sphinxes; books on witchcraft, New Age and magic; pastel-painted angels and pixies; witches' datebooks and calendars _ the store is a candybox overflowing with consumer goodies.

The Harry Potter phenomenon has brought customers to his store, he noted. "More adults than children come in under the Harry Potter influence," he said.

"Dragons are also popular," he said. "It's the whole fantasy aspect. ... Once you enter into fantasy you have a much broader market."

"People who think this stuff is cool" are the chief demographic, he added.


Nguoi Dang Chay

>>I think he can easily bear some pointed criticism without the need for his supporters to break out Thor's Hammer to squash the opposition.

Obviously NOT a sci fi fan or you would know that Thor's Hammer is a distinctly un-hammerlike Asgard device that only destroys Goa'uld. ;)

Gerry O' Neil

Sandra:

I said I have it on GOOD authority that the the 'Protocols' is a vile, anti-Semitic tract. I could have substituted 'Mein Kampf' for the 'Protocols', but no doubt you'd have produced a renegade priest (or some other eccentric or misguided soul from the Catholic world) who had expressed fond words for the 'Fuehrer'.

Maybe I should have cited the works of Anton LaVay...

In this context, your reference to Fahey is simply an irrelevant smear.

regina doman

If I seem a bit overboard to little gidding in my support of the books, btw, I guess that's because I approach them primarily as another author who's laboriously struggling to learn the craft of fiction. I'm particularly interested in Rowling because the books I try to write share things in common with hers: namely, suspense. I'm not a fantasy writer, nor am I much interested in the genre. I'm more interested in things like Hitchcock and Stanley Donen's Charade.

I find the books very well-written, or maybe 'well crafted' (I'm a bit tone-deaf to style). As writers and editors, my husband and I have listened to Rowling's books on tape and the second time we listened, we kept saying things to each other like, "Listen! Did you catch that? This totally throwaway line is a complete setup for the plot point in the last chapter! Brilliant!" and "I can't believe it. She just TOLD US WHO DID IT in this sentence, but no one would recognize it!" And it's amazing how the books are so similar in structure but so very different from one another.

From a suspense writer's point of view, she's very exciting, because she does so many things so well - not just mystery, but characters, setting, and depth of theme and meaning too. Before I read her, I kept getting depressed because as a YA fiction writer, I had no one to measure myself against except writers like Lois Duncan and Judy Blume. Not that I'm better than them, but it's pretty depressing to have them as standards of excellence, or at least sales and popularity.

As I've said in Gilbert magazine, her books excite me because it's neat to know that books so well crafted can still be written in this point in the decline of Western Civilization. :)

I don't think that my enthusiasm and appreciation of the quality of the book has blinded me to the problematic areas of the books. After all, I first read them when I was struggling with the plot of my second book, and my anti-Harry editor said, "Why don't you read J.K. Rowling? I don't care for the subject matter, but she's the best plotter out there."

I can't answer for public tastes, but having examined the 'back end' of the books from a structural point of view, they are so remarkably put together that, merely looking at them from a quality point of view, I predict that they'll stand the test of time. I can understand the tendency to dismiss out of hand most things that are wildly popular, but every once in a while, something does become popular because it's actually good.

Ben Chapman

I forgive Carl Mays.

little gidding

>>>>I think he can easily bear some pointed criticism without the need for his supporters to break out Thor's Hammer to squash the opposition.

>>Obviously NOT a sci fi fan or you would know that Thor's Hammer is a distinctly un-hammerlike Asgard device that only destroys Goa'uld. ;)


Actually, I thought it was a rasslin' move. ;) ;) Or at least that's what my dad used to tell me.

I appreciate all the additional thoughts here on the thread. Thanks.

Sandra Miesel

PERSUASIONS OF THE WITCH'S CRAFT (Harvard, 1989) is an indepth field study of an English coven. Nothing that the observed Wiccans do has any bearing on HP. Nobody in Rowling dances in a circle to "raise the cone of power" to work a spell. Pagans work their spells for health, love, succeess, just as Christians do by prayer but they imagine that they can compel their deities.
Wicca is not the continuation of the pre-Christian religions of Europe, as knowledgable Pagans such as Issac Bonewits have long known. Not one person was executed in the European witch-craze for worshiping a Pagan god. Satan is not the mistaken identity of a pagan god, nor do modern Wiccan worshiop Satan. The Satanic pact is the feature distinguishing witchcraft as persecuted in Early Modern Europe from witchcraft found in many parts of the world. In Dark Ages Europe it was a heresy to think that witches were real or could work real spells, but alas times changed.
The authentic history of modern Paganism is surveyed in THE TRIUMPH OF THE MOON by Ronald Hutton (Oxford, 1999).

Maureen

Actually, Wicca and neopaganism are a bit passe in sf and fantasy these days. We have other fish to fry. So, just so people know what I do worry about, I hereby present, in no particular order:

The Top Ten Things I Really Worry about in SF/F Today!

1. Post-humanism. All that mind-download, anti-aging, nano-everything supercession of humanity crup. It's just techie narcissistic gnosticism with the gloss of shiny happy science, but people pant for it. Why?!

2. Anti-life cloning stories. A close partner with #1. Clone stories have traditionally been sf's defense of the individual. Now many protagonists pictured as good guys actually go along with the whole "just possess your clone's body" thing. I blame it on stem cells. Example: Old Man's War by John Scalzi.

3. The joys of Communism. Yes, Communism is sure to work this time, because your hearts are pure and your cause just. Just ask the fans in Eastern Europe. Anarchism and nihilism also go in this barrel; libertarianism's a bit passe.

4. Let's make every single book we put out an alternate history, instead of writing anything new! (This has the bonus of creating a bubble and then having it burst when folks get sick of alternate histories.)

5. Americans are bad. Bad Americans. No future. (Not that I'm against dystopias, but...there's a limit.)

6. My writing is so wonderful that it doesn't need to include plot, character, or any entertainment value whatsoever.

7. My story is so good that I don't need writing skill or editing.

8. SF and fantasy writers who've decided that spicing up a novel with romance and sex scenes means rape and bondage to the point of torture at minimum, and bestiality, pedophilia and incest if they think they can get away with it. Of course, this is just copying the romance field, but still.

9. Every young girl really wants to read sappy romances about gay guys who act like women, especially if one of them is seriously underage and the other's his teacher. Unless she's reading about plucky lesbians who are loved and admired by everyone they meet. Or how you really want to sleep with anyone who hates you and treats you badly.

10. Romance publishers putting out sappy, smutty, stupid fantasy and sf romances (especially when they're about werewolves or aliens) and children's publishers putting out several Wicca Is Good So Join the Coven fiction series. And no, I don't mean Harry Potter. I don't mean veiled references. I mean active roselytization, and not because they believe in it but because it's fashionable and might make money. (It's not written by sf/f writers and is religious fiction more than fantasy, but people probably think it is sf/f.)

amy

Regina. Please. You're better than Judy Blume. Trust us.

regina doman

BTW, nearly forgot - my husband disagrees with me and agrees with C Matt that Rowling creates interesting characters.

I agree that Lucius Malfoy is a great villain, and you really can't have a great book without a great villain (still get chills thinking about his sneers at Harry in Book 5, knowing that Harry knows him for what he is now. I hope they have the same actor playing him in movie 4 as played in movie 2, too.). But I don't think the reader wants to BE Malfoy, or even Tom Riddle (who is my favorite villain, the scariest incarnation of Voldemort, IMHO). Not in the same way that we might want to be like Hermoine, or Harry, or Ron, or even Dumbledore or MacGonagall.

Whereas, if given a choice between being Lucy Manette or Madame LaFarge, I'd pick Madame LaFarge any day. Rowling's good characters have a robustness to them that makes them more attractive than their evil counterparts. I guess that was my point. Sorry about that.

Maureen

Make that _trans_-humanism.

Sorry.

regina doman

Amy, thank you.

:)

Maureen - you crack me up! Especially #4 and #9! No Kidding!

Mark Shea

WRY:

I guess those "Lord of the Rings Divining Runes" I saw for sale at the local bookstore prove that JRR Tolkien is in league with Satan too.

Nguoi Dang Chay

Lucius Malfoy has almost as much depth of character as a dementor.

Voldemort is the only interesting villain so far.

Hopefully there will be an interesting Muggle character in the last two books. Dumbledore seems to be the only one who understands that Muggles are people, too -- and I don't think that message comes across clearly to the reader.

little gidding

Mark Shea:

No, it proves your bookstore is.

Maclin Horton

Re Regina's 11:16 post above: I'm pretty sensitive to prose style and don't think very highly of Rowlings', which lowers my estimate of the Potter series as literature. But dang, she is terrific at plotting. Having written a fantasy novel which, though tolerably well-written at the sentence and paragraph level, was definitely Not A Page Turner (and just fundamentally not all that interesting, I 'm afraid), I greatly appreciate writers who have that gift.

Nguoi Dang Chay

While I have been critical of Rowling and think that HP should be read with parental oversight if at all, I will say that JKR does appear to be well-meaning and gets some things right.

For example, she has created at least one character who is a true Christian (dare I say Catholic?) role model:

Arthur Weasley.

Tim F.

There is just one thing I want to ask you Python fans.

"Who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?"

john c

Note to jane: your family is correct. Frankly I'm surprised you've remained unimmolated this long.

Julia

Back to one of the other issues that began this thread.

Ratzinger's criticism of rock music was in the context of whether it is appropriate as liturgical music. He probably doesn't like it in other contexts, either (because he prefers Mozart), but I don't think he totally condemned rock music in all situations.

Nguoi Dang Chay

Perhaps Regina Doman and Michael D. O'Brien can share a fact-checker.

Mark Shea

Tim:

Before I answer you, I must know: Are there those who call you... "Tim"?

WRY

Mark,
Did you snap up those divining runes while you had the chance? Great presents for the kids. Tarot cards are fun too: tell your fortune and everything. Kids love 'em.
You didn't want a serious answer, did you?

regina doman

Julia,
You're right that Ratzinger's comments were given in a talk on whether or not rock music was appropriate for the liturgy, but his comments did appear to go beyond the question of simply that situation.

And I do know that at the time some Catholics were quick to pull those quotes and use them as an excuse to condemn all rock music. I was on the receiving end of their bludgeons at the time, having had the nerve to defend Amy Grant.

The point being that as cardinal, Ratzinger felt free to put forth opinions (which he is entitled to) on a variety of cultural subjects, but I suspect that he will be less forthcoming now that he has been invested with the power of the papal office.

If John Paul II was not willing to comment publicly on something like the Passion of the Christ, I can't see our current Holy Father putting forth an opinion either way on the Harry Potter series.

BTW, I was just told that in the letter Ratzinger wrote to Kuby, he recommend that she send a copy of her book to a Fr. Fleetwood at another Curial office. Fr. Fleetwood read the book, disagreed with it, and send her multiple pages of comments detailing his disagreements. He said he never received a response. This was posted on Jimmy Akin's website yesterday.

Victor Morton

Regina:

African or European?

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