Bloom off the Rose? Critic Begs Rowling to "Shut Up"

I suppose it's time to slam Harry's creator, as columnist Jeffrey Weiss does in this article from the the Dallas Morning News. "With the greatest of respect, I'd like to say something to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling:

Shut up. Please.

Stop talking about what Ron will do for a living, whom Neville will marry, what kinds of creatures Hagrid will raise.

If you didn't put it in the books, please don't tell us now.

I guess I don't want you to stop explaining completely. I'd love to know more about what inspired some of the plot details in the books. If you want to dish about how you decided on those particular inscriptions for the headstones, how you came up with the names for the characters, or how you cleverly planned the religious underpinnings of the broad arc of the story; I am all ears.

But telling us that Dumbledore is gay, as you did last week? Why would you do that?

As a fan, I can understand both the authorial impulse and the public interest. As a reader, it's making me nuts.


In other words, just don't tell me anything I don't want to hear.

Um... no. I agree with the editorial. Using my useless English background, it doesn't matter how interesting a theory is, it's just a theory if it isn't corroborated by the text. Jo's theory is that Dumbledore is gay. Granted, it's a strong theory since she's also the author, but since there's nothing in the text to support it, it's just an interesting idea. Of course, if she had written Dumbledore as gay, not only would Dumbledore *be* gay, but she would have given the world a wonderful, gay role model.

No, I think that the less said, the better. One of the marks of good literature is not what is said, but what is left out. This leaves room for imagination and interpretation, which sometimes is radically from reader to reader. Shakespeare had this quality. Although he had famous directions for actors, such as "exit stage left, pursued by a bear,", much of his work is simply a framework to hang imagination on.
      The problem with post- writing announcements is that what is said is now dogma. Where before it was unsaid about the motivation of Dumbledore, from now on it will be accepted that he said this or did that because he was gay, thus chaining his motivations to revealed fact. Much better to leave it to the reader to interpret and guess and marvel (and be wrong), rather than explaining everything.

Apparently you think the writer of the article is complaining about Dumbledore being gay. He's complaining about the author making additional statements about the characters that aren't in the books. Telling us about Dumbledore's sexuality, or anything that will happen to the characters in the future, is meaningless if it isn't mentioned (or even hinted) in the stories. To illustrate the point, I'll quote a bit from the blog of Ken Jennings, who was commenting on those "where are they now" endings tacked on to fictional movies:

I always leave biopics and other factual movies wanting to know more about the real-life history anyway. But somewhere along the line, the convention got borrowed for fiction films, and that really annoys me for some reason. When I read, "Twenty years later, Bobby and Janet met once more, by chance, at a Christmas party. They remarried and now live in Portugal," I want to stand up and yell at the screen, "No, they don't! They don't exist! If that was part of the story, you would have shown it to us in the actual movie! Cheat! CHEAT!" Typically I only do this when I'm watching at home.

Sorry. That's what I get for making a brief snarky comment and not giving enough context. What I meant to imply was that the columnist was being inconsistent when he says, "I guess I don't want you to stop explaining completely." I read that as if he were saying, "there are some things I'd like to hear more about, but that bit was just too much information." In re-reading, however, I think I was being unfair to the columnist. He does make a distinction between the things he doesn't want to hear about -- specific details about the ongoing lives of the characters as opposed to some of the deep background or influences that might have led R. to make some of the authorial choices that she made. I don't necessarily agree with him, but I can see that the distinction between those categories is valid.

That being said (and now that I've let myself get drawn further into this than I intended) I take a somewhat more liberal view of what sort of post-publication information about the characters it might be reasonable for an author to offer. I don't draw the line quite so tightly as, you can't make "statements about the characters that aren't in the books." I put it more that you can't make statements that are inconsistent with what is in the books. And I don't think the suggestion that D. is gay is at all inconsistent. All of his close, emotional relationships (from Harry to Tom Riddle to Grindelwald) are with males. His relationships with women are cordial, warm, professional and perhaps even protective, but nothing so deep as what we see with the males in his life. And the relationship with G. was so deep and intense that it almost led him to betray his own moral compass. It is clearly the relationship that has had the deepest impact on the rest of his life. So I don't find it inconsistent with the character that develops through the course of the books, not that it adds much either. I merely find it mildly interesting that R. thought of him that way. And I wonder if she thought of him that way from the beginning, or rather later on as the character began to take on his own life as she wrote him.

Thank you for noticing my work. We've got a bit more content on this topic on the Religion blog over at WeissThe Dallas Morning News[email protected]