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Harry Potter book chat

Boston Globe book reviewer Liz Rosenberg, who reviewed the final book in the Potter series, was online on Monday, July 23, at noon to field your questions and comments.

The transcript follows.

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Liz_Rosenberg: Hi everyone. I'm Liz Rosenberg and I'm here, sitting near the cozy fireplace in WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, a bookstore in Chatham, to answer your questions-- including any sent by flue powder. I know there's a spoiler warning but I WILL try not to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't finished yet. So-- welcome!
harry__Guest_: herminie is my favorite does she have a big part with harry in book seven do we get to see more of her power and spells?
Liz_Rosenberg: She very definitely comes into her own in Book 7, and shows just how adept, brave, clever and good she is.
george__Guest_: Who dies in the book?
Liz_Rosenberg: Awww. You know I'm not going to answer that one. Next!
MarkTD: I'm a little disappointed Jo never returned to the Veil in the Department of Mysteries. I know writing such and immense and complex series requires changing plans on the fly, but the veil just seemed so important. I guess that's why it's the Department of Mysteries.
Liz_Rosenberg: This is such a great question I just wanted to post it. We do, of course, get a glimpse of that Veil again, but I know what you mean. Maybe J K Rowling wants us to know that some Mysteries never are fully revealed. And of course, in a series as immense and complex as this (I love that phrase, Mark TD,) some loose ends are bound to be there, there are going to be characters or elements we'd like to see more of. That is the nature of books, I suppose-- that they do end.
caitknits__Guest_: My husband and I could only count 6 horcruxes. Did we miss one, or does Voldemort count as one himself?
Liz_Rosenberg: Hmm... Count again.
HPlvr1983: do you think there will be prequills or any more of the small books like quiditch through the ages?
Liz_Rosenberg: I certainly think a prequel is more likely than a sequel, though Rowling herself has ruled out either one-- at least for now. But who wouldn't want to see more of James and Lily, Snape and Sirius and the younger Dumbledore? It's such a great temptation-- and could lead to a truly great book-- that seems to me a real possibility.
Liz_Rosenberg: As to smaller books, or side-quills, I think that's a definite possibility. THE HISTORY OF MAGIC is mentioned so many times in the 7th book I felt that it really ought to exist-- or that it will. And JKR has said she's thinking about doing some kind of Encyclopedia for the material she wasn't able to fit into the 7 books. So, to go back to an earlier question, we might find out more about that Veil in such a book. What do the rest of you think she WILL write next? Any guesses?
doerun__Guest_: what do you think of the ending?
Liz_Rosenberg: Thanks for the question. (Thank you, everyone, for your questions!) That's a complicated answer. I've been feeling blue for the past day and a half just because it HAS come to an end. So I'm trying still to sort out my own emotional response to that, and to some of the events, from a more objective critical sense of it. And I'll go to another question that also aims at it.
MarvoloGaunt__Guest_: I found Deathly Hallows disappointing. Clearly not the best in the series as Rowling said she felt.
Liz_Rosenberg: I think I have to agree. Again, I'm still trying to digest what I've read. Often I find that a week, or a month later, I feel differently-- that images or scenes will haunt me so that I have to re-think a first impression. But I do think it may be in some ways the weakest book of the series. It's had to hold up so much, you know, to resolve so much so quickly. So, in some places it seems to move so slowly it seems years have gone by-- then toward the end it seems to cram an awful lot in, in too little time. I've thought perhaps she should have made this seventh book into two parts-- maybe ending it where you're not sure what will happen-- and then move along to the explanations and flashbacks and so on. It might have bought more time.
Liz_Rosenberg: And then, I've never been a fan of epilogues.
Liz_Rosenberg: On the other hand I agree with JKR that the new movie is the best one yet!
HPlvr1983: the internet is buzzing with rumors of a completely different series in the same world as Harry Potter but separate from it. What do you think?
Liz_Rosenberg: Sounds great to me.
dumble-snore__Guest_: Where the first few books in the series were clearly targeted to the adolescent audience, do you think JKR successfully matured the storyline to appeal to a larger audience?
Liz_Rosenberg: I do, yes. In fact, I'd say the first book, maybe even the first two, were true children's novels, that is to say, classic novels that children ages 7-11 might also enjoy and handle. I think the books have matured beautifully along with the characters in them, and their readers. And I saw an awful lot of grown ups hanging around the bookstore on Saturday at midnight. Some dolts still dismiss them as "children's books" as if that made them something lesser. E B White oncfe said, "anyone who gears down when writing for children is bound to strip a few gears." Rowling never talked down or wrote down. Some of the best prose in the English language has been written for young people.
nycwriterchick__Guest_: I want to read a History of Hogwarts, personaly
Liz_Rosenberg: So do I. Maybe we can circulate an online petition!
rick__Guest_: Did any predictions you had about the seventh book come true?
Liz_Rosenberg: Yep. Some main ones. However, I'm a bit like Trelawny-- definitely uneven in my reading of the future.
Liz_Rosenberg: How did the rest of you do?
HPlvr1983: Now that the series is over do you think a new one will take its place as far as popularity and a general craze atmosphere is concerned?
Liz_Rosenberg: Thanks for the brilliant question! That, as they say, is the 64 million dollar question for publishers. I just hope they'll have learned that copycat fiction never works. I love it that young people can't be fooled. So as long as they look for a work of true genius, then yes, I think there's alaways hope. Coleridge said there can be nothing of genius "without something peculiar in it." So I imagine we can't predict it.
Liz_Rosenberg: Meanwhile, we should all be grateful we've been alive in this Harry Potter era-- it's an honor, isn't it, just to be here at the very beginning of it. All of you, her readers, have created this phenomnenon. As one young friend, Olivia LaTronica commented, "I think it's great that everyone can come together like this over a book."
Liz_Rosenberg: Twenty years ago people were already predicting the death ofg the book. I guess they missed Divination.
MassHPFan__Guest_: Random potentially amusing note for you: someone suggested that S.P.E.W. should stand for "Society for the Prevention of Epilogue Weddings." I also support the idea of JKR writing "Hogwarts, A History."
Liz_Rosenberg: Just had to post this one!
Nibs__Guest_: Can you give some examples of what came true and what didnt?
Liz_Rosenberg: Ask me again in a month. Actually, I'm supposed to write a piece thinking about the series as a whole for the Globe a bit later on-- when I've had a chance to think, brood--not to mention sleep. I tried not to give anything away in the review that came out in this morning's paper so I'm not going to do it this afternoon!
HPlvr1983: final thoughts on the series? recomendations to hp lovers?
Liz_Rosenberg: I wonder if we ever really have final thoughts on a great book. Personally, I'm an avid re-reader. I re-read the books I love over and over-- and over. I read A WRINKLE IN TIME l4 times before I left elementary school-- I remember, because in those days they;'d stamp your name in the book, and I counted. I'm sure I've read it l4 times since. Each time, you come to it as a slightly new person.
Liz_Rosenberg: Novelist Stanley Elkin once defined a novel as "a long piece of fiction with a mistake in it." So of course, a 7 book series will have some mistakes. But it has such sweeping beauties, too, unforgettable characters, miraculous inventions....
Liz_Rosenberg: And you asked about recommendations to readers.
Liz_Rosenberg: I'd say re-read these books. For instance, the last words Snape says to Harry in this 7th book. Look deeply at that, and re-think it. There are so many of those moments here--that change and deepen the more you look.
Liz_Rosenberg: And I would welcome suggestions here for other book recommendations for Potter lovers.
Liz_Rosenberg: I'm going to say-- read Charles Dickens. Great Expectations, David Copperfield. There's even magic in some of his books--one man spontaneously combusts, though the books are considered "realistic"! John Gardner's GRENDEL, of course.
serafina__Guest_: Thanks for hosting this chat, Liz -- but I strongly disagree with your assessment of HP7. I thought it was the best book since #3 (my overall fave), and that it *lacked* the messiness, overcomplicated subplots, and overwriting that dragged down #2 and #4. It's a nearly impossible task to wrap up this mythology in an even close to complete way, and I thought JKR did a wonderful job -- emphasizing that nobody (and no book!) is simply all good or evil. And I also liked the epilogue! A little goofy, but it had the most heartbreaking line of the whole book for me, on the second to last page...and here's my question! At what point, if any, did YOU get choked up? Thanks!
Liz_Rosenberg: Serafine, thanks. I want to give your point of view the air time it deserves.
Liz_Rosenberg: In a way, I think I was choked up all THROUGH this book. But Snape has always been in a way one of my favorite characters, so any material about him, his life, hit in a keen way.
Liz_Rosenberg: And you know-- I have a feeling I can't go back and have a good cry about any of it till I can step back from my role as "critic." Does that make sense to you?
Liz_Rosenberg: Everything you write is eloquently said .I'm sure others will also disagree. I think each ONE of us probably has a different favorite & least favorite book.
MarkTD: Just a suggestion to all the fantasy lovers out there....PLEASE READ the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman before the movies are released. It's awesome!
Liz_Rosenberg: Absolutely. I especially loved the first 2.
dumbledore__Guest_: The Artemis Fowl Series is excellent. think Harry Potter, but evil.
Liz_Rosenberg: Another brilliant suggestion! My son Eli loves these. He listens to them on CD all the time and is always cackling hysterically.
tralfaz__Guest_: As a non-reader of the series, is it important to read them in specific chronological order?
Liz_Rosenberg: I do think so, yes. It's a brilliantly-crafted series. When you re-read them, it may not be quite as important. But in some ways it's all one long detective story... so much great literature has been, right? Oedipus. Poe. The Brothers Karamazov...
Nibs__Guest_: I will be looking for your review then.
Liz_Rosenberg: Thanks@!
HPlvr1983: The Aaz and Skeeve books by Robert Asprin are very similar to Harry Potter and filled with really awesome and charming characters
Liz_Rosenberg: Sound great!
Liz_Rosenberg: And for anyone who needs a laugh after all of this dark complexity, you can't do better than P G Wodehouse's Bertie & Jeeves books. And there are many, many books in the series, so book addicts wsill be well set up for a while.
momo__Guest_: I know there has been a lot of speculation about what was going to happen in book 7. I would be interested in seeing an article on what were the leading theories in comparison to what actually happened.
Liz_Rosenberg: Yes, I'd love to see this, too! It would have been a brilliant idea for a newspaper to go around to writers, critics, and fans and ask for their predictions and then hold them for a period and then publish them.
Liz_Rosenberg: Maybe they'll get around to it.
matt__Guest_: What was your favorite book of the series and why?
Liz_Rosenberg: I have to say my favorite is the first. I've read it at least 6 or 7 times by now. Maybe it's because it was my entry point. I often find that when I discover a new writer to love, I remain most devoted to my first introduction-- sort of a love at first sight phenomenon. I still remember getting that book in galley form, and when I got to the putter-outer in Dumbledore'[s hand, the streetlights going off, and then the desfcription of Hagrid's size-- that feeling of being in the presence of authentic genius. It's not altogether unlike what I felt when I first saw Michelangelo's Pieta. You have to feel a certain awe...
Liz_Rosenberg: Of course I also love the 4th book, to me in some ways the richest and deepest, the most heartbreaking and complex book in the series. It introduces new, dark notes. But I think that's also why I was so disappointed in the movie version. I don't know if anyone could have captured all that complexity--without a 9 hour film, anyway.
Liz_Rosenberg: How about you?
abbott__Guest_: What do you think of what has been said about how the Harry Potter phenomenon has no cross-over to children's lit (or books as a whole)? Was this a one time thing or does it give us hope for the future of books and reading?
Liz_Rosenberg: I believe it gives us hope. Don't you?
Liz_Rosenberg: Do people really say that there are no other cross-overs? What about To Kill a Mockingbird? Or Kyoko Mori's beautiful book, Shizuko's Daughter? Or Catcher in the Rye, for that matter....
Liz_Rosenberg: Childhood, someone wrote, is the one wild tribe we all share. Books about childhood will always have the capacity to strike an answering chord....
HPlvr1983: there was alot of speculation about whether or not you are actually J.K Rowling using a different screenname and pen name and that you review yourself. Is is true? are you j.K?
Liz_Rosenberg: I wish! (Yes, and I'm the real Shakespeare, too.)
Liz_Rosenberg: Well, this chat was supposed to end at twelve thirty, and here it is almost one o'clock so I'm going to sign off.
Liz_Rosenberg: Thank you all, for your wonderful questions, comments, arguments and suggestions.
matt__Guest_: Thanks Liz! My fav book was #4. I also agree that the movie was diappointing because it left so much out. My fav movie so far has been #3. Take care!

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