Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dumbledore and the frisky lads at Hogwarts

I always hate it when readers dream up qualities for fictional characters that are never alluded to in the books in which they appear. That is precisely why fan fiction is so unfailingly awful. But I really hate it when authors indulge in the same juvenile exercise. After all, if it were a trait germane to the character, why wasn't it in the book? And so we come to J.K. Rowling's startling announcement the other day that wise old Dumbledore, the bearded headmaster of Hogwart's, is gay.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Being gay, I mean. But isn't saying so a little like Mark Twain deciding in his dotage that Huck Finn and Jim were lovers? Or Charles Dickens revealing years later that Scrooge was suffering from Alzheimer's? Characters are precisely the sum of the words on the printed page. No one, not even the author, should come back later and revise them in an offhand remark. At the very least, it is a violation of the basic tenet of fiction writing: Show, don't tell. (I don't know, maybe Dumbledore could have had a collection of Barbara Streisand records or something.) By simply telling, Rowling is subtly insulting her readers.

Besides, if anyone in those books was going to be gay, I'd have bet on Snape.


Peter said...

On the off chance that that &*(&%! Blogger decides to let me post this comment, allow me to observe that J.K. Rowling is one hell of a publicist. She knows how to keep Harry Potter in the headlines even when she no longer wants to do the work of writing books.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Dave K. said...

Blogger did have some problems last night, I think. My wife tried to blame our ISP, but I wisely assumed the problem was on Google's end.

Yes, Rowling is enjoying her post-Harry period. I wouldn't be surprised if she never wrote another line.