Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I’m Not Mad At J.K. Rowling



Seven years after the publication of the final Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling is having second thoughts about how the series ended. In an interview with Emma Watson in Wonderland magazine, Rowling says, “I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment. That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.” She goes on to say, “I know, I'm sorry, I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I'm absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people's hearts by saying this? I hope not.”

Judging by the comments on the news articles about this interview, a lot of Harry Potter fans are heartbroken. Some fans have said that they can’t ignore any statements that the author makes about the books, and they don’t think that it’s fair for her to “take back” events that happened in the books. Some fans think that it taints their memories of reading and loving the books. Other fans have even accused the author of doing this for publicity. Obviously, the relationships in the books are a big deal to a lot of readers.

For me, the relationships were not the most interesting parts of the books. I cared more about how Harry would destroy the horcruxes and whether Snape was more loyal to Dumbledore or Voldemort. The romances were just one of the many, many subplots. They weren’t something that I spent much time thinking about.  So, I’m not mad at J.K. Rowling for saying that she might have handled the romances differently.

I have met so many authors who refuse to read their own book after the book has been published because they’re worried that they’ll see something in it that they'll want to change. I have gone to readings where authors have read updated or rewritten versions of published stories because they are no longer happy with the published version.

For example, in the appendix to Dave Eggers’s bestselling book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Eggers writes, “Many times, when I was reading the book aloud at this or that bookstore, some word choice or passage appalled me to a point where I’d have to stop, mid-sentence, and furiously cross out the offending words, much to the amusement of the attendees, who thought I was kidding.”

While talking about his first novel, Carrie, Stephen King said, “I'm not saying that Carrie is shit, and I'm not repudiating it. She made me a star, but it was a young book by a young writer. In retrospect, it reminds me of a cookie baked by a first grader — tasty enough, but kind of lumpy and burned on the bottom."

Why do authors say these things about their books? Because books are art, and art is never “done.” There’s always something that can be changed or enhanced. Also, ideally, a writer should get better at writing as their career progresses. A writer should always be experimenting, learning, and figuring out what works best for them and their stories.

J.K. Rowling is having second thoughts about the Harry Potter series because she is a different person than she was when she wrote it. She has grown, changed, and learned. That’s why I don’t have a problem with her admitting that maybe Hermione shouldn’t have ended up with Ron.

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