afterthree: (unaccountable genius)
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I mentioned a few posts ago that I was thinking of re-reading the books from the beginning and posting a bit of commentary on each chapter.  Well, I decided tonight was as fine a night to start as ever, so I give you the very first installment of what appears to be an epic project in the making if the first bit is any indication.  But I am nothing if not ambitious.

It is probably worth your while to read along with me if you're considering following this foolhardy project of mine, especially if it's been a while since you've read the first book.  I'm going chapter by chapter, to keep things simple, but I'm not going to attempt to write these in a terribly formal tone, and I'm going to jump around a bit within the chapter, segways be damned.  Obviously, I'm cutting because of the length of my ramblings...

Project Read & Ramble: Part One
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived

It has been a while since I read this book clear through... and only one paragraph in I'm all like "Wha--?  Vernon Dursley has a 'large moustache'?  The heck?"  Just goes to show how the tiny little Vernon-moustache from the movies has skewed my own personal canon images of these characters. 

This first chapter is a little jarring after spending so much of my time reading the rest of the chapters in the other books.  The style is subtly different, and in the very beginning while Jo is setting up the story I feel as if the reader is being very specifically "spoken to".  That along with the fact that this is one of the very few chapters not told from Harry's point of view, and the definite sense that the target audience of this book is a younger crowd than the others that came after it all make it feel like I'm reading something other than Harry Potter.  But then, I have just come off of finishing the seventh book for the third time, and I suppose it's to be expected.  Still... the occasionally "picture book language" is a little strange.  I can't help but consider how Jo's writing has shifted and grown along with Harry over the years, and I wonder how much of that was intentional and how much of it was natural and unconscious.

I love that the Potters have such an ordinary name but are immediately introduced to us as completely unordinary -- in point of fact the very first completely unordinary thing that is mentioned.  When you consider how many impossibly obscure and strange names Jo brings into the wizarding world, it's quite curious of her to start the strangeness out with a name like "Potter", isn't it?  In fact, it's quite the "everyman" story she's created, starting us off on this adventure through magic with a commonly named "Harry Potter".  No wonder we all identify so strongly with Harry in the beginning... we've all been that Perfectly Ordinary Child, haven't we?  Just waiting for Something Extraordinary to happen to us.

I find it quite funny that, later on in the chapter, Petunia has the gall to snark about the name Harry being a "nasty, common name" (PS 11) and yet it is the unordinary-ness of the Potters that she despises.  One would think that a common name would please her!  I suppose it's really just Petunia doing her very best to hate everything about her sister and the world she wasn't permitted to be a part of.  It's funny what reasons people will give to justify hate.

Now that we know what we know about the childhood relations between Lily and Snape, I wonder how much of Petunia's dislike of Magic was due to Snape's obvious bias against Muggles, even at their very first meeting.  If Snape hadn't been involved, would the distance between Lily and her sister have been so wide, or was it made so in part by a boy who clearly thought Petunia was a lesser being for not having magical blood?  Jealously can drive siblings apart, but the wedge between them is awfully deep, even for their unusual circumstance.  How much of the adult Petunia was influenced by Snape's treatment of her?

It seems Snape touched a lot of lives for the worse; I suppose Petunia could just be another member of the club.

Did Petunia move to Surrey after she married Vernon Dursley, do you think?  Or is Spinner's End somewhere near Surrey?  It is clear that Snape had a poorer upbringing, but it doesn't seem either Lily or Petunia suffered from a lack of family funds, yet the two families lived close enough to facilitate a relationship between children stuck transporting themselves on foot.  They couldn't have lived more than fifteen -- or perhaps twenty -- blocks from each other.  I wish Jo had been a little more forthcoming with some of those "where" details.

I read the bit about Vernon leaving for work and Dudley screaming at the top of his lungs while his father called him "little tyke" (PS 8) and I rolled my eyes.  How absurd that these two characters are meant to be a parody and exaggeration, and yet parents exactly like these two not only exist, but flourish and proliferate.  I know parents like this.  I swear to whatever God may or may not exist that I will never be one of them.  I would sooner be a barren spinster then allow my children to have such dominion over me...

Wow... is McGonagall's Animagus form really a tabby cat?  Huh...  Is she a black cat in the movies?  Because every time I think of her Animagus form, I always think of her as a black cat with... some sort of blacker markings around her eyes... Or maybe gray with lighter gray or... something.  A "tabby" seems too... cheery and young for dear Minerva.  Also, I feel very strongly that McGongall is dark-haired (maybe not black, but certainly a dark brown) with less showing gray than Remus.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say that Dame Maggie Smith is exactly who I pictured as McGonagall from the very beginning of my Harry Potter experience. It's rare that I see actors or actresses as book characters right from the get-go, but from the moment McGongall appeared, she was always Dame Maggie Smith in my head, and I was completely thrilled when I heard she was actually going to play the part in the movies.  I felt vindicated.

It's enjoyable watching Vernon try to justify all the odd things and strange people he sees during the day, and I'm reminded that Jo is not the first writer to insist that the average normal person will not allow themselves to see things they think are impossible, and will either not simply see it at all, or rationalize it in some other way.  Terry Pratchett has commented on this extensively in his Discworld novels, and one of the central conceits of Joss Whedon's Buffy-verse is the simple truth that people are not really that good at seeing what is right in front of them.

Lots of people seem to be whispering about the Potters, and I wonder how well known James and Lily might have been prior to their death.  I suppose the wizarding community is smaller than the non-magical one, but still... did either of them have a job that put them in the public eye?  How well known were they?  We know the Longbottoms were well-liked, but what about the Potters?  I suppose we'll never have an answer, now, beyond those the fanfiction authors can come up with.

Vernon Dursley "shoo-ing" McGonagall?  HaHA!  Fifty points from Muggledypoof for your impertinence!

Okay.  This missing 24 hour nonsense is a bit annoying.  What happened with Harry, Hagrid, Sirius and Dumbledore in the time between the Potter's death the night before and Dumbledore's delivery of Harry on the Dursley's doorstep... seriously?  We know only that Hagrid went and fetched Harry from somewhere, which we presume was the wreck of the house.  We also know that McGonagall was told by Hagrid where Dumbledore was going, but not why, because Hagrid arriving with Harry and Dumbledore's intent to leave the boy with the Dursleys comes as a surprise to her. 

How long after Voldemort went Vapormort did it take for someone to figure it out and show up?  We learn later that Sirius and Hagrid apparently shared some brief time together at the wreak at Godric's Hollow because Sirius tries to convince Hagrid to give him Harry.  Who got there first?  I would reckon Sirius, since he talks in the Shrieking Shack about going to check on Peter and then realizing something was wrong.  But if it was Hagrid that showed up first, who told him?  If it was Dumbledore that told Hagrid (and I presume it must have been) then that meant Dumbledore had to have been there at some point as well.

Perhaps Dumbledore showed up first, pulled Harry out of the wreak, then Hagrid showed up and Harry was handed off and Dumbledore went off to do... whatever Dumbledore does when he vanishes mysteriously and leaves Hagrid in charge.  Then Hagrid probably stayed around and hauled James and Lily's bodies out of the house, giving Sirius time to show up after Dumbledore had left for the Plot Point conversation required for PoA.  Then Hagrid, you know... took in a round of golf with Minerva or something while Harry slept in his pocket.  Whatever.  I suppose it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, but still... I crave this apparently unimportant knowledge.

There is an entire lack of reaction on the part of Dumbledore when Hagrid mentions Sirius Black, but we're to learn later that Dumbledore knew Sirius was supposed to be the Potters' Secret Keeper.  What the...?  How far in advance had Jo planned this plot, I wonder, and how much of it evolved after this first part was written?  I would assume that Dumbledore is the sort of man who could put two and two together fairly quickly, so I would have expected some kind of reaction after Hagrid mentions who he got the motorbike from.  But nothing.  Not even later on when Hagrid says he's going to go and return the bike to Sirius.  You'd think Dumbledore might have at least offered him some kind of cryptic warning or something... like, "well, be careful Hagrid m'boy, and mind you stay away from that traitorous, best-friend back-stabbing Black fellow, y'hear?"  Or something.

Speaking of Dumbledore and an entire lack of reaction, is it just me or does he seem a bit "narry-a-care" in this scene?  It's hardly been twenty-four hours after the Potters have been murdered, and he's sucking lemon drops and flirting with Minnie as if they've just had nothing more than a curious bout of weather. 

Come to think of it, how much of Voldemort's Horcruxes and broken soul does Dumbledore know about at this moment?  How much about Harry's scar has he guessed?  Does he realize at this moment that a piece of Voldemort is setting up camp in Harry's head?  I am curious as to when Dumbledore first started to suspect Voldemort had been mucking about with darker than normal arts, and whether or not it was before or after the Potters' death.  What do you think?  He must have been trying to figure out how it had all happened -- when did the pieces come together for him about Lily's sacrifice and Harry being a Horcrux?  He obviously knew enough to leave Petunia the note explaining the ancient magic Lily unknowingly invoked that would protect Harry in the home of blood relatives, but how much more than that?

Dumbledore seems curiously flippant in this scene, considering the circumstances, is all I'm saying.  I suppose it could just be his equivalent of the "Brave Little Toaster" face, but knowing what we know now about his manipulative tendencies, I'm forced to wonder if his plans started cooking this early on. Let's just say I wouldn't be surprised.

Someone please draw me a picture of Dumbledore wearing ear-muffs.  Please.  I want one very badly and am most certainly not that sort of artist...

D'you think McGonagall was involved in the Order of the Phoenix during the first war?  I tend to think she must have been -- she was certainly old enough, having taught the Marauders at school.  It's not strictly canon because Moody doesn't mention her in the photograph he shows Harry in OotP, but I tend to think that not everyone was pictured, and that not everyone in the picture was noted verbally by Moody.  He seemed to particularly highlight those that had died or been exploded into bitty-bits, and not the ones that had survived to see the second war, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's a whole lot of the original Order we never heard about.  I'd like to think McGongall was one of them.

It is wonderful that one of our very first memories of the giant Hagrid is him carefully handling a baby and then bawling his eyes out in grief.  Our very first impression of this man is that of a gentle, kind-hearted boy trapped in the body of a giant.  Is it the giant in Hagrid that keeps him so simple and young, or something else specific to his life experience, or perhaps even his personality?  Of all the characters in these books, we can always count on Hagrid never to hide his true feelings about anything: he wears his heart on his sleeve, and even on those very few occasions when he tries to lie -- about anything, really -- he is decidedly and woefully unable to do it.  He can keep a secret well enough, I think-- he just can't for the life of him lie about the knowing of it.

As I read through this the very first chapter of Harry Potter, I couldn't help be a little excited when I found, in the very first description of Dumbledore, a pointing out of his broken nose that I had forgotten.  How early some of the seeds had been planted!  To think it took ten years for this detail to come to fruition!

I love these books.

It took me much longer than I thought it would to write that all out and check the spelling and such (which is by no way a guarantee that it is all correct)... Must remember to set aside more time for the next chapter...



(no subject)

Date: 2007-08-29 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Somewhat arbitrarily responding, since I actually just re-read Book 1...I was surprised too how much it sounded like a “children’s book,” while Book 7 certainly did not. Either her writing has developed a lot or she did it intentionally so that the tone grew up with Harry, and I can’t tell which.

Yes, McGonagall looked just Dame Maggie Smith way, way before the movies. She’s perfect.

You know, before reading DH I never really got the impression that the Potters were terribly well-known before Harry took out Voldemort, but then that statue of them in Godric’s Hollow surprised me, and made me think that perhaps they were prominent/well-known before that, rather than just another young couple. I guess we can assume that James came from a fairly well-off and well-known family? She never did establish what their jobs were, so I assume it couldn’t have been all that important.

I was surprised how detached Dumbledore was too, especially seeing as Harry ultimately because so important to him…but even if Harry is an infant, you’d think a kid who recently became an orphan would tug at the heartstrings a bit…seems to with Hagrid and McGonagall…and yet Dumbledore seems very blasé about it.

Oh yes, and I have seen parents like the Dursleys. They do exist. I hope to God I’ll never be one.


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