Rebirth of the Author

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Blason Poudlard

There are not many topics that my husband and I disagree on, but one topic in particular sends us into a heated debate:

Hermione & Ron or Harry & Hermione?

I’ll admit it.  I was rooting for Harry and Hermione, although by the final book I had come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen.  I wasn’t disappointed with the finale of the Harry Potter series either.

J.K. Rowling’s recent announcement that she should have paired up Harry & Hermione at the end has a lot of readers peeved (aka my husband).  As a reader and writer, I have to admit that even though it’s sort of like J.K. Rowling just helped me win a 9-year debate, I’m conflicted.

Just whose story is it? Do authors have the ultimate say or should  they just stay out of the way?

Something Rotten in the Potterverse

It’s easy to see why the Potterverse is churning.  I get it.  It’s hard to hear from your favourite author that she regrets an important plot point.  Not only does it make it harder to read the books knowing that somewhere poor J.K. is kicking herself, but it also just makes the reading experience awkward.

Now that her secret displeasure is out, how can readers enjoy what actually does happen in the books?

In one article, Rowling is even compared to Dolores Umbridge.  That’s a mighty big insult in the Potterverse. For those of you who don’t know about Umbridge, it’s a little bit like if someone said:

“You’re being a tad pseudo-fascist today, did you know?”

Harsh words for a lady who wrote some pretty great stories.

Death of the Author

Should J.K. Rowling leave the books to her loyal fans?  Like the J.K. – Potterfan relationship, it’s complicated.

Roland Barthes, a literary theorist, would say it’s not complicated at all.  In his essay “The Death of the Author,” he argues that once the book is written, the author should not factor into the meaning or importance of the story. He writes:

“The image of literature to be found in ordinary culture is tyrannically centred on the author.”

I see his point, I do.  I mean, it’s the story that should be important, not necessarily what the author thinks.  And yet…the author is the first person who experiences the story and enjoys the characters.  It isn’t just fans who love the Potterverse–J.K. Rowling must love it a whole lot too.

Everybody’s Doing It

J.K. Rowling isn’t the only one to express a desire to change her already published books.  In fact, there are a number of pretty famous authors who have gone back and updated their works several years after publication.

Once The Lord of the Rings trilogy became successful, J.R.R. Tolkien went back and edited several parts of his earlier work The Hobbit.  One of the most notable changes is the chapter “Riddles in the Dark,” where after editing, Gollum was no longer quite as eager to bet his precious ring.

Stephen King added several scenes to The Stand years later, as did Mary Shelley with Frankenstein.  Even Charles Dickens changed the ending to Great Expectations some time after it had been out in the world of readers.

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 If Dickens is doing it, it’s kind of hard to argue.  Or, maybe you never liked Dickens and this is more reason to think he is a verbose jerk. Is J.K. Rowling’s new “edit” a literary faux pas or authorial rite of passage?

 

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14 thoughts on “Rebirth of the Author

  1. I must confess, I tend to side with Barthes on the matter. I can see an author going back to tweek a few things so that a stand alone book suddenly meshes with unexpected sequels, but major rewrites don’t sit well with me. An author should write the book they want to write, not the book they believe will sell and then rewrite it after it’s successful. As for who should have ended up with Hermoine, one of the great debates of the Potterverse, I really wonder if this is Rowling’s own great regret, or if she is finally caving to fan pressure at long last on the matter. I think the greatest drawback for an author who attains this level of success in their life time, and who interacts this often with their fans, is that the fans inevitably begin to influence the author and the work, and that’s not always a good thing.

    1. Well said! I kind of feel bad for Rowling if she did cave, since she wrote such great books. As for other authors editing their works…I was surprised when I learned that Dickens rewrote the ending of “Great Expectations.” As an interesting side note, he apparently got a lot of flak for his original ending!

      1. Most harry potter fan fictions these days are infact Dramione ones. It’s probably because of the whole bad boy turned good thing and the struggle of forgiveness between enemies. I really do recommend it if you read fan fictions.

      2. harrypotterfanfiction.com if you’re into HP or fanfiction.net is good for all fanatics of all fandoms :)

  2. I think Harry and Hermoine are an okay couple, but I’m rooting for Ron and Hermoine only because it’s not like Ron can end up with Ginny, haha… and then everything would have to be rearranged, and I like them how they are. Although Neville and Luna should have ended up together…

    Interesting that Rowling thinks she should have changed it, though. I guess in my opinion, while there are quite a few fans she’s writing for, it is HER story. It is HER world that she invented in HER head. The same goes for any writer- as an (aspiring) writer myself, stories aren’t created for readers for the most part; they’re created as a place for the author to escape to, a place where the author controls everything and can live out his/her fantasies. So I think it’s 100% okay for J.K. Rowling to change her mind or even make changes. The fans may not like it, but it isn’t their creation, it’s hers.

    Great post!

    1. Thanks :) I agree that writers aren’t writing for their readers when they write a story. I think it makes the writing better and the story more exciting!

      I wonder if Rowling would ever re publish an alternate story line to satisfy her regret?

  3. Not sure if what she did was wise, she has the right to say it, but like you said.. the reading experience would be awkward. What would new readers think of Ron and Hermione? Would they see them as a mistake? Would Ron’s value as a character drop because of that fact?

    Silence is golden…

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