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?
“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.
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?