J.K. Rowling made some news at Carnegie Hall the other night:
But when the questions began — they had been submitted by audience members before the event — she came into her own. Finally able to talk freely about the end of a series that had been so long-anticipated, she left nothing out. The big revelation of the night came when she was asked if Dumbledore had ever found love. With a sigh, she seemed on the verge of saying no, but then revealed, “my truthful answer to you… I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” After a collective gasp, the audience roared with applause. Rowling was clearly astonished by the positive reaction and exclaimed, “if I’d known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!” She went on to say that she thought Dumbledore had fallen in love with Grindelwald, a Dark Wizard he defeated in battle in 1945, which possibly made it forgivable that he had not seen Grindelwald’s true nature, because “falling in love can blind us to an extent.”
Personally, I think this is a calculated move to stick it to all the humorless Christian fundamentalists protesting her books on the preposterous grounds that they promote witchcraft. I don’t think there was anything in the books themselves to suggest that Dumbledore was gay. An adequate, nonsexual explanation is provided for Dumbledore’s close friendship with Grindlewald, in my opinion.
Be that as it may, if I didn’t like Rowling before I certainly like her now! I ignored the Harry Potter phenomenon while the books were coming out. Regrettably, I took the rather snobby viewpoint that anything that popular couldn’t possibly be any good.
Boy was I wrong! Over the summer I casually picked up the first volume. I was hooked inside of twenty pages, and proceded to put most of my other reading projects on hold as I plowed through all seven volumes. They are impossible to put down. Each book was better than the one before. When I discovered to my chagrin that all copies of Volume Four had been checked out of the public library, I drove straight from the library to the local Barnes and Noble. No way I was going to wait for someone to return a copy!
There were two things that especially caught me offguard. The first was how richly drawn the characters were. By the end of the series you’re talking about an enormous cast. Yet you could take a few sentences uttered by any character and know immediately who said them. That’s good characterization.
The second thing was how richly plotted they were. There is a large element of fair-play detective story in the plotlines, especially in the earlier books. Since the books were placed in the children’s section of the bookstore for some insane reason, I was expecting much simpler stories.
Anyway, if you’ve been turning up your nose at the whole thing, get over it! Go read the books. I don’t say this lightly, but I think they are absolutely brilliant. And don’t think you can rent the movies as some sort of substitute. I have not yet seen number five, but the first four were quite bad. If you have already read the books you’ll get a little smile seeing certian scenes brought to life. But there is no hope of following the stories if you haven’t read the books. That, and you lose the richness of Rowling’s prose, which, more than the plotlines, is the main selling point of the series.