[The following was written by Synthesis Weekly columnist Emilie Clark for our 6/16 issue. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
Remember last summer when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out and you spent 36 hours reading it cover to cover? Well maybe that was just me, but I remember it fondly. And I’ll be honest that I’m a bit depressed this summer. I’m sitting on my couch and the weather is lovely and my living room is clean and I wish I had a big fat fantasy book here to share it with. But alas, Harry Potter‘s story is over, for now at least. There is, however, plenty of Potter related news and things to comfort yourself with, if you’re so inclined.
Wizard People, Dear Reader: Many of you are probably familiar with Brad Neely‘s viral video “Cox & Combes’ George Washington,” which tells the fantastical story of George Washington in song form. But Neely is also responsible for the most entertaining two hours I’ve spent in years. â€œWizard People, Dear Readerâ€ is an audio narration for the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. You sync up the audio, which you can download online, with the DVD of the movie and then you prepare to laugh so hard that your cheeks hurt.
Neely provides a pointedly loose version of the events going on onscreen, verging from changing the names of virtually all of the characters to killing and resurrecting Hermione in a particularly touching scene. Not only is Neely one of the funniest people in existence, but I’m pretty sure he’s created a new form of art. Do yourself a favor and download the audio, rent the DVD, invite some friends over and watch this. You will most certainly not be disappointed.
After the jump, J.K. Rowling sues her fans, and commencement address at Harvard.
J.K. Rowling Sues Her Fans: If you look up â€œLegal Disputes over Harry Potterâ€ on Wikipedia, you’ll find that Rowling’s lawyers definitely earn their retainers. They’ve tried to sue practically everyone â€” including the US Army. But the most controversial one has been her lawsuit against RDR Books and Steve Vander Ark, creator of the Web site The Harry Potter Lexicon. The HPL, as it’s known to huge nerds, was once the darling of fan sites â€” Rowling even gave it an award and admitted to checking it when she was confused about specifics of earlier novels. But all that changed in October 2007 when Vander Ark announced that the Lexicon was going to be a book.
Rowling’s hungry lawyers were all over it immediately and Rowling called it â€œwholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work,â€ which seems a little harsh to me. Vander Ark maintained that it is pure literary criticism, which is allowed under copyright law. Not having read it, I can’t really make that call, but it seems to me that Rowling sure angers easily for someone sitting on a pile of money bigger than the Queen of England’s.
But She Also Gives to Charity: Since the series ended, Rowling has contributed a few little extras for charity. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard are all books referred to in the Harry Potter series, which have now been written and either sold in shops or auctioned off to raise money for charity. More recently, Rowling wrote an 800-word prequel to the series for another charity auction. It is clear that this charity work is important to Rowling, so I guess she is a good person after all.
But None of That is Good Enough For Harvard: J.K. Rowling gave the commencement address at Harvard this year and was met with some skepticism. NPR reported that one senior complained that she wasn’t a big enough name to speak at Harvard: “You know, we’re Harvard. We’re like the most prominent national institution. And I think we should be entitled toâ€¦we should be able to get anyone. And in my opinion, we’re settling here.â€ Jessa Crispin at Bookslut correctly points out that you’re not supposed to say that â€œentitledâ€ bit to the press. My question is would they have felt the same way about C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien? And is it because they are more important writers or because they’re men? I’m not saying I know the answer to that question, but I have my hunches.