My Name Is Roger Murdock: A Links Round-Up

Another Friday, another links round-up. This week I had some super good chili and spoke with a sternness to my elected senator at a town hall. What’s your week been like? Regardless I have brought you this links round-up for your enjoyment, and I hope that your weekend is full of sunshine and baby kisses.

There is an excellent kicker to this New York Times story about Neil Gaiman and his new book.

Why yes I WOULD care for a Frankenstein story by Victor Lavalle that also pulls in the Black Lives Matter movement. THANK YOU FOR ASKING.

Angelica Jade Bastien on Legion (mm, yes, this is the review I was waiting for).

Even when the world is garbage, I still enjoy a celebrity Twitter feud. Have you been following the one between Piers Morgan and JK Rowling? It’s gold, and Piers Morgan’s son weighing in is the best thing about it.

Bookstores fight hate.

Manjula Martin on never becoming famous for your writing.

You have to know about this territory called Neutral Moresnet that Belgium and Prussia owned jointly for a century. Zinc and Esperanto are involved.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some feelings about La La Land and white dudes in jazz. Can I just say that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s encore career as a cultural critic is one of my favorite things in this life? Have I said that before? IT REMAINS TRUE.

The critical discourse around Jordan Peele’s new horror film Get Out has been ON POINT. Here’s Jordan Crucchiola at Vulture on how it makes “good” white ladies terrifying. Here’s Frederick McKindra, a Buzzfeed News Emerging Writer Fellow (yay for new critics!), on how the movie allows black men to be scared rather than scary. If you’ve seen this movie please get at me in the comments so I can ask you questions about how torturey it gets.

Stay brave!

JK Rowling Does What She Wants: A links round-up

Emily Asher Perrin (writer of the superb Harry Potter Reread series on Tor.com) has some thoughts on JK Rowling’s constant expanding of the Harry Potter universe, and most of them are also my thoughts, so go see what you think.

The controversial Professor Bhaer: An investigation in five parts at the Paris Review.

Bros writing about southern food (& why it should be more ladies), over at a website I newly love, The Bitter Southerner.

This piece by Kiese Laymon about Bill Cosby and minimum standards of human decency is so, so good.

The stories you have the right to write, and building a new canon.

“Yes We Need Diverse Books. But that doesn’t always mean that we want YOU to write them.” Ellen Oh on the hip new trend of diversity, and the important work of promoting books by diverse authors.

“I Met a Sex Monster”: The Toast recaps “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

bell hooks chats to Emma Watson, and it’s as adorable as you are imagining. Maybe even adorabler.

Christy of A Good Stopping Point has converted her great-great-grandmother’s journals into a blog! Stop by and check it out!

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Mocking Jonathan Franzen: A links round-up

In a review of a novel by Mussolini, Dorothy Parker wrote:

If only I had a private income, I would drop everything right now, and devote the scant remainder of my days to teasing the Dictator of All Italy…Indeed, my dream-life is largely made up of scenes in which I say to him, “Oh, Il Duce yourself, you big stiff,” and thus leave him crushed to a pulp.

And this is just how I feel about Jonathan Franzen. Not because he is a fascist or in any way a danger to America. Just because I find him extremely annoying, and I find internet jokes at his expense extremely delightful. All of which to say: ‘Tis evidently the season once again to be making fun of Franzen.

A call for messy comic book heroines.

I still like listening to stuff on vinyl, but otherwise, this point about the internet improving our lives is well taken.

Y’all this may make me a curmudgeon but I don’t want a brain-net. I like the internet where it is, exterior to my brain. Please and thank you.

Linda Holmes of NPR tackles the problems with portraying Black Widow in a superhero landscape woefully short on women.

HOORAY Eddie Redmayne is confirmed going to be in the JK Rowling movie about magical beasts.

After the most recent icky rape scene in Game of Thrones the Show, The Mary Sue has made an editorial decision to stop promoting or talking about the show.

On titles that are lists of three things. It notes that they sound better if the third thing is longer, and that, friends, is why some genius came up with the name “ascending tricolon,” a phrase I tried not to overuse on my Latin AP exam many years ago.

This woman was, as a toddler, a participant in primate research. She remembers almost nothing about it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith i.e. STEALTH JK Rowling

There are days where I feel like I am drowning beneath a tremendous pile of exciting books. Do you ever have those days? I did on the day my library emailed me to say my hold had come in on The Cuckoo’s Calling. (Advantage, incidentally, Louisiana. I would have been like the 150th person on the hold list for the New York ebook copies. My home library got me a copy within twenty-four hours. I’m just saying.) The Cuckoo’s Calling came in, I started reading Patrick Ness’s forthcoming book More than This, and I got approved for three AMAZING (-sounding) nonfiction books on NetGalley, and I have this epistolary novel my mother gave me that I’ve been saving as a treat, and I finally got a copy of the last Eva Ibbotson romance I haven’t read yet. Phew.

Well, anyway. Here is JK Rowling’s stealthy new book (Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) that she wrote under a pseudonym like the Stealthiest Stealthmaster in all of Stealthland. Except not really, I guess, because one of her lawyers sang like a canary (jerk), and now her publisher can finally tell everyone that it’s publishing JK Rowling’s new book.

The beginning: When supermodel Lula Landry falls from a balcony to her death, her adoptive brother is desperate to prove it wasn’t a suicide. He hires military-man-turned-PI Cormoran Strike, along with Strike’s temporary secretary Robin, to find out the truth. Investigating ensues.

The end (highlight blank spaces for spoilers): I felt very lawless reading the end of this one! I never read the ends of the Harry Potter books — well, almost never. I read the end of Philosopher’s Stone, and I did peek at the end of Half-Blood Prince to check whether Ginny was going to be okay. And I went forward a few pages sometimes in Deathly Hallows to check when Ron was coming back and whether Hagrid was all right. But never apart from that! It felt like a smidge like I was betraying some long-held principles, but per usual I read the end because I was tired of not knowing what the endgame was going to be.

So the answer is that the brother did it, and hired Strike in the hopes that he would pin the murder on someone else, which doesn’t seem like the greatest strategy, but never mind. I am not the boss of murderers.

The resolution to the mystery — does not completely resolve my frustration. I am enjoying this much much much more than I did Casual Vacancy, and at the same time I feel like it’s taking an unconscionably long time to set everything up. Actually, though, that’s JK Rowling, isn’t it? Now that I’m thinking about it? Philosopher’s Stone takes for damn ever to put the mystery in motion (which is why I read the end), and there really is a longish period in her other books in which clues for that book’s mysteries don’t get dropped much at all. You don’t notice so much because the world-building is so stellar, and also because there is Neville to fuss over.

Interesting. I learned something today.

The whole: I have been on record about my general impatience with world-weary divorced private eyes. Apart from Veronica Mars, noir is very much not my thing, and it’s hard to have a private eye in a shabby old office without its feeling noirish. But by the end of the book, I was rather attached to Strike. I liked it that he was impressed with Robin — the way to my heart, as always, is for a character to admire another character. Particularly, I was pleased that when he got drunk and was out with Robin, he didn’t say anything creepy but was just like, “You’re nice.” (Drunkenly.) Hooray!

To the rest, once the mystery kicked into high gear (which took A WHILE), it was a lot of fun. Galbraith #coughRowlingcough# has fun with a long-form late-in-book misdirect about the identity of the killer. I love a long-form JK Rowling misdirect. See also my ongoing correctness in re: Snape. The final confrontation scene in The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent scene of its type, if you don’t object to the sort of “Then you X and when Y happened you Z” type of scene at the end of a mystery novel. I personally do not. I like them, although not as much as I like “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here today” scenes. Those are the best.

As JK Rowling shows to best advantage when developing characters over a period of time, I’m excited for the second and subsequent books in this series. I’m hoping that Strike’s world can develop more as the books continue. I would like to see more of Robin’s life aside from wanting to be a plucky girl detective (although it is awesome to be a plucky girl detective!), and I’d like to learn more about Strike’s friends-and-relations and how they engage with his life.

In short, despite some hiccups as the plot gets going, I enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I’m excited to see how the series develops.

Note: If you buy a book through one of my affiliate links, I get a small amount of money.

Revisiting Harry Potter: “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.”

Here is my main complaint with this section of the book, which I otherwise love very much: How’s Harry going to use the Cruciatus curse on the Carrow sibling who spits in McGonagall’s face? (I find the Carrows boring and have not bothered to learn their names.) He was unable to do this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange two seconds after she killed Sirius Black, but somehow he can manage to do it just because some Death Eater insults one of his teachers? Number one, that is bullshit. Number two,

don’t torture people. Torture is wrong, and Harry could have accomplished the same effect of punishing the Carrow sibling by just Stunning him/her. I wish McGonagall had said something, like, “Hey, do not torture that Carrow sibling, you war criminal.” I guess we’ll just have to assume that Luna mentions this incident to Hermione later, and Hermione fusses at Harry for us.

Okay. Now that I have gotten that out of the way I shall proceed with talking about Percy, who redeems himself by returning at last! I always knew he would. I knew it because of that time he splashed out in the water to come get Ron. All along Percy really loved his family. I admit that I was hoping Percy would come back, redeem himself, and die nobly in battle. That would take care of Weasley family deaths without one of the twins having to die, something I was deeply concerned about before the seventh book appeared. Instead Fred Weasley dies, and it was heartwrenching, especially when, oh God, especially when Percy is lying across Fred’s body so nothing else can happen to it, and he won’t let go–

The whole Battle of Hogwarts is a pretty great set piece. Although it goes on for a long time, and there’s a lot of events occurring, it doesn’t feel long at all. It feels frantic and disorganized in a really wonderful way. One second Professor Trelawney is throwing crystal balls on Fenrir Greyback’s head (woot), and the next second Neville Longbottom’s grandmother has come to fight alongside him because she hates evil and is proud of her wonderful grandson. The last Horcrux gets destroyed in the Room of Requirement, and Harry’s almost too busy to notice.

This is not the time or place, but sometime later I’d like us all to think about how great a spell Glisseo is. Have we seen that one before Hermione uses it to escape from some Death Eaters? It is awesome. I love slides. If I were a wizard, I’d never ever walk down stairs. I would always make them into slides. That is a much more fun way to get from one floor to another. Does it only work on straight staircases? Or if you are up several floors and you have a staircase with landings, will they turn into one big curvy slide?

Did anyone feel like it was kind of a cheat to have Dumbledore show up and explain everything at the end? As I recall, I thought that it should feel like a cheat, but I was so happy to have Dumbledore back again that I didn’t care. I wanted that chapter to keep going on and on forever, because I do not tire of Dumbledore telling Harry how to understand the world. This chapter also felt very — momentous in the scheme of things, just like, it felt like a chapter that JK Rowling had been waiting twenty years for us to read.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

And then Harry comes back to life and we are treated to the spectacle of Mrs. Weasley getting Bellatrix because Bellatrix threatens Ginny! That part! How she is all,

and kills Bellatrix LIKE A BOSS. You always see Mrs. Weasley when she’s mothering and taking care of everyone, and she is amazing at that, but I liked to see this from her as well. You knew Mrs. Weasley had this in her. When she says that Bellatrix will never touch their children again, I cried three tears from my eyes. Writing about it is making me sniffly.

Oh Neville

I know. This should have been a section all along. I’m sad that it wasn’t. I love Neville and he has wonderful moments in each of the books, because JK Rowling is a genius and she knew all along that Neville was going to save the motherfucking day. It says so much about Neville that Harry can hand over this task to Neville and trust that it’s going to get done.

“Just in case they’re — busy — and you get the chance–”

“Kill the snake?”

“Kill the snake,” Harry repeated…

But Neville seized his wrist as Harry made to move on.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

NEVILLE. To get an assignment like this and be all,

He not only kills the snake, he does it while he is also on fire. Neville you beautiful genius.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

I am on record as saying that I love it when Harry has a thoughtful moment and chooses what kind of person he’s going to be. He can be impulsive so it’s great to see him thinking matters over in a self-aware manner and making a choice. I love it that we get to see him deciding he doesn’t want to be Dumbledore and keep everything a secret from everyone. Although, I don’t really understand why everyone can’t just know about the Horcruxes by the time Harry gets to Hogwarts? There’s only two left, and since Voldemort is heading for Hogwarts right now, it seems like you’d want as many people on Horcrux duty as possible. Wouldn’t you?

For Harry’s final adulting trick, he names his kid after Severus Snape. That is — an amazing feat of grace and forgiveness. I hope that wherever Snape is right now, he appreciates the gesture.

On the other hand, won’t that be a really, really awkward conversation to have with the kid? “That’s right, son, when we ran out of your grandparents’ names, we went ahead and named you after the guy who was responsible for their deaths.” I would not want to be named after Severus Snape. That dude sucks. He did some helpful stuff, but he mostly was terrible and a bully. If I were Ginny I’d have put my foot down on that one. The world is full of names. Plus, if you’re going to name your child Albus (how cute is it that his nickname is Al?), you should give him a really super normal middle name. If he ever decides he’s tired of Albus as a name, he should have a backup plan.

Y’all! I am so sad the readalong is ending! I know we have a wrap-up post next week, but I will no longer have this forum in which to talk about the many, many feelings and thoughts I have about the Harry Potter books. What will I do with myself? What will happen next time I reread them and I have feelings to share? (I reread these books like once a year. Don’t judge.) Alice, thanks so much for hosting this readalong. It has been great.

Revisiting Harry Potter: I guess now we have to say nice things about Scrimgeour

I decided to do all Disney gifs for this post. Why? Because as usual this readalong is making me feel a lot of feelings, and most of my feelings for the first Deathly Hallows post are wrathful feelings. And Disney makes me feel happy feelings.

Exhibit A: Rita Goddamn Skeeter

How dare she. I get so angry when I read the excerpts from her rotten biography. Righteously angry! With much stomping around and wishing I had her here in my living room. You know what especially pisses me off? I will tell you. It’s when she calls his relationship with Harry “unnatural”.

Yeah, lady, we know what you’re implying with that. I hope Voldemort kills your mother.

(Oh God, I don’t hope Voldemort kills Rita Skeeter’s mother.)

Exhibit B: All these times JKR acts like she’s going to kill Hagrid

Hagrid launching himself off the motorcycle onto a Death Eater to save Harry is of course what would really happen. This is why Hagrid was top of my list for people who were not to die in the seventh book. In fact, this is the part of the book where, when I read it for the first time, I was writing stuff down as I went, and my notes for page 57 of the book (which is where it starts getting super tense with Hagrid and the Death Eaters) say:

I just flipped ahead a few pages to make sure that Hagrid was going to survive.  JK Rowling has a heart of stone and this ISN’T FUNNY.

Yeah, it’s not funny. I have enough emotions. I do not need them to be toyed with. But oh, when they get back to the Burrow, and everyone’s talking about loose lips and how they sink ships, and Harry takes a stand for trusting the people he loves. Once again with Harry making his moral choices. He decides he’s not going to be the guy who’s constantly suspicious of all his friends. He’s going to be like Dumbledore and not like Moody. That’s awesome, Harry. That’s the person you should want to be. Which brings me to:

Exhibit C: Lupin

When did he morph into such a mean jerk? He used to be so chill and calm and sensible, and now he’s all like,

in this book. Slamming Harry into walls and whatnot. Did it happen the instant he put a baby in Tonks, was that the moment? I appreciate that he was there to save George, but I hate it how he’s all “Kill people instead of disarming them!” and “Don’t trust your friends!” Ugh. My love for him started to die in these moments. Shut up Lupin. Go do something nice for your wife instead of looking grumpy and wrathful every time she speaks to you. Or if you can’t do that then, like, go tell your past self how to use a condom.

Not an Exhibit: Ron defending Ginny

Okay, I don’t know what Ginny’s birthday present for Harry was supposed to be ALTHOUGH I HAVE SOME IDEAS AND THEY ARE ALL BLOW JOBS, but I think it’s really sweet how Ron comes find Harry and tells him to knock it off. That’s nice because sometimes in the past Ron has been like awkward big brother sexual protector role, which I hated, and I like it that here he’s just saying, “Do not fuck with my little sister’s feelings.” Yay Ron. Harry shouldn’t fuck with Ginny’s feelings. You are correct.

Exhibit D: Scrimgeour crashing another Weasley party

What is with Scrimgeour’s perpetual crashing of Weasley parties to harass Harry? He can’t come on a different day than party day? First at Christmas and now Harry’s very sweet first-ever (right?) birthday party. And I’m all,

But it avails me nothing because here he is trying to bully Harry and Hermione and Ron. Spoiler alert, Scrimgeour, that has never worked. I feel like when you know three people who have faced down Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters and lived, you should probably come at them with bigger guns than just, like, your angry lion face and a whole lot of self-justification. I don’t actually have to say nice things about Scrimgeour and I’m not going to. Obviously it was not helpful to Harry for Scrimgeour to die without revealing his location, because the Death Eaters are at the Burrow in like twenty seconds.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who read “The Ministry is fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming,” and didn’t start going,

Because that’s what I always do.

And finally, Exhibit E: Voldemort

I know this is predictable. But really, Kreacher’s story about Voldemort “needing an elf” is just — man, Voldemort is an awful, awful person. I always think about how that could just as easily have been Dobby if Voldemort had gone to the Malfoys first. And the Malfoys might not have said “come back” and Dobby could have died right then and never have been free. Meanwhile I like it that Hermione’s not just carrying on and on about house-elves — finally, the people are paying attention to her. Word. I mean they should have been listening to her all along, but we’ll take what we can get.

Next up: The Ron-Harry-Hermione road trips that everyone hates!

Revisiting Harry Potter: “I am not worried, Harry. I am with you.”

Oh the feelings. Oh I have them. I was reading the end of this book on one end of the couch while Miniature Roommate was reading Good Omens on the other hand, and every time she laughed at something in Good Omens, I would think she was laughing at me for crying. And in my mind I’d be all, THIS BOOK IS SAD OKAY? But I didn’t say it out loud because I recognize that would be irrational. But this book is hella sad.

I forgot how Harry-Dumbledore-heavy the last part of this book is. All my notes on rereading it are about Harry and Dumbledore, although this could reflect my own bias, because I love those two hanging out. They’re my fave. Y’all should be prepared for smoke to come out of my ears when Rita Skeeter tries to make insinuations about Dumbledore’s affection for Harry.

I just with Harry and Dumbledore and they’re friends and they hang out and with the feelings–

Ahem. I’ll try that again.

How pleased and proud are Harry and Dumbledore at each other when Harry finally gets that memory from Slughorn? I love how Dumbledore is all tired when Harry walks in, and then when he finds out about the memory he just lights up at Harry and is so proud, and — this is huge to me — he tells Harry he can come destroy the next Horcrux they find. I’ve said before that I love for people to be respectful of what Harry’s capable of (he’s capable of a damn lot), and Harry getting this respect from Dumbledore of all people just means everything.

When they actually do go get the Horcrux, I love that we get to see Dumbledore in action as the Best and Cleverest Wizard of them all. For most of the series, we only hear about what Dumbledore can do, long after he’s already done it. We know he is definitely the Best and Cleverest Wizard, but I like seeing him prove it. It was awesome watching Dumbledore fight Voldemort in the fifth book. The Horcrux hunt is a different kind of awesome, more methodical, like watching a pro chef recreate a recipe for a dessert he’s only had one bite of. It’s extra great because Dumbledore acts about as chill as if the stakes in all of this were whether the dessert was going to come out delicious. That is how Dumbledore rolls.

Greatest thing Dumbledore ever says in this entire series:

“No, Draco,” said Dumbledore quietly. “It is my mercy, and not yours, that matters now.”

Damn. Just about to die and he knows it, and this is what he has to say. I mean, you would name your kid after this man, wouldn’t you? This is the man you name your kids after.

I am realizing belatedly that I should have had a feature in this readalong called “Oh Neville”. Because, Neville.

“We were in trouble, we were losing,” said Tonks in a low voice. “Gibbon was down, but the rest of the Death Eaters seemed ready to fight to the death. Neville had been hurt, Bill had been savaged by Greyback…It was all dark…curses flying everywhere…The Malfoy boy had vanished, he must have slipped past, up the stairs…then more of them ran after him, but one of them blocked the stair behind them with some kind of curse…Neville ran at it and got thrown up into the air–“

Of course he did. Of course he got hurt but still ran after a huge group of Death Eaters alone. Oh Neville.

I know nobody in this readalong likes the Harry-Ginny pairing, but I actually do. Ginny is widely agreed to be awesome, and unlike some of y’all, I love Harry a lot as well. They are both clever and resourceful and they have shared interests like Quidditch and fighting evil. Seems reasonable to me. I was okay with them breaking up (I see the narrative usefulness of that), but this?:

“It’s been like…like something out of someone else’s life, these last few weeks with you.”

This tears at my heart. “Someone else’s life” = “everything doesn’t all the time suck”. On the other hand:

“We’ll be there, Harry,” said Ron… “At your aunt and uncle’s house, and then we’ll go with you wherever you’re going.”

“No–” said Harry quickly; he had not counted on this, he had meant them to understand that he was undertaking this most dangerous journey alone.

“You said to us once before,” said Hermione quietly, “that there was time to turn back if we wanted to. We’ve had time, haven’t we?”

“We’re with you whatever happens,” said Ron.

YOU THREE.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

But he understood at last what Dumbledore had been trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew — and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents — that there was all the difference in the world.

This. Just, this. You kids these days and your heroism.

Revisiting Harry Potter: Dumbledore has a purple suit and psychic paper

Oh God, it’s so wonderful to have Hogwarts back to normal. I never realize how miserable Umbridge’s reign at Hogwarts was really making me until I get to the sixth book and McGonagall’s bossing everyone around without a mean toad lady going “Hem hem” at her shoulder all the time. Yes, Snape is teaching Defense against the Dark Arts, and yes, I think that blows and also, isn’t it sort of irresponsible of Dumbledore to keep giving that job to people when it’s plainly jinxed? Like, couldn’t he knock the subject of Defense against the Dark Arts on the head and invent a brand new subject called, like, Nefariousness Prevention, and get around the jinx that way?

I want to call Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince “The Book in which Harry is Right”. I love it when Harry’s right, and usually if there’s a conflict between him and Hermione, Hermione’s going to win. But not in this book! In this book Harry gets to be right on a number of different occasions, and Hermione gets to screw up. It’s not that I don’t like for Hermione to be right — I do! But it’s also good to see that she’s not infallible. She sometimes fails at sneakiness, and she sometimes resists available evidence that points to a conclusion she does not wish to reach. Such as that Harry is right about Malfoy, in particulars as well as just the general thing of Malfoy being Up to Something.

In the ongoing Harry-Dumbledore buddy comedy that is Book Six, Harry ribs his buddy-comedy-buddy for his fashion sense sixty years ago — props, Harry, there’s no reason for anyone of any time period to wear a purple velvet suit while not being Oscar Wilde. Or maybe Dumbledore’s just wearing it to alarm the orphanage superintendent who is so fond of gin. I cannot blame her. I am fond of gin myself, and I do not have daily responsibility for a tiny magical psychopath. If I did, I would probably drink quite as much gin as this lady does after Dumbledore does his psychic-paper spell.

I like the flashback of little Voldemort better than the flashbacks that involve the Gaunt family as a whole. Little Voldemort is just the right amount creepy, whereas the Gaunts are over the top if you ask me. If they’d lived a few decades into the future, I bet they’d have had their own reality show. They could have talked about Mudbloods and hissed at snakes, and all the wizards watching the show would shake their heads judgmentally and talk about what is wizarding television coming to these days.

Do you notice, by the way, that all evil wizards in this world seem to have the habit of doing mocking singsong voices as a sign of disrespect? Is that a thing? Voldemort’s grandfather did it and Bellatrix Lestrange is prone to it too, if you’ll recall. Either this is a thing they teach you in Taunting Class at Durmstrang, or JK Rowling’s sister used to do this to her on car trips and JK Rowling really, really hated it. Fair enough if the latter.

Are y’all fans of the incorporation into this book of hilarious romantic subplots involving Cormac McLaggen and Lavender Brown, whose name I inexplicably keep on typing as “Lavendar”? I AM. Ron’s defense of starting to go out with Lavender when he was supposed to be going to Slughorn’s party with Hermione is hilariously belligerent. In fact everything about the Ron-Lavender relationship is hilarious, from its onset to its eventual demise. Quidditch is apparently a great aphrodisiac in these books — Ron and Lavender are, ahem, not the only couple to start making out in the immediate aftermath of a successful Quidditch game.

I love everything about this exchange:

“But you are normal!” said Harry fiercely. “You’ve just got a — a problem–”

Lupin burst out laughing. “Sometimes you remind me a lot of James. He called it my ‘furry little problem’ in company. Many people were under the impression that I owned a badly behaved rabbit.”

Aw. Harry being loyal; us getting a non-douchey memory of James; Lupin laughing. Bless them.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

1. It rocks that Harry tells McGonagall (and Dumbledore, and everyone) what he suspects about Malfoy after Katie Bell gets attacked. McGonagall was obviously not going to believe him, but still, Harry has come a long way from the early books when he never told anything to anyone.

2. Asking Luna to Slughorn’s party is a delightful thing for Harry to have done. It’s extra delightful that he asks because he enjoys her company. As who wouldn’t, you know? He’s really clear with her about what the invitation portends (nothing romantic!), which is also good. And Luna’s response is so sweet and so completely Luna.

“Oh, no, I’d love to go with you as friends! Nobody’s ever asked me to a party before, as a friend! Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine too?”

Plus, when they’re at the party, Harry doesn’t ditch her and go hunting for other people to hang out with, as he did when he asked Parvati to the Yule Ball. He stays with Luna for the bulk of the party, and when he’s ducking out to eavesdrop on Snape he’s like, Hey Luna, I’ll be right back, okay? which is fine, because she’s engaged in a conversation anyway. Good job, Harry! Your social skills are coming along in leaps and bounds!

3. The conversation Harry has with Scrimgeour at Christmas might very well be my favorite bit of this entire series. I love how adorably obvious it is that Harry’s using Dumbledore as his model for how to behave with bullies. I love that his criticism of Scrimgeour is biting and on point and pretty calm even when Harry’s getting pissed. And, of course:

“Well, it is clear to me that he has done a very good job on you,” said Scrimgeour, his eyes cold and hard behind his wire-rimmed glasses. “Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”

“Yeah, I am,” said Harry. “Glad we straightened that out.”

Never ever EVER gets old. Of course it is wonderful when Harry defends his belief and his people. But it is huge extra piles of awesome that he’s so consistently been a person who Will Not Abide with Your Bullshit, and now he’s the grown-up version of that person. Yay. I love Integrity Harry!

Revisiting Harry Potter: The Harry-Dumbledore Buddy Comedy Commences

Okay, “buddy comedy” may be putting it a trifle too strongly. But you know what I mean? When they go off to make Slughorn come to Hogwarts, and Dumbledore goes off to have a poop while Harry (metaphorically) seduces Slughorn with his fame, courage, and loyalty to Hogwarts? And Dumbledore’s all, “Knitting patterns! Well, we must be off,” and cracks wise about his jam preferences. (Raspberry jam is delicious; good call, Dumbledore.) All the trappings of a classic buddy comedy! (Ish.)

It is also about damn time someone told off the Dursleys for being terrible child-rearers. I don’t know why Dumbledore wasn’t keeping a closer eye on that situation. Couldn’t the wizarding world have taken up a collection to pay Petunia and Vernon for Harry’s upkeep? They’d still have been jerks to him but at least they would have been accountable to someone and Dumbledore could have stopped by now and then to stop them putting Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. But what’s past is past, I guess. I’m glad something was said about how awful the Dursleys are, and I’m glad that Dumbledore tells Harry he’s proud of him for how he’s dealt with losing Sirius.

How do people feel about the chapter with Snape and Bellatrix and Narcissa? Personally I do not care for it. I am pleased to know all the ways Snape has been explaining to Lord V. his behavior over the years, but I’d have preferred that information to come out slowly instead of in one big infodump. Also, are you extremely curious what role Snape played in Emmeline Vance’s death? I AM. Do you think it was the kind of situation where Voldemort had found out information about Emmeline from another source, and Dumbledore knew he had, so he had Snape give Voldemort basically that same information? Or do you think an element of self-sacrifice on Emmeline Vance’s part was involved? Inquiring minds want to know.

You know who sucks? Fleur. I think she’s one of those people who’s all like, “Oh, you know, I don’t really have any friends who are girls,” and she thinks the reason for this is that she’s so beautiful and other girls are jealous, but the real reason is that if there’s a guy around she immediately stops paying attention to her girl friends. I would deeply resent having to be her bridesmaid, if I were Ginny.

This book amps up the everyday scariness of Voldemort, which I appreciate — you don’t want a toothless villain! I always thought we were going to find out why Florean Fortescue got taken, but we never did. I guess we’ll have to wait for the Encyclopedia that JK Rowling better not have decided against because that would make me sad. I posit that it’s because Florean knew some information about History that Voldemort wanted (because remember he knew all about medieval witch-burnings in the third book?), and I guess if you’re Voldemort and you want to know something you abduct and torture an expert on that subject. That is the Voldemort version of going to the library.

(Like, it’s either that, or Voldemort stopped in for ice cream and Florean Fortescue spit in his milkshake.)

Fred and George’s joke shop includes this product:

“One simple incantation and you will enter a top-quality, highly realistic, thirty-minute daydream, easy to fit into the average school lesson and virtually undetectable (side effects include vacant expresion and minor drooling). Not for sale to under-sixteens.”

Not for sale to under-sixteens EH? Real talk for a second here, y’all: They’re sex daydreams, right? This is a sex product?

The Adulting of Harry Potter: I’m making this a feature for Book Six, because Harry has grown up so much since the last book, and I think it deserves its own special feature. Let’s compare some Harry behaviors to their equivalents in earlier books.

1. When Harry suspected Snape was up to no good in the first book, he didn’t tell anyone because he was all “We’ve got no proof!” When he suspects Malfoy is up to no good in this book, he tells everyone. It doesn’t do him any good — because everyone’s like, “You’ve got no proof!”, but still, way to go, Harry. If you see something say something.

2. He deals with his grief over losing Sirius like a MOTHERFUCKING CHAMP. Whereas with Cedric he couldn’t figure out a way to process what had happened (again I say, shouldn’t someone be in charge of slapping this kid into wizard therapy?), he admits to Dumbledore that he feels terribly sad about Sirius and misses having a parent but he knows Sirius wouldn’t have wanted him to just curl up into a ball o’ sadness, and that’s why he’s going to keep on fighting evil because it’s what he wants and what Sirius would have wanted.

(Truth. Also, sniffle.)

3. In the fifth book, a pretty girl finds Harry in the company of Neville and Luna and Harry wishes he could die. In the sixth when the same situation occurs, Harry’s like, “Piss off, these are my friends.” Plus:

“People expect you to have cooler friends than us,” said Luna, once again displaying her knack for embarrassing honesty.

“You are cool,” said Harry shortly. “None of them was at the Ministry. They didn’t fight with me.”

Damn straight, Harry. I am glad you and I have both come around to appreciating Luna’s charms. She was wasted on us both in the previous book.