Saturday, January 12, 2008

Carnegie Hall Shocker

Okay, so I'm not the best poster on the planet. I probably won't be posting as much as I used to when I first got into this thing. You know, a post here and there, every several months. It's not that my interest for knitting has waned - far from it - but it's just that I feel my energy is better spent in discussion forums and nurturing my own, quite real, analog life and the people in it whom I feel I don't have enough time for already.

I promised everyone several months go a run-down of what happened during J.K.'s open book tour. My husband, although he had to - somewhat - be dragged to New York, is now very proud to report he was there for Dumbledore's outing. We had a couple hours' head start on the media, and we called all our friends; we thought it was fun to have a leg up on everyone else for a change. That said, I don't think Dumbledore's outing really adds anything to - or subtracts from - the story at all, because J.K. Rowling never discussed her characters' sexuality and it matters not one whit to the outcome of the story. I just wish she had discussed Snape in further detail; he's my favorite.

I'm still going through HP withdrawal; I'll have to go back and read the books.

Here is the run-down of events in NYC, with pics:

Before you read on, the Death Eaters, also known as Carnegie Hall ushers, would not let me (or anyone else) take pictures. At all. The pictures of J.K.'s throne below were snuck in, and then I still managed to get yelled at. After that, there was an usher standing right beside my row, so I had no hope to catch J.K. in the flesh.

You know how lengthy I can be, so steel yourselves; this is the whole enchilada as far as I can remember, though childlike excitement dulled my senses somewhat. I will try to limit myself to HP-related events.

The excitement really began when I started packing my costume. Packing my robe and wand were what got me going the most.
DH and I left DC on Friday morning. No Hogwarts Express, no platform 9 3/4; we went through Gate E at Union Station and hopped an Amtrak train. In the hopes of staying as faithful as possible to the books, however, I brought a bunch of HP candy, and DH and I got all sugared up on our way to NYC. My chocolate frog package yielded a Severus Snape card, which I took to be a good omen. DH got Filius Flitwick.

We got to New York, checked into our hotel, grabbed some lunch, and went to F.A.O. Schwartz to buy an owl to take to the event (a friend's Christmas present). They had a terrific display of Harry Potter-related stuffed animals at F.A.O. Schwartz.

Then, we retrieved our tickets at Carnegie Hall. It was then that we realized we were really spoiled seat-wise; the throne pic should give you a sense of where we were.

We went to the event, and the line to get in snaked around the building. I was one of the very rare ones to be in costume; I felt a bit self-conscious. I was hoping that as many people would be dressed up as for the Deathly Hallows release party, but not at all. Buncha muggles, th'lot'o'em!

My husband was a really good sport and wore the "Muggle Pride" scarf I knitted for him.

Right before I entered the building, there were a bunch of teenagers with camcorders, and I pulled out my wand at them and said, "DON'T make me hex you." They cheered.

So aside from getting yelled at by the ushers for daring to take pictures, the event went really smoothly. There was an emcee to warm up the room - like that was really necessary - and J.K. got a reception worthy of the Beatles at the height of their glory. Standing ovation, of course, and lots and lots of screaming; I would have been interested to see a decibel reading at that moment; it was insane.

She was as I had imagined her; mid-height - maybe 5'7" - and prettier in person than in interviews. I think she is one of those women who aren't photogenic, and TV interviews I've seen of her make her seem more reserved and not as warm as she is. I got a terrific vibe from her. She is warm, wickedly smart, and very funny. She began with a reading from the Deathly Hallows, at the point where Ron comes back. This is after saving Harry and destroying Slytherin's locket, and when Ron and Harry return to the tent. The confrontation between Ron and Hermione ensues. It was a very lively reading, and she did Hermione's hysterics very well; everyone was laughing hard.

Then she started taking questions (I'm paraphrasing the ones I remember):

Q: Why did the basilisk fang not destroy the portion of Harry's being that was a horcrux in the Chamber of Secrets?
A: Fawkes' tears.

Q: Did Neville ever find love and get married?
A: Yes, Neville fell in love with and married Hannah Abbott, who ends up managing the Leaky Cauldron. His herbology students find it infinitely cool to have a professor live above a pub.

Q: Why did Tonks and Lupin have to die?
A: She said she felt that by starting the story with an orphan and ending it with an orphan, the story would come full circle. Her idea was to show that war is horrific in that it orphans children all the time. She also said that the reason she did it is that Teddy would end up having a terrific godfather in Harry, someone who would be there for him and who would genuinely understand what he was going through. She also wanted to contrast Harry as a godfather with Sirius as a godfather. Sirius obviously had his issues.

Q: Many people have found parallels between Voldemort's reign of terror and the Nazi regime. Are the parallels deliberate?
A: Yes, but even though she took a lot of inspiration from the Nazis, she said that she took inspiration from totalitarian regimes, including "modern-day administrations we all know and love." This got a laugh. She said that she wrote the books as a plea for tolerance. It was important to her to show that there was prejudice in the wizarding world too, and that Harry was leaving behind one set of prejudices to confront another.

Q: Why was there no portrait of Snape in Dumbledore's office, and does Harry ever go back to speak to Snape's portrait?
A: A portrait of Snape did not appear immediately after his death because Hogwarts' Castle's perception was that he had abandoned his post. Harry, however, would make sure and remedy the injustice. He would not, however, return to talk to Severus' portrait; they established a kind of truce and left it at that.

Q: Why did you choose Molly Weasley over Neville to finish off Bellatrix Lestrange?
A: "Bellatrix Lestrange, as you know, is obsessed with Voldemort. Although it's unhealthy, I suppose you could call it love - sick love. I wanted to balance another kind of love against the extent of Bellatrix's obsession: motherly love. Also, motherly love is what saved Harry; I wanted to show its power. I also wanted to show Molly Weasley to be a very capable witch. As we find out with Ron, Harry and Hermione in the tent, magicking food isn't easy, and I wanted to highlight that Molly was a capable witch for being able to do it; all without being showy. This isn't a woman who wears her abilities on her sleeve. Just because women choose to raise their families and give up their careers doesn't mean they are any less competent." This was cheered and clapped at.

Q: Why did you abandon the idea of offing Arthur Weasley in The Order of the Phoenix and off Fred instead in The Deathly Hallows?
A: "The reason I considered it was that I wanted to put Ron on equal footing with Harry so that he would understand Harry's loss and he would have to grow up. I also wanted the Burrow to no longer be the refuge it had been for Harry. I wanted to show that war strips people of their sense of safety and warmth. I gave it up, though. [In another interview I read online, she said she had given up the idea because Arthur was the only "model father" in the series, and she felt it was important to maintain a good father throughout the books.] I decided that Fred should die to show the horrors of war and what wars strip us of." She also said that Ron was the last of the three to mature into adulthood.

Q: There was a question about Aberforth getting prosecuted for mischief involving goats; it was asked by an 8-year-old who used the word "prosecuted." J.K. asked her, "How old are you?" The girl said, "eight." It was cute.
A: "This can be read on a number of levels. My answer to you is that Aberforth likes goats and that's why he keeps them as pets." There were many laughs.

Q: "Did Dumbledore ever fall in love and get married?"
A: Pregnant pause. Deep sigh. Then she said very fast and not terribly loudly, "I always thought Dumbledore was gay." There was a short pause, and the whole house erupted. There was loud whooping, clapping, and screaming; several people in the audience gave her a standing ovation; I think I must have had the deer in the headlights look. "Wha? Huh? NO." When the clamor died down, I said a little loudly, "Well, that puts the thing with Grindelwald in a whole new light." Several parents sitting around me turned around and shot me dirty looks. And then she went on to say, "Gosh, if I had known that would make you so happy, I would have let it out years ago. This actually came up recently when I was doing a script run-through for the sixth movie. There was a moment when Dumbledore mentions a woman in his past, and I grabbed the scriptwriter's script and wrote in the margins, 'Dumbledore is gay,' so they took the reference out. This came to light when Dumbledore met Grindelwald. This was the first time he met someone as brilliant as he was, someone very charismatic, and he fell in love. That's why he was blind to Grindelwald's darker side. Once he came to realize Grindelwald's true nature, he was sorely disappointed and that's why things turned out the way they did." She paused. "I can only imagine the fanfiction that's going to come out of this." This I loudly cheered at (yes, yes, I'm a dork and have been writing Snape fanfiction).

The questions are out of order and I know I've forgotten some, but I thought I would save the best for last. Our "scoop" lasted all of a couple of hours, because we were only able to call our close friends before the news was, well, all over the news. As DH's best friend said, "I always thought there was something fishy about the man liking to wear dresses."

After the Q&A session, they lined us up to walk past a table where she was signing books at warp speed; she had 2,000 to sign and the line was moving very fast, so I just had a chance to quickly say "Thank you," grab my book and go. There were people from Scholastic in the line who made it a point to be nice to people who were decked out, so it was nice of them to acknowledge my costume. I got kudos for DH's scarf, too.

Because we were so well-seated, we only had to wait five minutes before we got our signed books. We went out for dinner, and as we were walking back to the hotel, I noticed on the street a young girl and her mother I had seen in the ticket line earlier that day. It was a good 2 1/2 hours later, and they had just gotten out. I can only imagine the state of J.K.'s hand muscles after all that - yikes. Then, later in the evening, I saw a girl and her father walking away, the girl clutching the book to her chest as though her life depended on it. It was touching.

All in all, I really got the feeling of a less staid J.K. Rowling, of someone who was willing to let her hair down a little bit now that she's done with the books. She's obviously liberal, and she seems like a genuinely nice, warm, and funny person. I was really, really happy to have been given the opportunity to go.



Karen said...

Hi! Just found your blog via Ravelry, your Beaker ravatar caught my eye.

Great write up of the JKR, NYC event. My sister was there and she wrote up a similar post for me that I have posted on my knitting blog.

Happy knitting!


Simply Kit said...

You are SO lucky. Thanks for sharing the pictures and the write-up.

Best wishes.

Simply Kit said...

You are SO lucky. Thanks for sharing the pictures and writing up the event.

Best wishes.