There’s no doubt in my mind that the title of this post is true. Sure, the Harry Potter books get more angst-ridden as the kids get older, and sure, the stakes get higher when Voldemort is trying to take over the world and generally deploy his Evil Schemes. But you can keep your graveyard incantations and Departments of Mysteries, your snakes and corpses and lakes full of zombies. Harry Potter is never as scary before Prisoner of Azkaban, and it never gets quite that scary again.
Because the scare quotient (if I can use that phrase) of Prisoner of Azkaban doesn’t depend on gross images or Gothic idioms, it doesn’t depend on dark magic or evil ideologies. The story does more than just startle or alarm us. It unsettles. It gnaws away at us with a, creeping, oozing fear that pricks under your fingernails and round your eye sockets. And it’s the only book with scary not just as decoration or set design; the fear is embedded in the story itself.
All Hallows’ Read is fast approaching. If you’re wondering what scary book you should be giving to family, friends, and random folks on the street, all of us at The Hog’s Head agree that Harry Potter would be a great choice. What better time than All Hallows’ Read to give someone a book about witches and wizards battling scary stuff?
Ah, but which one though? Which Harry Potter book is the scariest, creepiest, shiveriest, flesh-crawlingest, heebie-jeebiest one of them all? And here, all of us at The Hog’s Head can’t agree at all! Or hardly. We’ve each got a favourite shiver, a most prized behind-the-sofa moment, a top candidate for the jibblies from our own most feared book, and we’ve all got suitably chilling reasons why.
What a week it’s been for the Potterverse. No sooner do we get back from donating our copies of The Casual Vacancy to the used bookstore, than we discover that the entire Harry Potter series was written under a pseudonym, and that the real author is a retired bank manager named Robert Q. Galbraith, O.B.E.
No—wait. That didn’t happen.
In case you every wondered what writers do all day–well…we write, mostly. Even when there’s boggarts in the closet and nargles in the pub, we still scramble around and find ways to write and edit and do other writerly, blog-type things. To put it another way, the Blogengamot has all found ways of keeping busy while the Pubs been undergoing its exorcisms (if that’s the word I want).
Let me introduce you, if I may, to one of those other projects, a joint venture between Mr Pond (speaking!) and Jenna, as well as remarkable people like Katherine Langrish, friend of the Pub. Revgeorge has also been known to wander in from time to time. It’s a blog and literary journal called Unsettling Wonder, devoted to folklore and fairy tale of all types, but especially the slightly stranger, lesser-known, more unexpected types.
Always winter, and never Christmas, said Mr Tumnus. Think of that.
When I read these words as a small boy, I would try to imagine. And the most horrible part to me, then, was the thought of not getting any presents. Seemed a bit selfish of the White Witch, keeping the Narnians from their Christmas presents with her enchantments. No summer baseball was bad enough, but using some magical jiggery-pokery to keep Christmas out of winter was just bad form. In that sense, I guess I imagined the White Witch as first cousins to the Grinch: The Witch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season…
But this year, as I reread The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950), a different idea struck me.
It was a tradition waiting to happen. If you had to choose the three most important ingredients in any holiday, they’d have to be saints, chocolate, and books. At least, if your holidays are anything like mine, they are.
Halloween usually has its fair share of chocolate, and here at the Hog’s Head we heartily approve. And it’s a catch-all feast day for saint-types: All Hallows, after all. But books? What about books? If we took a straw poll of pub regulars–no offense to the scarecrows among us–I suspect we’d find it hard to imagine a day without books, let alone a holiday.
Welcome, then, to All Hallows’ Read.
A Toast to Sherlock Holmes
Ladies and Gentlemen, here he is, the Prince of Detectives, the Napoleon of Crime Fighters, the Finest Mind of the Victorian Age, a glimpse (if you’ll believe it) of the next stage of our evolution—ladies and gentlemen, I give you: Sherlock Holmes.
There he is, the lean figure in the deerstalker hat, impeccably dressed, smoking a fine pipe. He’s learned in sciences and in the arts, especially chemistry and music, in which fields he’s written authoritative little monographs. He lives frugally, but cultivates as fine a palate as he is able. He’s at his ease with the worth of men, and has met the Queen herself. His conversation is engaging but not demonstrative. His brother is a respected civil servant. Holmes is an artist, an academic, an effective worker; he keeps his wits and his poise about him at all times, and always carries himself with dignity. In a word: Sherlock Holmes is a gentleman.
A Conversation with John Granger
The Hunger Games film is abuzz throughout the interweb, not least here at the Pub. Amid the swirl of reviewers, John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and friend of this blog, has recently attracted some controversy during that site’s “Hunger Games Month” for his claim that the movie is hijacking the book.
The Hog’s Head caught up with Professor Granger just as the month was drawing to its close. Despite his busy schedule of writing, speaking, and teaching, he was able to sit down with us over butterbeers, and talk about why he thinks The Hunger Games movies hijacked the books, why the books have been catching fire among serious readers, and why the Hunger Games trilogy just might be better than Harry Potter.
Get yourself a butterbeer and join us below the leap. Continue reading