Category Archives: Around the Common Room

Around the Common Room: January 4, 2013

It’s 2013, some of us are still sweeping up bits of confetti left over from wizard crackers–surreptitiously, when Aberforth isn’t looking–and there are a few bits and leftovers from 2012 to be picked up and discussed as well. For instance:

…and though the Christmas season is almost over (it’s the tenth day–perhaps you’ll get some lords-a-leaping from your true love!), there’s a Godzilla Christmas tree to be seen, fifteen ice planets for a guaranteed white Christmas, Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s picks for Top Ten Christmas Reads for Kids, and a little mixup over the generous nature and white beard of Gandalf.

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: December 27, 2012

It’s the third day of Christmas, the feast day of St. John the Apostle–patron of authors and publishers–and a good day to sit around the common room, drink some spiced pumpkin juice, and contemplate magical things. To start, we have Christie over at Spinning Straw into Gold posting about Father Christmas as Fairy Tale:

[St. Nick’s story] is a fairy tale.  Or a folk tale, if you prefer.  Many elements of a fairy/folk tale are present: an ordinary person called to do or be something extraordinary; a journey, whether symbolic or literal; dealings with faeries (elves); reward and justice; the sense of mystery or more questions left than answers.  Here is a figure as universal but specific as Baba Yaga.

Going on with news and commentary:

King’s Cross Station has now opened a little official Harry Potter memorabilia shop at Platform 9 3/4.

Jon Michaud over at the New Yorker argues that The Hobbit is a better book than The Lord of the Rings.

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: December 14, 2012

It’s release day for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey! On account of which, there are a nearly infinite number of relevant articles and such this week, some of which are aggregated here:

In not-so-small Harry Potter news: the stars of the Potter films are getting together to film a Potter mini-movie, which will be shown at the theme parks containing Potter attractions. Over at The Guardian, Ellie Lewis makes a guess at what the movie may be about.

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: December 7, 2012

In the cheerful spirit of Happy Hoggy Days, here’s a gift many a Harry Potter fan should enjoy: a Harry Potter and Philosophy podcast put together by Keith Hawk at MuggleNet, starring our own Carrie-Ann Biondi and two of her students! Says Carrie-Ann:

It’s kind of a survey-ish discussion among the five of us ranging over a variety of questions and issues in philosophy and literature that John Granger came up with, so it’s very accessible to a wide audience.

Listen and enjoy! And now, here’s your roundup of the week’s news:

Continue reading

What’s in Your Stocking?

It’s only when Harry becomes a student at Hogwarts that he knows for the first time in his memory the joys of Christmas, including the practice of receiving (and giving) gifts.  When Harry expresses surprise at finding a pile of presents at the foot of his bed on Christmas morning, Ron says, “What did you expect, turnips?” (SS ch. 12, p. 200).  Well, having lived with the Dursleys . . . yes! 

For the most part, Harry receives the same sorts of gifts each year from the usual caring and kind suspects: homemade sweaters and food from Mrs. Weasley, books and candy from Hermione, Quidditch stuff and candy from Ron, etc.

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: November 30, 2012

As this post goes up, it’s still November 29 by my clock, on account of which: Happy Birthday, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle! Born exactly twenty years apart–Lewis in 1898 and L’Engle in 1918–the two authors must have shared a trace of magic along with a birthday, for few children’s books have been more loved than The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. Here’s to Jack and Madeleine, both of whom have been loved by many of us for nearly all our reading lives.

Fairy tale writer and aficionado L.C. Ricardo, has written a beautiful piece on symbolism and meaning in fairy tales, which was just published on the webzine Enchanted Conversation. From L.C.:

That is not to say that fairy tales are mere allegory. Perhaps this one-sided interpretation carries some blame for people’s frustration in“telling the same story over and over again.” If a tower is always a phallic symbol and the maiden either imprisoned or protected from the masculine, we rob the tower of its first childhood impression. That of something tall, stone, unreachable. Something enchanted, according to that which makes up its very definition. And from there—who knows what it could be?

Do you agree with her on the openness of interpretation, or disagree? What do you think of the universality and personal appeal of fairy tales and fantasy literature? Feel free to hold forth in the combox.

Here’s the news from the week:

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: November 23, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving to all American Pub members!

The big news story of the week is Utah paper boy Jaxon Gessel’s getting chased one dark morn

ing by a goat named Voldemort. Now dubbed “The Boy Who Lived” by the goat’s owners, and less flattering names by his school peers, Gessel seems to have taken the event philosophically and with a fair degree of bravery as well, preventing other passers-by from likewise getting treed. After all, whatever Aberforth might say, a male goat can be an odd and rather frightening creature, especially in the dark.

In more serious discussion, Fantasy Faction’s Ryan Howse suggests a moratorium on Campbell’s monomyth. He criticizes it on several principles, from its influence on definitions to its overall masculinity. “Campbell’s monomyth is important to know,” he says, “but as writers we need to be willing to push against its boundaries and break it. We need to criticize it with a thousand cuts and let it lie fallow in the earth.” Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss.

Continue reading

Around the Common Room: November 16, 2012

The interwebs are all about the random this week, it seems, but for the gathering around our common room, we’ll start off with some fantastic literary analysis: Chris Russo’s post titled Unknotting Tangled, in which he talks about the roots of Rapunzel’s story, alchemy, and helicopter parents. Says Professor Russo: “I haven’t enjoyed a Disney film this much since Beauty and the Beast, and as a literature teacher, I haven’t had so much fun exploring the deeper meanings of a Disney film since, well, ever.”

And now that you’ve theoretically got that article opened in another browser tab, here comes the not-oft-connected rest:

Balloon artist Jeremy Telford made his living room into Bag End… entirely by means of balloons. It’s exhausting just watching the stop-motion video, but the final result is stunning.

Seattle, which could probably be fairly called one of the nerd capitals of America, is partially protected by a league of superheroes.

Continue reading