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Mapping the World of Harry Potter: An Unauthorized Exploration of the… (2005)
by Mercedes Lackey (Editor, Contributor)
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Fantasy writers talk about Harry Potter, with topics including social commentary, religion, sexism, the hero trope, and the boarding school novel. Entertaining reading with some interesting insights (and some ridiculously off-the-mark pieces which seem to specialize in Missing the Point), so basically par for the course for an anthology of this kind. The best essay in the collection is probably "Hermione Granger and the Charge of Sexism," with "Harry Potter and the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Counselor" and "The Proper Wizard's Guide to Good Manners" nicely filling the "Killjoy" and "WTF?" slots. Worth a flip-through if you like this sort of thing. ( )
My favorite story is the last one by Richard Garfinkle, "Why Killing Harry Is The Worst Outcome for Voldemort." This explains in relentless detail how Hermione might figure out a way to spring a trap and then start experimenting with What Happens when you expose old world immortality to modern hazards, such as hard vacuum or radiation exposure. Totally recommended that one to everyone who has ever enjoyed a nice revenge fantasy.
This was written before "Deathly Hallows" came out, so a great deal of the essays deal with now defunct speculation over "what will happen?" Even so, it's still fun to see what people were thinking and how many of their predictions were eerily accurate. For example, one suggests that Harry must fight Voldemort alone, that Harry will not die, that Harry will die, that Neville will take a larger role, that Hermione and Ron will get together, that Snape is not as evil as "Half-Blood Prince" made him out to be.
Besides the predictions, it's also great to read analysis of a literary series to see what was done right and wrong. I learned that the Dursleys have a purpose beyond comic relief, why Snape has so many creepy fan girls, the series's roots in "English boarding school" books, and not only why Dumbledore died, but that he had to die, because he's the mentor on the hero's journey. My favorite is the last essay that details a "what would happen" scenario if Voldemort does win. Basically, Hermione goes medieval. I wouldn't have minded seeing that ending either.
Only essay I was at all impressed with was the one on "fanon Snape" and fanfiction - aka how the fans (and Alan Rickman) have taken Snape in entirely new directions (though warning - the author is mostly talking about R (and higher) rated fanfiction - didn't bother me because its certainly not like actually reading something like that, and its the phenomena of fanfic in general that facinates me, but if even references to objectionable material bother you, don't read that essay)Otherwise I was very disappointed in the rest of the essays - not particularly academic - and not particularly enjoyable either. Only the Snape essay really contributed anything new or original to the academic study of Harry Potter.
This collection of essays regarding the HP books (through book 6) is pretty hit or miss. All of the authors touched on interesting issues, but most of the essays seemed to barely scratch the surface. I think the fact that many of the pieces were in personal essay form (and not academic) made it seem like I was reading the essays or theory boards on a Harry Potter fan site, when I would have preferred a well-constructed and researched article. I found myself torn between wallowing in pure nerd-dom over the fact that this book even existed and a mild disappointment that the analysis seemed so introductory 101. I had also hoped for some critical analysis as well. Perhaps something about fat-phobia or the hidden gay agenda (just kidding about that last one).
But even with its serious shortcomings, I would recommend this collection to any diehard Harry Potter fan. The detailing of fascism in the Order of the Phoenix was well thought out and brought up many points that I had not previously considered, and the piece about Snape being the sexy anti-hero of fanfics was hilarious. Ich Bin Ein Hufflepuff!!
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From the Dursleys as social commentary to a look at Snape's role in less than child-friendly fanfiction . . . from the parallels between Azkaban and Abu Ghraib to the role of religion at Hogwarts . . . from why Dumbledore had to die to why killing Harry never should have been part of Voldemort's plan to begin with . . . Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice offers a comprehensive look at the Harry Potter series through the eyes of leading science fiction and fantasy writers and religion, psychology, and science experts. This book has not been authorized by J. K. Rowling, Warner Bros. or anyone associated with the Harry Potter books or films.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)823.914Literature English & Old English literatures English fiction Modern Period 1901-1999 1945-1999
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