Book Club

Persephone Book Club “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s) Stone” Pt. 2

Welcome back, book clubbers! I’ve been spending my free time with the Google, trying to find the very best Potter info on the web for our background discussion today. Boy howdy, there is a lot of Potter info on the web, so we’re going to do this a little differently.

Since you all probably have more Potter trivia in your pinkies than I have in my whole brain, I’m turning this discussion over to you. What bits and bobs do you know about how Harry Potter became the Boy Who Lived (in print) and the zeitgeist that has formed around his story? Where do you go on the web for your Potter knowledge? Where can we all find the best fan art and fan fiction? Do you think this series would have been as popular before the Internet? How has the Internet made the Potter experience better or worse?

When I polled my fellow editrixes, Ruby filled me in on a few details I was unaware of, such as Rowling’s experiences as a single mother receiving public assistance motivating her to write the first book, as well as the influence losing her mother had over her, especially in the scenes with Harry and the mirror. True confession: I’ve always avoided the Potter books because of pure jealousy that Rowling wrote them and I didn’t. Learning that the loss of her mom inspired her has made me a bit warm and fuzzy towards Ms. Rowling, as Persephone is the result of my own attempts to deal with the loss of my mom.

I also learned (probably ten years after everyone else, doh) that the UK edition of the book (as well as Canada?!) was titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but was changed to Sorcerer’s Stone for American audiences, since apparently American publishers think our children are too unsophisticated to hear anything related to philosophy. This struck me as particularly interesting because of the religious objections that surrounded the books early on. Many U.S. churches denounced the books for promoting witchcraft; I wonder if the hullabaloo would have been as intense if the first book kept the original UK title. (Yes, I am a cynic and assume these church-ly objectionists don’t actually read the books they protest and judge them by their covers.)

What goodies do you have to share, my beloved book club readers? I’ll make the popcorn and bring the box wine. Let’s have a lively discussion.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

37 replies on “Persephone Book Club “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (or Philosopher’s) Stone” Pt. 2”

By far the three best places to go for fandom/info are Mugglenet (one of THE oldest sites on it around, the webmaster founded it when he was 12), Leaky Cauldron (news, etc), and HP Lexicon. The Lexicon is the definitive source for trivia, even Rowling admitted to using it when she was hazy on a detail or two. There was the whole lawsuit thing when the Lexicon tried to publish an encyclopedia because Rowling’s said that she’s going to make one eventually. But it’s still got really good trivia, exhaustive character profiles and great essays. Mugglenet’s essays aren’t too bad, either.

When you’re done with the series, you should definitely watch “A Year in the Life of J.K. Rowling.” It’s a documentary that appeared as a special feature on the DVD of… I want to say Half Blood Prince… But it’s also available on YouTube, I think. Don’t watch it before you finish the series, because there are a ton of spoilers in there (it was filmed while she was finished up the last book up until it was published) and in it she talks about exactly how her mother’death, her depression, and basically her life influenced the story. She also goes back to the flat where she finished the final draft of Philosopher’s Stone and it’s super emotional and you’ll just want to hug her.

Also, if you have a couple of hours and are interested in reading about just how batshit the fandom has been in the past, check out Charlotte Lennox’ The MsScribe Story.

Every time I see one of Claire’s books in the stores or see other authors praising her, I get this red haze in my eye. I think it would be one thing if she had copped to it and apologized, but to pretend like she wasn’t in the wrong? I don’t think anyone who would do something that blatant before book contract would be adverse to doing the same thing after book contract.

But I tend to react on a very visceral level to these kinds of things. There’s another published author out there right now who I am deeply familiar with due to having run in the same nerd writing circles for over a decade and who I happen to know if just a heinous human being. Every time I see her books on the shelf I just get so pissed off since I know plenty of talented, ethical, unhenious authors out there who haven’t gotten a 3 book deal. (Not that being a good person is really any sort of obstacle to a successful career of any stripe.)

Word to your entire post. Every time I see the Mortal Instruments books at the bookstore I involuntarily kind of click my teeth and snarl a little bit. My sister asked me once if I had heard any good things about Mortal Instruments and I was like, “NO. CASSANDRA CLAIRE SITS ON A THRONE OF LIES. READ THE HUNGER GAMES INSTEAD.”

So I my library hosted a teen writer a couple of weeks ago and I went, because I like hearing other writers talk about their craft. During the Q&A, she answer a question with ‘I’m just really honored to be included among the ranks of other great YA authors like Someone A and Cassandra Claire’.

And I blurted out without thinking, ‘Oh, you mean the plagiarist?”


Ugh, flipping Cassie Claire! Okay, so yes, she gave us Draco in leather pants, but that’s really about all the good she’s done. Coincidentally, have you ever heard “We Didn’t Start the Fandom“? It is filled with in-jokes and references that you can really only follow if you were around back then (or if you, like me, followed every single link in Charlotte Lennox’s story when it first went up and they still mostly worked). “fandom bitches loving Dan, stalking of the Big Name Fans.” Eeeee. (I can’t believe I’m being all fannish under my real name. Farewell, job opportunities)

Funny story. I’ve read that McScribe piece. Roughly four years ago, a sci-fi fan board I run was targeted by another fan, who was equally scary, odd and persistent. (He’s also how I became acquainted with 4chan, and that was way fun. /sarcasm) Someone sent me the McScribe link to either make me feel better or scare the shit out of me, I’m still not sure which.

I’m going to borrow the next two books from a friend until my finances perk up and I can buy my own copies, and I’m definitely making a note to check out the documentary!

One of my favorite things about Harry Potter is that is popular throughout the world. I own the third book in Spanish, since I bought that in Spain, the sixth in Italian, since it came out the day I finished visiting Italy and I wanted to read it again, and I got the seventh in Spanish for Christmas last year.

I taught English in Kazakhstan and all my students loved talking about the books, no matter how limited their vocabulary was. I taught fifth through eleventh grade, and even my fifth graders knew a thing or two about Garry. I lived with a host family, and my host sister Roza was a huge fan of the movies and the books. She was elated when my parents sent Harry Potter stickers and bookmarks for her and as prizes for the rest of my students. In the university English club that I ran, we screened all the Harry Potter movies I had on DVD, which at the time was the first five. Our students had animated discussions about the films, and since most of them had read the Russian translations they were familiar with the story and could actually experience the English language fully. By the way he’s Garry Potter in Russian since they don’t have a soft “h” sound, just like Hawaii is Gava-i. There’s no “w” sound either. Linguistic fun fact!

And my brother taught English in Japan, and his students knew and loved the Harry Potter movies and books. He showed the movies in after-school clubs as well. The archetypal story, with touches of mythology and a dark atmosphere is almost universally appealing in my experience. I know fiercely macho young Spanish men who love the books as much as a grinning school girl in a village outside Almaty, Kazakhstan. I appreciate the power of the series just because wherever I’ve been in the world, I can bring up Harry Potter and there is a lively discussion of the books.

You can remove your question mark. All Canadian editions of the series retain the original British title and cover. :)

Was anyone else active on Livejournal during the “Great Strikethrough of 2007”? From what I remember a bunch of primarily Harry Potter fandom communities with fanfiction and smutty fan art were deleted because they were believed to be (I’m pretty sure wrongly) affiliated with child pornography and incest. The backlash from the HP fandom was… well, kind of incredible. There were boycotts and letter writing campaigns. The Harry Potter fandom is not one to be messed with. Basically the point of this is some of the best fan fiction and fan art can/could be found on Livejournal.

YES! Strikethrough, Boldout. I lost most of my favourite fics that way because whole communities were fucked over and in some cases ficcers decided to take their shit elsewhere because they didn’t appreciate being called child pornographers.
I used to have a massive fic archive, but I deleted it at some point. Why? I have no clue. But yeah, LJ was a great source.

I actually read the fourth book first, when it first came out, then went back and read them all from the start.

On the one hand, I don’t recommend this plan because you jump in the middle of all these WORDS and WORLDS that you don’t understand. But on the other hand, the fourth has the most action (and is still my favorite of them all), so it’s a good one to hook you, I guess.

I started reading them because my little brother, who has a learning disability and who you could barely get to read anything, finished this crazy, 700+ page book in three days. I figured it must have been good for him to devour it like that. And it was! I have been hooked ever since.

My Aunt had bought it for my cousin hoping she would read but she refused. It was passed on to me. I was maybe 12 or 13 at the time and would read most anything put in front of me. I still have that paperback copy and it is in really rough shape, but I’ll never discard it.

I was in middle school, and my best friend was a fan of the books, but not in the fandom. I was very deep into the fandom of another series (Redwall!) and liked to look down at my friend and other HP fans, for not being as advanced readers as I was. As fate would have it, we made a family trip to B&N, and I ended up picking up Sorcerer’s Stone out of curiosity. I remember that thrilling sense of foreboding that always comes with a new book. What would happen if I fell in love with it? How bad would I look?

The first sentence had me. I think it still remains my favorite line of all time.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

…Um. Excuse me. This book is about Harry Potter. Who the hell are these people? I don’t want to read about normal people. That’s when I felt the sinking feeling in my stomach and I knew I was to have to finish this book. This was bad. Harry Potter, was sweet, delicious crack. (Is crack sweet? Does it even have a taste?)

I went home empty handed, but received the first two books for my birthday a week later. I’m ashamed to admit I was furious I didn’t get all three books, and had to wait THREE DAYS between Chamber and Azkaban. Of course, there was then a horribly long three month wait for Goblet, and so on.

this is so exciting!
my parents bought the first-three-books boxed set when I was twelve and we read them as a family, and I was hooked! I’ve read most of the books around seven times (well, except the last one, mostly because I cry a lot when I read it)
I went to highschool at a very small (approx 200 students from kindergarten to grade 12) Christian school and I can remember the very intense controversy that surrounded Harry Potter and a couple of teachers’ insistence on it being banned from our library, as well as my disagreements/discussions with my classmates who insisted the books were evil despite having never read them and only spouting the party line regarding “witchcraft”. nevertheless my love has only grown (I even got to plan two book launch parties when I was working at an independent bookstore, so fun!)
I read Harry about once a year (alternating with Anne Shirley), so I’m excited to read and chat here!

I should also mention, just as a point of interest… the teachers who succeeded in banning Harry Potter? they were quite intent on being consistent so they also wrote off LOTR, Narnia, fairy tales in general, as being “satanic”. oh yes.
… of course they retracted some of their strong opinions when their daughter was cast as Bilbo in our school’s production of The Hobbit.

they were… interesting people (one of them attempted to perform various “exorcisms” throughout my grade nine and ten years, as well as feigned having the “gift of tongues” when actually she was just speaking Arabic)
basically they figured that if something had the word “witch” in it or if there was any sort of magic then they HAD to be against it since they were against Harry Potter, and they didn’t like people calling them inconsistent. they hadn’t read ANY of the books in question, just knew that characters in them were referred to as “witch” or “wizard” and that there were fantastic elements in each story.

I am a total Harry Potter dork, just to get that out of the way upfront. I mocked them when my older brother was reading them, then was smacked down by my other brother who said I should shut my face since my bro was actually reading, which he had never really done before, to which I said “you’re right and I suck.” I borrowed the first three and consumed them all over the course of a few days, and a love story was born.

I have read all the books more times than an adult should probably admit to, but the capper is that I have all the audio books as well. Jim Dale is the most wonderful narrator in the world, so if you have some extra Audible credits lying around, I highly recommend them.

Can’t wait to geek out with everyone!!

For what it’s worth, I consider myself an adult, and I re-read hte whole series…almost every summer. And occasionally more. I’ve probably read the first one WELL over 20 times.

And I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to hear them, but Stephen Fry does the narration for the British audio books, and he’s also wonderful.

The church fallout was legendary. No joke. Worst shit ever. I happened to do my thesis on Harry Potter in a literature program at a Bible college and while my lit professors were AMAZING and loved it, I got a ton of external-to-the-department flack any time I brought it up – from scholars scoffing that it wasn’t scholarly enough material (sorry, I knew people who did their thesis on stuff like Rossetti’s Goblin Market and the Christian Injunction to Remain Virginal until Marriage, I don’t want to hear about scholarliness), to of course the religious types objecting to the wizard/magic/witches thing.

Funny enough, the objection was always to the word/concepts of “witches” and “witchcraft,” but “wizards” didn’t seem to bother them much, which suggested to me that magical/powerful women were what they had the real problem with in the first place.

I had a similar situation at my Catholic church with my youth group. There was always some controversy, with various high-ranking popular exorcists and the head of the teaching body of the Catholic Church (who went on to be pope) denouncing the “subtle” influences of Satan and that real witchcraft shouldn’t be taken lightly. Which is all fine and dandy if your job is battling demons all day, but seriously, they’re christological children’s books. When I was 14 I had a rather traumatic experience at a youth conference when a talk that was supposed to be about false teachers/bad role models turned into a Potter-bashing session. Luckily a wise adult chaperone was on hand to console me and point out that there actually is room for disagreement on something like this, and that I wasn’t damned to hell for refusing to let go of my Potter books. Even the pope doesn’t have the last word on all things in a Catholic’s life.

But like you said, all the flack came from people who freaked out at the words “witchcraft” and had never actually cracked a spine on one of the books for themselves.

Leave a Reply