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-Why did no-one tell me that the voice of Quasimodo in Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame is Tom Hulce, who played Mozart in Amadeus? Did everyone else know this but me? It's... a weird mental image in my mind, now.

-The Murder at the Vicarage (Agatha Christie) is, I think, not one of the better Christies, but the one thing that made it hilarious to me was that one of the characters is a mysterious "Mrs. Lestrange." I spent the entire book, whenever she showed up, inventing ways to reconcile the character with Bellatrix Lestrange. (Alas, she did not, in fact, turn out to be a sociopath Death Eater. But that would have been awesome!)

-Tangled is a much more entertaining movie if you watch it thinking of a sort-of alternate Eugenides (from the Megan Whalen Turner books) as the main male character. (I know i'm not the first to think this. Still.)

-I was rereading Tam Lin, which I adore (I blame it for leading me to believe everyone in college spouted random Greek and Shakespeare -- turns out, not so much for physics majors), for various nefarious reasons. I think when I first read it, in high school, I might have found the college sex hijinks vaguely titillating. This time around, I was all "OMG ARE YOU PEOPLE SERIOUSLY NOT USING CONDOMS AND USING HERBAL TEA BIRTH CONTROL WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?" Okay, yes, it's set in the 1970's when people didn't worry about HIV, but still! I was rather amused by my change in reaction over the last twenty years (as well as slightly appalled that it wasn't my reaction as a teenager :) )
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Music: I heard Giuliano Carmignola playing the one of the Mozart violin concertos on the radio and was totally wowed -- it completely changed the way I thought about the Mozart violin concertos.

TV: Deep Space Nine. Oh, yeah, it's got the shiny happy Star Trek thing going, but it surprisingly... doesn't suck. Abigail Nussbaum talks about how it is actually kind of made of awesome, especially compared to other ST's and BSG.

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I). I seriously loved this movie. A lot. (Even if I hadn't, well, it was the only movie I watched this year.)

Book (fiction): I read a lot of fiction books this year, both good and bad. Nothing that made my Favorite Books of All Time list, but some good ones I liked quite a bit. Ones that stick out: Demon's Covenant (Brennan) for solid YA; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Diaz) for edgy meaningful SF; This House of Brede (Godden) for thoughtful comfort read (except for one bit which is extraordinarily not comforting) -- this is the book this year I'm most likely to actually buy to own.

Also, The Merlin Conspiracy (Diana Wynne Jones) wins a Special Prize for Being Exactly What I Needed to Read When Suffering from Labor and from Post-Partum Lack-of-Sleep Delirium. I should probably reread it to see if it holds up as being as good as I remember, given that I was, um, not in my normal frame of mind when I read it.

Book (series): Daniel Abraham's Long Price quartet. I haven't liked an adult epic fantasy so well since... well, for quite a while.

Book (nonfiction): Checklist Manifesto (Gawande). Catapulted onto my "everyone needs to read this RIGHT NOW!" list.

Reread: Folk of the Fringe (Card) and The Dispossessed (LeGuin). Both were in my memory as okay, but on reread blew me away with how good they were.
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Not to be confused with things that push my buttons -- these are things that make me bounce up and down and proclaim "This is awesome!" (and more likely to be plot- or meta-based) as opposed to things that make me fall utterly in love (which are more likely to be character-based).

-Stories that are ambitious -- that go off in a number of epic directions. Like, I love how Dune is about the problem of prescience and power struggles and Messiah legends and ecology! John M. Ford's The Dragon Waiting is about magic and vampires and religion and an answer to Charles Williams' Byzantium and the problem of Richard III.

-Characters who are plotting-within-plots. What I mean by this is something like Dune, where all the characters say one thing and mean another, and then they have some twisty plot they're trying to advance underneath that. I realize this can rapidly turn into laziness -- I think Dune is probably rather lazy in this regard, what with all the explicit notes on how the Baron really is communicating X when he says Y. But I love it anyway.

-Characters who are smart! Or at least not criminally stupid. If I want to read about really stupid people I'll pick up one of my old journals, thanks. I don't expect my fiction heroes to be perfect -- in fact that's boring -- but stupid is even more boring. (Here I must mention, not in a good way, Harry Potter, and even worse, George R.R. Martin's Dying of the Light.)

-Correct discussion of science, particularly physics. Seriously, if I never read another discussion of the EPR paradox that says "This means you could transfer information faster than light!" it will be too soon. (Bill Bryson, I am looking at you! You are single-handedly responsible for several people I know having to be disabused of this notion.)

-A mindset that thinks scientists/the scientific method/analytical thinking are cool. The canonical example for me is Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman books -- actually those go a little too far in this direction, as I find her scientist-worshipping society a little too pat and a little too idealistic for my taste. But in general, books where a character has a somewhat analytical, skeptical view (e.g., Cazaril in Curse of Chalion) do well with me.

-Allusions to things I think are cool -- I will like you if you quote John Donne or e.e. cummings, and I will utterly think you are made of awesome if you show me you have read Charles Williams, Cordwainer Smith, or the Mabinogion.

-Meta/criticism of canon, if you're working off of some established canon. My favorite published example of this are John M. Ford's Star Trek novels, in one of which he takes down the entire approach to Klingons (um, be aware this was before Next Gen and all of that), and in the other he turns Star Trek into a musical. A book-length one. Literally.

Okay, I, um. I thought, especially once the last book came out, I was done reading Harry Potter fanfic and we could just ignore that episode in my life entirely, yeah? And then I stumbled across Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, an AU, where -- what would happen if a) Harry were brought up in a loving super-rational super-academic household, and b) everyone and everything in the HP universe was, well... more-or-less reasonable? (Not necessarily sane, mind you -- just not holding the Idiot Ball.)

It's like this fic took all the things that make me go squee! and plugged directly into those areas of my brain. Harry starts out by explaining things like observer bias to various people at Hogwart, and decides to run experiments to figure out how magic works! He explains Punnett squares to Draco in the context of blood purity! The first several chapters are a little one-note like that, but I don't care because I love that note! I would have loved it had it all been riffs on that, but as it progresses it also acquires a really interesting plot, layers on layers of hints to be explained, I think maybe every character in the entire fic is now involved in at least one secret plot, and I find the relationship between Harry and Draco extremely moving (and no, not in that way; it's gen/het).

Remember how in The Magicians I was practically mortally offended that on discovering Wood Between the World no one ever thought of doing any experiments? Yeah. This is the answer to that.

Note: this is a WIP. I don't read WIPs. I definitely don't rec them. This is what this thing has done to my brain!
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So, Dumbledore. Ever since I started trying to formulate excuses for his behavior back when rereading book 5, I started thinking about the HP books in conjunction with Patricia McKillip's Riddlemaster trilogy. They're very different books-- HP is, of course, the old "child in muggle world finds out he is actually Magic!" and is told in an intentionally humorous and mundane style to match the world of magic being much like ours. Riddlemaster, contrarily, is all in high fantasy world, and told in McKillip's wonderfully lyric style.

(A digression before you do or don't read the rest of my ramble: I LOVE the Riddlemaster books. To little bits and pieces. I read them as a wide-eyed adolescent, and I read the first one by flipping to the last page first-- which I totally, very much, really do not recommend, unless there is no possible way you will read it otherwise-- and I love McKillip's writing in general, and I love Morgon and Raederele and Eliard and Lyra and Deth and basically all of them, and it presses a good many of my buttons. But at least two people whose judgement I respect found them all but unreadable. So... your mileage may vary. I'd imagine they are better read during adolescence.)

However. Both feature a sweet main character who turns out to be more than he seems, a character who Tries (though with flaws) To Do The Right Thing. This main character archetypically goes through a number of fantastic and interesting elements (Harry through Hogwarts school, Morgon through traveling). But what I'm really interested in is the main plot element in Harpist in the Wind and the almost identical main subplot of Deathly Hallows, which I think McKillip did exactly right and Rowling did clumsily. Cut for massive book-destroying spoilers for the Riddlemaster trilogy, and book-wounding spoilers for DH. )
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This link, that I got from J last night, is for [livejournal.com profile] joyce, who complained about this very issue. This just goes to show, I think, that Harry is completely oblivious. Because really, I bet you Hermione figured it out sometime, oh, second year or so.

(Not that I'm blaming him. My high school turns out, probably like most high schools, to have been a seething mass of hormones going every which way, but I only figured out the girl-boy ones at the time because I was also totally oblivious (and did not have the interweb/fandom to educate me). If I'd been the high school hero of a book, readers would have thought the school was made up entirely of heterosexuals, which turns out to have been very far from the truth.)
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In the interest of being able to say "I told you so" (or alternatively "You told me so"), here are my HP predictions:

1. Snape is good. Also, he is so dead.
2. Harry won't die (a recent conversion of mine; until about a month ago I totally thought he was going to kick the bucket).
3. Malfoy will convert messily to good, then die or be gravely wounded.
4. One of the Weasleys will die, but it won't be the parents or Ron or Ginny. My money's on one of the twins.
5. Snape will turn out to have had feelings for Lily, which is why Dumbledore trusted him, and why he never told Harry. There will continue to be just about zero reason why he didn't tell McGonagall anything useful.
6. (okay, this one's a bit far out) Pettigrew will deliver the killing blow to the Dark Lord.

Things I wish would happen in Book 7, but probably won't:
1. Krum comes back and kicks Ron out of Hermione's affections.
2. Barring that, Ron and Hermione call it quits and she starts dating Harry.
3. Ron grows up. (Actually, I give this a 40% chance. Please?)
4. Snape turns out to be working for the highest bidder, and isn't on the side of "good" or "evil" at all.
5. Dumbledore had a good reason not to actually, you know, teach Harry useful magic in his "tutoring" sessions. Along with this, he had a good non-expository-backstory reason to tell Harry Riddle's story.
6. Harry realizes that jumping to conclusions about people being evil is wrong, and maybe one of these days he should stop doing that, even if he is right once in a while.
7. Harry makes any effort at all to practice Occlumency.

(Occlumency... by the way... "Blocked again and again and again until you keep your mouth shut and your mind closed!" Replace "shut" and "closed" with "open" and "free" and this would be a good description of what my singing teacher says to me. EVERY WEEK. Grr. Singing is like the anti-Occlumency!)

Okay. I'll try to stop now with the potter. At least until july 21. I will. (Now that we've finished the sixth book, this will be a bit easier.)
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Had a number of heated Potter-centric conversations in RL this weekend, which is kind of weird for me. I found out that of the 5 people I talked to,

2 think the text says Snape is clearly evil
2 think there is no good textual evidence either way (although one of these two agrees with me that the first four books were written assuming Snape was good, and meta-textually she thinks it would be very unsatisfying if Snape were evil).
1 thinks Snape must be good, although mostly because she really likes Snape

I think the text clearly supports Snape being good, though I will valiantly try to resist spending too much bandwidth on it. I think I am fairly unbiased here, as I'm going to be unhappy either way, as it basically means assuming either Voldemort is a complete idiot (if Snape is good), or that Dumbledore and Snape are both complete idiots (if Snape is evil). (Why, after all, would Snape do an idiotic thing like show Fudge his Dark Mark in Book 4, or give Harry Occlumency advice (instead of, say, throwing Sectusempra) at the end of Book 6?) However, given Voldemort's previous idiotic actions, I suppose I'm more inclined to believe that he's the idiot here.

I realize this LJ is becoming increasingly Potter-centric... I do read/think about/do other things, really! ...I promise, sometime in the next month or so, a post on Sarah Waters (perhaps a couple), St. Paul, and The Magic Flute. Hm. Perhaps not all at the same time :) Also, someday I will read the new Bujold and rant about it.
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We're more than halfway through Book 6 by now, but I kept forgetting to post this...

This book frustrated me, though not for the reasons I expected. ALLCAPS!Harry didn't bother me as much as he did first time through because I knew it was coming (and rather skimmed those sections, actually). And actually it makes a lot of sense for his character-- he's a teenager, and teenagers are famously resentful and stupid. At least, I was :) But (like I keep telling J when Veronica Mars does something stupid) I read books and watch TV so that I can see people who are better than me, not people who keep making the same mistakes I do!

What's frustrating is that so many parts of this book are actually really quite good (which I'd forgotten). Locally-- on the word choice and day-to-day experiences of the Trio-- I think Rowling has become a much much better writer than she was in book 1. Little set pieces, like Fred and George's flight to freedom (no matter what you may think of their characters) are gems! The mid-level stuff is quite good too-- she's always been good at weaving in mention of seemingly innocuous details that turn out to be plot-essential later, and she's still good here. And the pacing of the Trio figuring out stuff is quite good.

And then on the global level everything just falls down, grr. Not because the plot isn't good-- the whole Occlumency thing and the tragedy of Sirius is actually really good, much better than I remember, all of Harry's weaknesses and many of his strengths turned to Voldemort's purpose, wow-- but because the plot goal is so very meaningless that it's impossible to suspend one's disbelief. I mean, in GoF, yeah, it was kind of nonsensical that "Moody" didn't just lure Harry away with sweets or something instead of this whole Rube Goldberg Triwizard scheme, but the momentum of the plot and the importance of Voldemort's resurrection to the entire arc let me (briefly) forget that. Here, when I find out the whole big deal was about a prophecy-- one that is, anyway, in Dumbledore's head, and one which, moreover, does not actually give anyone any information that was not known already... I mean, how many people honestly didn't think that at least one of them had to die at the end? -- it just jerks me out of my happy suspension of disbelief and makes me upset. And at least one of the "mysteries"-- who sent the dementors after Harry?-- the biggest problem with it is not the silliness of Umbridge, who even as Pure Evil ought to be able to find better things to do with her time; nor is it the unbelievability of it (Umbridge, who can't even get rid of a flippin' swamp that McGonagall could demolish instantly, can control Dementors without anyone at the Ministry knowing? Yeah right); but rather the plot pacing: much like this sentence, the book goes on and on and gets so far from the point that by the time the point actually shows up, the reader doesn't actually care at all!

And, um? Dumbledore? Is an authorial manipulation from beginning to end ("Petunia, remember my last!" Who talks like that?! Note to Dumbledore: most people use the noun their adjectives modify, like, "Remember my last plot device!"). And I hate that. Also, hypocrite! if I had the choice between being manhandled and shaken by a teacher, or having my memory totally modified by a teacher (or by someone authorized by a teacher), um, to me one of these is MUCH WORSE than the other. Dumbledore has suddenly flipped from one of my favorite characters to one of my least favorite.

Also, I adore McGonagall with a passion, and always have; she's probably the only person, in fact, that I'm not seriously annoyed with right now. Well, I guess I still like Hermione, as her weird passion for freckles doesn't really show up until the next book.

Speaking of which, I'm going to assume that Pomfrey, out of some misguided sense of loyalty towards Harry or something, could totally fix Marietta's face and doesn't, because I'd much rather dislike Pomfrey than Hermione.

I barely skimmed the last five chapters or so, which saves you from a rant on centaurs and Sirius and Dumbledore and so on. Um. It does not seem to have saved you from a rant on Dumbledore, actually. Never mind.
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A mini-rant while I prepare for a bigger OotP one...

Reading the Occlumency chapters of OotP confirmed something I'd been thinking about for a while: magic is like singing. I say this because I'm taking singing lessons, and my gosh, singing must be totally hard to teach. Because most of what you have to do is internal, see, and it's hard to describe. So my teacher, who is really super good, keeps saying things like, "You have to flip the sound! Imagine that you're taking off a layer of your head, and flipping the sound," which... is just about as much help as it sounds. Especially when I was starting out, I spent a lot of time frustrated because I didn't get what she was saying, or how to translate it to what I feel like inside my own head. Now I can usually do it, but it took a while to get to that point.

Now let's imagine that my teacher, instead of getting along really well with me (at least, I hope she does-- she seems to!), and identifying with my problems (she's told me on numerous occasions that I have very similar problems to the ones she had when she started out), hates my guts and can barely stand to be in the same room with me, and is trying to teach me a discipline fraught with emotion, which if her student gets good at may allow me to do weird things to her. Yeah, kind of a recipe for disaster.

Snape's still a horrible teacher of Occlumency, but I can sympathize with him more now. And honestly if he had been a super good teacher Harry would probably still have been a horrible student ("All right, Potter... telling you to close your mind didn't work. Try visualizing flipping your head instead, perhaps that is a better mental picture." "Professor Snape, now not only do I think you're a git, I think you're a crazy git!") -- as I would have been a terrible singing student had I taken singing lessons before now. (You're talking to the girl who did not see the point in standing up straight while singing until a couple of years ago.)
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I really do read other books besides Harry Potter, I swear! I promise the next post will not mention HP at all! But we finished PoA last night, and I want to post before I forget everything.

So I kind of skipped over posting on PoA, which is my favorite and probably still is, for that awesome scene in the end with Sirius and Lupin and Harry... sigh. So, yeah, not that much to say about it, except the following: I'd always nourished a secret hope that all the silly Divination stuff in PoA was actually for real: that is, when Harry reads Ron's tealeaves and predicts a hard but ultimately happy life for him, and when Ron predicts death for Harry, those are... actually real predictions for Book 7. But my faith in this was shattered when Trelawny declares that the first to get up [from a table of thirteen] will be the first to die! Because Ron and Harry got up first from that table... and neither was the first to die. McGonagall oughtta give her a pay decrease. (I wonder what Seers do when you confront them with an obviously wrong prediction?)

This was also the book where I lost faith that Rowling had been subtly mentioning Snape's Legilimancy powers, because he doesn't seem to use them in any occasion where it would actually, you know, be useful to him, like looking into Ron or Hermione's mind (even assuming that Harry himself was good at Occlumency, which is obviously untrue) at the end.

GoF is now either my favorite or second favorite. Rowling's writing style continues to improve from book to book, and this may also be the book where the plot becomes the most convoluted and fun to follow through all the little hints she gives. And hee, I love the Hermione/Harry relationship, and I adore Krum. However, it's also where the plot Makes Even Less Rational Sense than Normal (or maybe I've just become more sensitive to these things) and where I become convinced that Voldemort is The Dumbest Dark Lord Ever. I mean, honestly, why does Moody teach Harry how to resist curses? And why doesn't he just prepare a Portkey at the beginning of the year and send Harry off? What's the point of the convolutions of the plot? And um, when you get your nemesis alone and defenseless, you don't do a wizard duel with him to prove your superiority, you kill him! And how can Voldemort not know about Priori Incantatem, when Sirius does?

At least it's got a plot, mind you. I'm not so much looking forward to the plotlessness of OotP or the half-a-plot of HBP, which reads to me like the first half of a book.

More thoughts:

-Snape shows up in "Moody's" Foe-Glass, and he does try his best to convince Fudge that Voldemort has risen. But he's even more unreasonably paranoid concerning Harry (especially for someone who knows Legilimancy!) than before. ...You know, I don't think there's any way Rowling can save Snape for me now in a way that's consistent with his actions in all the books. Unless, hm, Snape is working for himself, neither for Dumbledore or Voldemort. I might buy that.

-I predict (hope! Oh, Hermione, don't throw yourself away on Ron!) that Krum will be back in Book 7. Dumbledore all but announces it at the end.

-I really enjoyed Harry's preparing for the third task, which I'd completely forgotten about. Reminds me of high school, preparing for Science Olympiad or something nerdy like that.

-All the scenes with Diggory's parents broke my heart, even when his dad is being extremely silly, because he's so clearly proud of Cedric, and you know what's going to happen.
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I got The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years out from the library, because my friend DFK had a blog post a while back on LIW... I'd forgotten how much I love these books.

Because DFK's post had a link to a link to this essay I was thinking a little about the historicity of the books. It doesn't bother me at all that (as the essay states) she made up a spring from which they got water. I'm totally willing to compromise on details, and even larger details, like if the Liza Jane incident didn't happen, or was a little different. But her courtship with Almanzo? I'd be totally crushed if it didn't happen like that. Especially where he's all "Would you like a ring?" and she's like, "It would depend on the ring!" Ha!

By the way, the linked essay leaves a rotten taste in my mouth, as essays usually do when they start analyzing things too much. Dr. Seidman says, "I want Eliza [her six-year-old daughter] to understand the limitations of the American past on matters of social justice, gender, and race. Yet I also want her to be able to experience that intense relationship with Laura. How can she if she doesn't trust her?" Your second instinct is right, not your first. Your kid needs to trust Laura. Eventually she will grow up and figure out the social justice and whatever herself eventually. And LIW is-- she is an honest writer; she tells things according to an underlying truth, a clear-eyed and grace-filled look at the world. (Well, except for Nellie Olsen, who Laura/LIW is totally not fair to, at all, probably-- she's the only 1D character I can think of. But even then it serves to flesh out Laura, who is a really good girl in most ways... but once you get on her bad side, and do it repeatedly...) And this means that even when the societal attitudes are different from those of modern society, the underlying truth comes through.

For example, Laura doesn't care one bit about getting the vote (something which, well, I'd be really annoyed if I didn't have); yet the underlying truth is that she's as feminist, within the bounds of her society, as any heroine I can think of (I love the bit where Almanzo tries to put his arm around her, and she's all, "Um, I think not-- hey look, your horses are going crazy, I wonder why!") and she is NEVER hobbled by her society, or even thinks to be -- and I've always thought of Laura as totally independent. Of course, growing up in the 1980's, I assumed that I was going to vote when I grew up, and that having it withheld from me would be wrong. And simultaneously I was able to hold the idea in my head that LIW didn't care about having the vote, and that was not wrong either. Even when I first read this as an, I don't know, eight-year-old, I was able to do this. (I have a similar relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird, one of my all-time absolute favorite books.) Now, it's very true that Dr. Seidman comes to about the same conclusion, but it just kind of annoys me that she's asking the question at all.

Back to this idea of honesty-- contrast Rowling, who doesn't have that core of integrity (or if she does, I'm not sure I like her worldview). For just one obvious example relevant to my LIW example above, Rowling has decided that Spunky Is Good, so of course Ginny, when she gets old enough to actually be interesting, has to be Spunky-Feminist, to the extent that she snaps at her boyfriend for holding the door for her-- AND at the same time is playing stupid hard-to-get mind games with Harry! Now, I'm not saying that such contradictory attitudes can't exist in the same person-- most people, like me, are a mass of contradictions-- but Rowling doesn't ever add any depth to this to show us that it's consistent. And so I am led to the conclusion that she is sloppy, or cheating-- there's no underlying truth there.

ETA: I meant to say that Rowling doesn't always have that core. Harry himself is really well done that way, even when I don't like Harry himself... the other characters' mileage varies greatly.
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We've now finished Chamber of Secrets (actually we're most of the way through PoA, but I'm slow posting), and I was trying to figure out why Gilderoy Lockhart is funny to me, while on the other hand my hatred for Dobby burns with the fire of a thousand suns. Both of them are kind of over-the-top characters who cause a great deal of unnecessary damage. In fact, you could argue that bumbling, thick Lockhart is really more of a Jarjar binks character than is Dobby, but I rank JarJar and Dobby together in terms of sheer and utter annoyance, whereas I actually like scenes with Lockhart quite a bit.

Part of it is that I have a deep hatred for characters not being given the information they need. (Dumbledore, although I love him, has suffered substantially in my estimation, especially in Books 5 and 6, because of this. (It was always fairly easy to ignore him before, because he was relatively such a small part of the books.) I mean, it just seems like he could have given Harry *much* more useful information than stupid forays into Tom's past...) And Dobby is a prime offender in this regard, though he has plot reasons for not being able to reveal things. Lockhart has no important information, so he doesn't annoy me as much.

Also, I have an even deeper loathing, in real life as well as books, for those who don't even make the semblance of rational discourse, and Dobby falls into this category. Note that my standards are not exactly high, here. I don't need you to agree with me, or to display ironclad logic (or really any logic at all), or even to change your opinion when I display some ironclad logic or point out some fallacy in your argument. I'm merely asking here that you at least make the effort to look like you're listening to what I'm saying.

Dobby basically does this exact thing early in the book-- Harry's asking him nicely not to get him in total trouble, and Dobby acts as if Harry isn't even saying anything, which I can't stand. Of course, Lockhart doesn't do the whole rational-discourse thing either, but at least a) Harry and friends use this tendency (to get the pass for the Restricted Section), which is nice, and b) Lockharts gets whapped a lot for it. And that's my other thing-- perhaps because I am not a very nice person, I thrive on the annoying and evil characters getting their comeuppance. I just love it. One of the reasons I read trashy novels every so often. And Dobby gets rewarded for being annoying. So not fair! Whine whine!

More thoughts on CoS:

-Harry is really, really likeable in books 1 and 2. Too bad he becomes such a whiny teenager.

-Snape being a Legilimens has been foreshadowed, I think, 3 times so far (e.g., Harry thinks Snape knows it was Harry who made the diversion so Hermione could steal the Boomslang). I hadn't noticed this before. Well, either that, or Snape and/or Harry are paranoid.

-Given that Hogwarts didn't expel the Marauders who, you know, endangered another student's life, what made Snape, of all people, think that Harry would get expelled for flying a car? Are the outside-Hogwarts-magic restrictions really that much more serious?
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Parents are visiting. Within two hours of their arrival they had pressured us to buy a house (even though now is quite possibly the worst time imaginable in terms of the real estate market), dissed the company we work for, and pointed out that my cousin makes four times as much as I do "even though she only went to a three-year college." (The institution in question, mind you, is Cambridge University. Yes, that Cambridge.)

The hilarious thing is that once that was out of the way, we had a great visit, and I learned all sorts of unbelievably juicy family gossip. (My ex-aunt is a Major Korean Scandal! Like, national front-page news! Who knew?)

Anyway, so meanwhile, most of the reading I've been doing has been either Dante or Harry Potter, which D and I are rereading (so far, halfway through Book 2) in preparation for the 7th book. Oh, and I continue to snarfle through Josephine Tey: Miss Pym Disposes and The Franchise Affair, this time around.

I keep having this problem with Tey where I start the book thinking of her as sort of a better Agatha Christie, and then becoming distressed a couple of pages through where I realize that no, indeed, Tey actually has real characters and so I actually have to pay attention and not speedread blithely the way I can do with Christie, whose characters are all kind of clones of each other... it's like Christie is, I dunno, chips and salsa, and Tey is more like a really good soup; if you go too fast you miss half the fun. And-- this is related-- Tey is not really about the mystery. I mean, I guess they're mysteries, but they're books first. I especially loved Miss Pym Disposes, which had some just heartbreakingly wonderful characters, which therefore made me care about the central conflict (which is not, in fact, a crime; though a crime is committed, it's not actually the emotional centerpiece of the book. Can you say that about any Agatha Christie?).

HP thoughts:

-The first book actually starts pretty slowly.

-I had not noticed before that Hogwarts is actually a very small school! There are 5 Gryffindor boys Harry's year. This equates to about 40 students in Harry's year entirely, right? How can he not know everyone's name after the first year?

-Words cannot express how much I hate Dobby. He's, like, the JarJar Binks of Harry Potter for me.

-I have clearly been reading too much HP fanfic, because every time Crabbe and Goyle appear on the scene I'm all, "Oh, how cute!" Strangely enough, Draco is still canon Draco for me.

-Also, it was completely and unbelievably stupid for Harry and Ron to take the car to Hogwarts in Book 2. Would it have killed them to, you know, wait 5 minutes for his parents to come back first?!

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