Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


J.K. Rowling wins lawsuit

J.K. Rowling has just won her lawsuit against RDR Books. From Reuters:

Judge Robert Patterson in U.S. District Court in Manhattan wrote an opinion that said independent U.S. book publisher RDR Books "had failed to establish an affirmative defense of fair use" and that publication of "The Harry Potter Lexicon" should not proceed.

The Wall Street Journal has a PDF of the full ruling.

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Potter Encyclopedia Forthcoming

Yessssssssssssss! I am doing my happy dance as I type (this is no mean feat, as I am typing sitting down, but I have skillz, yo)!

Someone, on some listserv or blog -- this is the problem with 21st century reading habits; I never know where I read what -- said they wished Rowling would write Hogwarts, A History. Well, it sounds like that wish is sort of going to come true. Huzzah!

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Accio, Deathly Hallows!

Many Pop readers know what big fans we are of Brotherhood 2.0 -- for the uninitiated, it's a year-long video blog project between YA author John Green and his brother Hank, and it is made out of AWESOME -- but rarely is there such a perfect storm of Pop-bait as Wednesday's video, which, well, just watch it, people. You can thank us later.

Happy reading, everyone. We haven't really discussed it yet, but I hope we'll have a group review up early next week.

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Potter, Potter everywhere

Welcome to a joint post from Carlie, Liz, and Melissa! We've all recently seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and we're dying to write about it.


Before I write my thoughts on OotP, I want to blatantly self-promote an editorial I wrote that appears in the July 15, 2007 Bergen Record: We're all still wild about Harry. As a Potter fan since 1999 I jumped at the chance to write about Harry, his literary tradition, and why he's drawn so many fans. It was a delight to write and I hope you enjoy reading it. (And of course, comments to the editor of the op-ed page telling him how much you enjoyed the editorial will not go unappreciated.)

Now, on to the movie.

OotP is my favorite book, so I was especially excited, or maybe the better term is nervous, to see how the movie would come out. One of the problems the previous Potter movies have is that they feel like 700-page books squished into 3-hour movies. I don't really blame anyone for this; it's sort of the nature of the fantastic beast. I knew there was no way David Yates, regardless of his talent, could fit that much text into a movie, so I was pleased to see that what he did with it was make not so much a book adaptation as a movie that could stand on its own while hitting all the important points of the book. There are a fair number of deviations from canon, and parts left out, but despite this I thought the storyline was fairly linear and the major themes of the book: betrayal, loneliness (essential to the hero's journey story, of course!), love, and corruption were all treated well.

A quick run-down of some things I loved:

  • Luna Lovegood. Evanna Lynch's portrayal was sensitive but also pretty "out there," the epitome of all things Luna. I confess to being one of a few people who would much rather have seen Harry fall in love with Luna than with Ginny in HBP. I think Luna knows things about Harry, spiritually speaking, than he knows about himself.
  • Imelda Staunton should have paid them to play Dolores Umbridge. That woman (Umbridge, not Staunton, who I'm sure is a perfectly lovely person) is pure evil. The viewer can see her spiral out of control both personally and professionally.
  • The fight in the Ministry atrium between Voldemort and Dumbledore, done entirely in earth, air, water, and fire. We haven't seen magical battle this spectacular yet, which makes sense considering these are two of the most powerful wizards in the world.
  • Helena Bonham Carter. Helena Bonham Carter. And also? Helena Bonham Carter. After seeing GoF I figured, "Eh, I'll see OotP eventually, maybe a few weeks after it comes out, no rush." Then I heard that Helena Bonham Carter would be playing everyone's favorite insane Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, and said, "I MUST see this movie on opening weekend." They could not have cast anyone more perfect for the role. I'm upset that they deleted the exchange in the book between Bellatrix and Harry regarding what it takes to cast an Unforgivable Curse, but that's more because I personally have a fascination with the Unforgivable Curses and that part of the book was really earth-shattering for me.
  • Cutting out the sound so there was silence in the scene where Remus is holding Harry back from going after Sirius when he falls through the arch. The silence, rather than Harry's screams, was extremely powerful and really made the viewer concentrate on what was on the screen. It reminded me of the scene where Boromir is killed in The Fellowship of the Ring. (Or was that when Gandalf fell? Or both?) During the fight in the atrium I think there was a second of silence where Voldemort is gathering his power to cast the fire spell, which then explodes from him, and that reminded me of what happens as Minas Morgul comes to life in The Return of the King.
  • Finally, Ron gets his due as a friend rather than the comic relief. Harry, Hermione, and Ron function respectively as body, mind, and soul, and while we've had plenty of body and mind in the past four movies we've never seen so much of Ron doing what he does best, which is being their comforter and their heart (despite the teaspoon jab from Hermione).
And what I missed/would like to have seen more of/thought "This is so not canon."

  • I stood up and cheered when Neville fought alongside his friends in the Department of Mysteries at the end of the book. It was so great to see him stand up for his friends, his parents, and most importantly, himself. Too much of that was missing from the movie.
  • Percy's break from the Weasley family, one of my favorite moments in OotP because I saw it coming eight miles away, wasn't there. Again, this is probably a personal prejudice. Although I don't necessarily like Percy I do feel very strong sympathy as well as empathy for him. His break from the Weasleys was one of the first moments of the books where we got dimension from a Gryffindor. But maybe that works better in the book.
  • The way Harry saw Snape's memory of being tormented by James. In the book, Harry steals his view of Snape's memory by falling into Snape's Pensieve. In the book, Snape makes an outright effort to hide that memory for Harry. My brilliant friend Andrea had this to say (paraphrased), about Snape's removing of the memory and putting it in a Pensieve prior to the Occlumency traning sessions: My theater teacher always told me that when in doubt, go for the heart. Snape could have two reasons for hiding that memory. 1: He really didn't want Harry to see his underwear. 2: He really, really didn't want Harry to see what a prat James was. The first answer is the obvious one, but doesn't the second give Snape more dimension, thereby going for the heart?
I've taken up my fair share of space on this topic, I think, so on to Liz and Melissa!


Unlike Carlie, OotP is probably my least-favorite HP. While I can appreciate what Harry's going through, and how he spent the whole year feeling left in the dark, it's a bit wearying to read that for pages and pages and pages. So, I hadn't really been all jazzed up about the movie version.

Happily, I walked out of the movie thinking, "This is the best one yet!" What I loved was that it felt like a movie, not a movie adaptation of a book. It really stood on its own merits, and as such, I think it works better than all the past movies. Kudos to the director and the screenwriter for that!

What I liked:

  • The visual style. The camera work, the lighting, they all made the different places and scenes have life. I loved the odd angles, the overhead shots, everything.
  • The flashbacks! It was so great to see, in Harry's dreams and during the Occlumency sessions, moments from the past four movies. I mean, that scene with Harry and the Mirror of Erised, and then Snape stands between his parents--how cool was that? And it works so perfectly for that moment.
  • Seeing Fred & George leave Hogwarts. It wasn't as flashy as what was in the book, but it was a great sendoff for the twins.
  • Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. Man, if pink and kittens weren't evil before, they sure are now.
  • The way the three 'kids' are really starting to act onscreen. Now that they're all getting older, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint are actually being expected to act, and for the most part, they're doing the job. I particularly loved all the little sideways glances that were going on, between Ron and Harry, between Ron and Hermione, between Hermione and Harry.
  • The duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore. Man oh man, that was cool. It's so funny to think back to the duelling scene in Chamber of Secrets, and realize how fake that was, compared to what happened in OotP.
What I didn't love:

  • Um, nothing? Seriously, I can't think of anything that annoyed me or pulled me out of the movie. From the first moment, I was sucked in, and that's what I ask for from movies. So OotP has become my favorite movie adaptation, and I know that I'm going to find some time this week to give the book a re-read, something I haven't ever done, because now I'm curious to compare the book to the movie. And really, how often does that happen?

Liz's turn!

A third "thumbs up" from the crew at Pop.

Why I loved it: while I liked the book, and understood why Harry was going thru what he was, I felt that the movie's version of "sulky Harry" was tighter. From the door slamming in Harry's face when he first goes to Sirius's house to Dumbledore not even looking at him, we get into Harry's skin, feel his exclusion and aloneness. In the movie (perhaps because they cut out so much of the housekeeping?) it also seemed that Harry responded to his friends much faster, which worked very well.

From a film making POV, I respect that the film makers picked children who are now the perfect teens for their parts. Neville, particularly – even tho he's gotten taller, he has such a Neville-ish aspect to him. Imagine, picking the right child to fill the shoes of a character five years in the future!

And the adult actors…. Wow, wow, wow.

I also over-read the film. Given this is one of the few film franchises where the moviemakers respect and listen to the author, and the author speaks up, I think what is and is not included are key as to what JKR sees as important to the overall HP story, not just this book. So, Percy and his choices aren't important enough? Yet, James being a bit of a bully is important; but, Lily being nice to Snape isn't. HHmmm…. What does that mean, for the final book?

Finally, the battle. Yes, it's exciting on the page, but in reality, a bunch of people pointing sticks at each other and shouting. The editing, the special effects, the acting, made this as exciting, and as deadly, as a battle with guns.

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Harry Potter

As I read the various articles about Harry Potter, the book, the movie, etc., I think, huh, it's rather funny; Harry Potter is not only expected to defeat Voldemort, he's also expected to single handedly change the reading habits of the entire world.

And while there is more about the reporting on & reviewing of HP that I want to post about it, I'll hold off for now. For example, why is it OK to so totally bash HP, JKR, and the readers? I've read comments and posts and articles that treat the book, the author, and the readers in a way that I rarely, if ever, see other books & authors & readers treated. It's as if they're the Paris Hilton of the publishing world (except, with panties and no arrests.) Meaning, JKR is so rich that it's OK to bash her, her work product, and her readers.

But, what motivated me to comment was this great post over at The Longstockings. My favorite line, to the bashers? And in the name of all I cherish, stop trying to ruin the fun for the rest of us. Which is ANOTHER odd thing; rarely have I seen people so intent on ruining the reading pleasure of others, by both talking down about what they read and getting read to spoil the ending out of meanness.

My favorite point, because I totally agree: Who cares if people don't read novels? (*Ducks under desk to avoid flying objects*) Okay, clearly I do, because my friends and I write them and I'd like that to be an economically viable profession. But honestly, no one is suffering a deficit of fiction or stories, thanks to this handy little moving-picture machine we all have in our homes.

As you know, I don't play sports. So, whenever I read about what people do or don't do for pleasure and entertainment, about their own personal choices, I try to imagine, what if they were talking about me and what I choose. So, instead of all the cries about people not reading novels, imagine the complaints about people not playing sports. Here's the thing: WE CANNOT FORCE PEOPLE TO ENJOY DOING SOMETHING THEY DON'T ENJOY. There will always be a percentage of people who don't like doing what I like doing; in this case, read novels.

But guess what? We're not going to convince anyone that reading novels is great! fun! if we bash their reading choices. And, of course, as it becomes clear with all these "people don't read enough novels" nonsense, what the writers really mean is that we are supposed to "read novels that are literary and worthwhile and not Harry Potter or chick lit or science fiction." So, not only are these writers insisting that readers must enjoy reading novels, they must enjoy reading a certain sort of novel.

And, speaking of novels, what's wrong with people reading nonfiction for enjoyment?

And, as you know from my intro at the top of the Tea Cozy blog, I'm more about the story than the books (tho I don't post enough about the movies & TV I watch.) So I loved the nod of respect to other ways that people get story.

Anyway. Enough of my Monday Morning Rant. Time to get ready for work.

Cross posted at A Chair, A Fireplace, And A Tea Cozy.

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Post-Harry, Whatever Will They Read?

Reading the NY Times piece Potter Has Limited Effects on Reading Habits, I thought, "Well, duh." A quote from a teacher & author sums up the situation perfectly:

“Unless there are scaffolds in place for kids — an enthusiastic adult saying, ‘Here’s the next [book you might like]’ — it’s not going to happen,” said Nancie Atwell, the author of “The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers” and a teacher in Edgecomb, Me. “And in way too many American classrooms it’s not happening.”

You get exactly one guess as to where I'll say it is happening. Did you guess libraries? Oh, well done! A gold star for you. (I mean it! If you see me at a conference, and you guessed "libraries", I will give you a gold star. Either that, or I'll buy you the beverage of your choice.)

I would argue a few things:

  • Harry Potter has had an impact on young peoples' reading habits, but it may be more subtle than the study conducted by the NEA was designed to reflect. Many teens go through a period of not reading much, but those who start out with a foundation of enjoying reading early in life come back to it as older teens or as adults.
  • Harry Potter has had another indirect impact on teen & children's reading, and that is the impact it's had on publishing. Publishing for children & teens is one helluva booming business these days, and although that's partly to do with demographics -- there are more youngsters, with more disposable income, than ever before in this country -- it's also due to Harry's stunning popularity. One of the reasons we see series of all kinds, from Gossip Girl to TrueColors to Cirque du Freak to Bartimaeus to Skybreaker to Keys to the Kingdom to Spiderwick Chronicles to Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants to the comeback of Choose Your Own Adventure is that Harry showed publishers that kids & teens will read.

I happened to be in my car during NPR's Here & Now program, and was so pleased that Robin Young interviewed YALSA's new president, Paula Brehm-Heeger to get the YA librarian's POV on this topic. Thank you, Robin, and great job, Paula! You can listen to the segment here.

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Spoiler free! Stephen King and the Deathly Hallows

No fictional character in the last ten years has generated more arguments, more discussion, and more analysis than Harry Potter...except for perhaps his nemesis Potions instructor, Severus Snape. I've read many books and essays dissecting the Harry Potter books, but my favorite writer is not an academic (sorry, Henry Jenkins! I love your blog anyway!) or even a Potter news expert. It's Stephen King. Although I haven't read any of King's fiction in a while, I absolutely adore his nonfiction, like On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and his column in Entertainment Weekly. Beyond his talent for scaring people, King takes obvious joy in writing. I think we all wish that one day we can all be as happy in our vocations as King is in his.

Stephen King first won my Potter fan heart when he wrote, decrying all the people who say that every new YA fantasy novel is "the new Harry Potter" or that XYZ adult fantasy is "Harry Potter for adults": "Harry Potter is Harry Potter, you dolts!" King has never shied away from his love of this series, and I'm sure there was no one more excited than he to take the stage with J.K. Rowling (rhymes with bowling) last year at Radio City Music Hall. Now, he's written a new Potter essasy for Entertainment Weekly: Goodbye, Harry. He doesn't make predictions, except to say that the books will probably NOT end in a ten-second blackout as Harry & Company sit eating onion rings at Holsten's Brookdale Confectionery while Journey plays in the background. What he does address is something I dread more than any death in the series, and that is the end of an era, the end of a great story with characters we've come to care about. King writes:

I'm partly drawing on my own experience with
The Dark Tower (reader satisfaction with the ending was low — tough titty, since it was the only one I had); partly on my belief that very few long works end as felicitously as Tolkien's Rings series, with its beautiful pilgrimage into the Grey Havens; but mostly on the fact that there is that sadness, that inevitable parting from characters who have been loved deeply by many. The Internet blog sites will be full of this was bad and that was wrong, but it's going to boil down to something that many will feel and few will come right out and state: No ending can be right, because it shouldn't be over at all. The magic is not supposed to go away.

I don't think the magic will ever truly go away, not in the way that there will always be great books for readers of all ages, but I too will miss Ron and Professor McGonagall and Luna Lovegood with the best of them.

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