Wednesday reading — Harry Potter and the other books

I am not having to type this entry on my phone! This is so exciting for me! Especially since I read a bunch of things and want to ramble on and on about a bunch of them.

What I've been reading

I read Vergil in Averno, the second Vergil Magus book (although chronologically it's actually the first). It was more of a slog than The Phoenix and the Mirror, mostly because Averno, although not literally hell, is an unrelentingly unpleasant place to be, even secondhand.

I read Hood, because I really liked Emma Donoghue's nonfiction writing about fictional lesbians. It's a really good depiction, I think, of not being able to get out of your first relationship, even when it's not good enough, because it's never bad enough, either, a decision that is finally settled for the protagonist by a car crash. (That's not a spoiler, it's on the back cover. It's mingled present day and flashbacks.)

I read Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby's memoir of football fandom, which is very funny and thoughtful, even though I find the idea of rooting for a team with absolutely zero consideration of what people happen to make up that team at any given time nearly incomprehensible. Doubtless many people would consider my intention to root for various teams, including historical rivals who play in the same league, because I like their goalkeepers, to be equally incomprehensible if not more so. (And yes, when they play each other I will be rooting for nil-nil draws.)

I read Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills, which I didn't realize until the end was actually the second book in a series, because it is nowhere labeled as such. It's a surprisingly sweet mix of very realistic slice of life stuff with very wacky and physical adventures, including multiple cameos by Mayor Bloomberg. I really loved it (and put a hold on the first Johnny Hiro book).

I read/reread The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains, Neil Gaiman's previously-published short story that is now illustrated and adapted by Eddie Campbell. I have to admit, I didn't love that certain sections of dialogue were redone sequential art-style, because I found it jarring to switch between that and regular prose dialogue attribution, but on the other hand the illustrations were striking and atmospheric.

I reread Caddie Woodlawn, which was one of the books I had practically memorized as a kid, because I discovered that there was a semi-sequel/continuation, Magical Melons, that I hadn't known existed.

I began my HP reread with, of course, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. In memory I always underestimate just how long the beginning with the Dursleys being terrible goes on, and correspondingly how quickly the school year flies by. I was amused to notice on reread how interested Harry is in his schoolwork at the beginning, when he's insecure about his ignorance of the wizarding world and desperate to prove that he's good at something. As soon as he discovers Quidditch, which he is very good at, he settles into the Harry who barely keeps up with his (admittedly considerable-sounding) courseload.

I reread Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which was my least favorite of the four books back when there were only the four books. Probably it still is. Dobby manages to be the most annoying character in a book that has Gilderoy Lockhart and Colin Creevey in it, which is saying something, and house elves are just a really unfortunate piece of worldbuilding.

I reread Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is, conversely, the most perfectly Harry Potter Harry Potter book. I'm just always delighted by the way the end comes together like clockwork.

I reread Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and for the first time noticed that it can get little clunkier with its infodumps than the first three, including a fairly cringe-y bit where Harry does that thing where he looks in the mirror so he can describe his appearance to the reader, which I think is pretty much never advisable. For all that, though, I love how much it opens up the wizarding world, although house elves continue to be the worst idea ever. In-universe, Hermione's S.P.E.W. campaign is annoying, but that is only because the unfortunate implications of a race of intelligent (uh, -ish) beings who seem largely incapable of wanting to do anything other than serve their owners can only be avoided by not inventing such a thing in the first place.

I started to reread Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, intending to continue straight through all seven books, I really did, but…it is so slow to get started. And also I had to set it aside so that I could read another book involving a magical school and a protagonist whom a lot of people find annoying…

I read The Magician's Land, which is the third, and almost certainly the final book in the Magicians series, so I suppose that it is now a trilogy. Unlike some people, I never hated Quentin, but I especially like him now that he is my age and has learned some things. For anyone who read "The Girl in the Mirror" from the Dangerous Women anthology that also contains "The Princess and the Queen" by George R. R. Martin, it is in this book, and there is a lot more Plum. I love Plum.

What I'm reading next

I will definitely get through OotP again, um, sometime. /o\

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It's weird how some things and people pop in and out of books, like Dobby and Moaning Myrtle and Polyjuice Potion are in book 2 and 4 but not at all in three. And I love the marauder's map but I can never figure out how Harry got it back after he gave it to Mad-Eye Moody (nor can I figure out how he never figured out, WITH THE MAP IN HAND, the whole stolen identity thing).

Have you ever tried butterbeer? Or pumpkin juice? If I lived in the Potterverse my teeth would be rotted to the skull before I took my first OWL.
Seriously, Barty Crouch Jr. dodged a bullet there. If Harry had ever managed to get a look at the map while fake!Moody was in sight, he would have been completely boned. The explanation/excuse/retcon JKR gave in an interview is that Harry stole it back from the office after the imposture was revealed, but he was traumatized and/or sedated half the time, so I'm not sure how convinced I am.

I've tried several different butterbeer recipes! I have to say my favorite was the one that someone made in college that involved butterscotch schnapps.
I remember when Jelly Belly made the Every Flavor beans. I didn't even know it had anything to do with Harry Potter until this year.
Most of the recipes I've seen for butterbeer involve cream soda, which is kind of ick.

I tried to imagine that Dumbledore rescued it for him somehow, or hell, Dobby, but I'm not sure that either of them knew of its existence. Or that anyone who did know of its existence knew that it was missing.
Dumbledore is a solid candidate since he knew that Barty Crouch had the map from his Veritaserum confession and also he keeps going out of his way to make sure Harry has an invisibility cloak, even when he's carelessly leaving it all over the place, and the map complements the cloak nicely. But then Harry would have to have forgotten about it awfully quickly, since it never crosses his mind at the beginning of the next book when he's working up a good tantrum about how Dumbledore is leaving him out of dangerous things even though Dumbledore has a lengthy track record of enabling Harry Potter to do dangerous things. So hmm.

Dobby could have found out about it from Winky, or just generally with his amazing powers of intrusiveness and ability to appear and disappear at will. He would have caused some kind of humorous inconvenience in the process of returning it, though.

I kind of liked the grass-flavored jelly beans.
Emma Donghue writes nonfiction?

If you haven't read Stir-Fry I recommend it very highly. Landing is also quite good. They are both in her "Irish lesbians" vein which is much to be preferred to her "sucking your will to live" vein (looking at you, Slammerkin.)