Oh, where to start? Alice at Reading Rambo is the readalong hostess-with-the-mostest. It is where the fun lives. All of it. She had the brilliant idea of having us all read Harry Potter together and so here we are, discussing the first half of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. It has been a long time since I've done a close reading of the first book, so I've got dog-ears out the wazoo in my new book, purchased for the express purpose of this here readalong. I think this was the only volume I didn't own in English, though I've got Spanish language editions of the first three and various English-language editions for all of the others, usually multiple ones.
So I'm just going to go in page order from all of my little dogears. Some of these are praises, some of these are WTFs, some of them are merely comments. But I will just say this: revisiting the first half of this book, which was my least favorite of the series and the ones I've read fewest times, was really fun. None of the tedium that I remembered from my first reading, which just goes to show how deeply I love these characters.
With apologies to those of you who've not read these books yet, because ahead there be spoilers.
Chapter 1, p. 3. I don't know where Little Whinging is, but it's at least two hours from London (cf p. 90, where it takes them 2.5 hours to get to King's Cross from #4 Privet Drive), so Grunnings cannot be in London. And the wizarding population is much less than 1% of Great Britain, so WHERE ARE ALL THE WIZARDING FOLK COMING FROM whom Vernon encounters on his way to work? This is inconsistent with the wizarding world, yet Rowling starts us off that way. WTF?
pp. 13, 17. This is one of the rare chapters with a strict 3rd person omniscient POV--that is, lacking the subsequent Harry filter that colors everything else that the reader encounters in the books. Dumbledore is wrong for the first time in the series when he claims that Harry will be "famous for something he won't even remember." And then makes one of the biggest gambles/mistakes of his life leaving Harry with those Dursleys. I mean come on--leaving Harry with the Dursleys, for starters, whose treatment of Harry qualifies as child abuse, and then just leaving him on the doorstep with a letter, not even waiting around to see they get him. Harry is just over a year old at this point--he could have waken up and crawled out of that basket. Or the milkman could have wandered by and stolen him. What kind of idiot would leave him there like that?
Chapter 2, p. 22. Mrs. Figg's house smells of cabbage. cf: with the smell of the tent at World Cup in Goblet of Fire. I spent a lot of time in book four trying to draw a link between Mrs. Figg and the tent owner, and even more at the end of that book when Dumbledore tells the Weasleys to gather up the members of the Order and ARABELLA FIGG is one of them. OMG.
p. 27. The snake somehow knows that Harry is a Parselmouth even before Harry speaks. What's up with that? I can't decide if that's an inconsistency or not. But I love this scene.
Also, it hurts my heart a little that when Hagrid looks at him "with warmth and respect blazing in his eyes," and Harry feels like there's been a horrible mistake. That poor, poor boy.
p. 59 There's no way that Hagrid, who was never great shakes at magic anyway, would have been able to turn Dudley into a pig with only a Year 3 education, a full two years before sitting for his OWLs. True, he couldn't succeed, but I doubt even Hermione as a third year would have attempted a human transfiguration. Textual inconsistency.
Chapter 5, p. 70. In what may be the greatest mystery and/or inaccuracy in the book, Harry feels no reaction when he meets Professor Quirrell. No turban is mentioned here despite lengthy exposition about it later in the book, though it must have been present to cover up his, erm, living accessory. And since the vault at Gringott's is broken in that same day or the next, the living accessory MUST be present. So why no reaction? If it's only to be a red herring later in the book, that's a pretty poor reason.
p. 75. I never paid attention before, but why doesn't the wizarding world use a base-ten system for their currency? 1: 17: 29. Sounds like Rowling wanted to use prime numbers for her galleon: sickle: knut system, but from a numerical point of view it just doesn't make any sense at all.
p. 80 And here we have our first example of blatant anti-Slytherin bias: Hagrid telling Harry that there wasn't a witch or a wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin. Hagrid conveniently forgets that one of the Golden Gryffindor Marauders themselves was a Death Eater and betrayed Harry's parents. It's interesting, because it's quite clear over the course of the series that Hagrid has a good deal of respect for Professor Snape, so it's a tiny bit surprising to me that he tars all Slytherins with the same brush.
|Not that dancing Snape cares what Hagrid thinks...|
p. 84 cf Harry "feeling foolish" waving his wand at Ollivander's with Professor Snape's intro to potions with the promise of no foolish wand waving. Also, measuring between Harry's nostrils to fit him for a wand? Priceless.
Chapter 7, p. 118. The second instance of blatant anti-Slytherin bias" the sorting hat, which I remind you belonged to Godric Gryffindor. Gryffindors = brave, daring, chivalrous. Hufflepuff = hardworking, just, loyal. Ravenclaw = wise, full of wit and learning. Slytherin = Macchiavellian?!? WTF? Just sayin'.
p. 123. I love Dumbledore. A few words, indeed.
But on to one of the best parts of the book:
Chapter 8, pp. 136-137. Despite student rumors to the contrary, I have never really thought that Professor Snape wanted to teach anything but potions. Listen to the poetry and passion that intro: "subtle science and exact art of potion making" "I don't expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimming fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses." You don't even need Alan Rickman reading these lines to make them swoon-worthy. No, I don't believe Snap wanted DADA over Potions.
Of course that doesn't keep him from being an asshole.
Chapter 9, p. 148. Since when are Pansy Parkinson and Parvati Patil on a first name basis? Is this a slip on Rowling's part, or does this hint that both are old wizarding families who knew each other well pre-Hogwarts? I am surprised that that line hasn't spawned more fanfiction.
p. 160. Here is the first in a long line when Hermione saves Harry's and Ron's asses, this time with a quick Alohomora. Of course she leads them into trouble for the first time, too. I love this scene.
p. 162 Immediately afterward, Hermione is the only one observant enough to look past Fluffy to see what he's standing on and deduce that he must be guarding something. Clever girl.
So for fun I went and took the Pirate Monkeys Harry Potter Meyers-Briggs test again. When I was in high school I tested ENTP, which turns out to be Sirius Black. But when I took it just now I was INTJ, which is Severus Snape. Take it. Let me know what your profile is, 'k?