The first Harry Potter book (which I’ll snobbily refer to by its English title of Philosopher’s Stone rather than its American one) is the only one I’d read before, despite helping kids (and adults) find these things in the library for my entire tenure. I first read it when Pottermania was still swelling (pre Goblet of Fire, I think) and it was something I thought “Yep, that’s not bad for kids” and then left it alone.
The contrast between this and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is pretty stark. Where the Narnia book is succinct and to the point like a fairy tale, Rowling makes those scenes I half-remember drag on seemingly forever. But I did get through it in an afternoon so it couldn’t have felt that long.
There’s some good time dilation as the school year gets going but the thing I most appreciate about the book is that Quirrell is the bad guy in league with Voldemort and the obviously shifty Snape isn’t. It’s a bit of a counterpoint to the idea that everything useful about a person is some inborn talent/accident of birth. I mean, yes, Harry has to practice at Quidditch, but he’s “a natural.” This idea of being chosen and special and privileged being a burden is in there, but everything is up to some fundamental nature of the character. It’s all about inborn courage or inborn nastiness and such. No real getting into why people act the way they do. (TLTW&TW is way worse for this whole some beings are terrible and some are wonderful and the only one who can possibly change is Edmund.)
Now, I understand that Neville grows into a better role for himself than weakling with a moment of courage in the later books, so over the long haul there might be more about what a person “does” than what a person “is,” but in this lone book it is kind of there.
I wrote a post about social media being only a means of supporting creativity on Librarianautica.
Following up on my last post, I’m not so sure that “web 2.0 itself implies creativity.” I mean, I get the Clay Shirky idea that making something is better than watching Gilligan’s island so making LOLcats is fine, but I think remix culture allows for a lot of laziness.
Some of the most interesting Web 2.0 projects I’ve seen are about rewarding creators who can work outside the traditional model. Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell (she’s locking herself in a room to create for a week) raised thousands of dollars on Kickstarter (over five times her original goal so now they’re going to make more stuff with the extra money). She’s helped raise the question of whether Kickstarter is more important/useful than Arts Council grants for artists.
So yes, social media is helping fuel that kind of creativity, but it’s important to note that people are giving her this money because of her talent. The connections are about funding and supporting creativity, not inspiring it.
I love Neil Gaiman as much as the next person, and his presence on Twitter is huge. But, I don’t love him because of that social media scene. I love the work he does. Making meaning from the banal is a nice idea about social media’s relationship to creativity, but the fact is that most of the banal is still pretty banal, even when it’s aggregated.
I guess I’m saying that “fostering connections, building networks, creating new knowledge” isn’t creative in and of itself. It has to be supportive of some actual talent.