Wednesday, April 3, 2013
NINJA BOOK CLUB: Chapter 7 BAGMAN AND CROUCH
Rowling's gift is to again and again focus in on the few fun details that represent the whole. She doesn't have to list every wizard/muggle interaction, just one or two to stand in for the rest:
We all know Ron and Hermione are meant to be together because if the Harry Potter books teach us anything, it's that you're bound to find your one true love in high school (they seriously need a wizard college to expand their potential pool of romantic candidates). But this is a fun set up the reader's first time through and doubly fun the second time as we know Hermione will later have a thing for Krum and Ron will not care for him one bit then. It's a fun subplot and if you plan to write for teens or tweens, expect to include plenty of similar triangles in your stories:)
This first is an ironic set up. Next, comes the oh-by-the-way set up:
Next they were hailed by Ernie Macmillan, a Hufflepuff fourth year, and a little farther on they saw Cho Chang, a very pretty girl who played Seeker on the Ravenclaw team. She waved and smiled at Harry, who slopped quite a lot of water down his front as he waved back. More to stop Ron from smirking than anything, Harry hurriedly pointed out a large group of teenagers whom he had never seen before.
Oh, by the way, there's a girl who goes to Hogwarts Harry possibly has a crush on. Well, well, well. Isn't that interesting? Will that come up later, you think? Also, yea interracial dating being totally cool and unworthy of comment in the wizarding world despite many of the wizards owning house elves--more on that next week.
Then there's the keep-the-reader-interested set-up:
“Glad! Don’t know when I’ve had more fun. . . . Still, it’s not as though we haven’t got anything to look forward to, eh, Barty? Eh? Plenty left to organize, eh?”
Mr. Crouch raised his eyebrows at Bagman.
“We agreed not to make the announcement until all the details —”
“Oh details!” said Bagman, waving the word away like a cloud of midges. “They’ve signed, haven’t they? They’ve agreed, haven’t they? I bet you anything these kids’ll know soon enough anyway. I mean, it’s happening at Hogwarts —”
That word Hogwarts demands the reader take notice. Something's coming that going to impact our heroes, and this Bagman and Crouch are a part of it, which is perhaps why they have a whole chapter named after them.
And look how many uses Rowling found for the Quidditch World Cup! At a glance, having the gang head to an activity away from Hogwarts and the main story seems like a hugely unnecessary diversion in such a long book, but just look how many different uses Rowling finds for this one event--and there's plenty of more set-up coming in Chapter 8. In a way, the Quidictch World Cup is like the baptism scene at the end of The Godfather, except instead of plots being resolved all around, they're being set up.
My last, favorite of Rowling's set-ups is not the establishment of an international wizard community--though that will pay off later--but something I'll call the subliminal set up because it covers ground the reader's likely read before:
“Omnioculars,” said the saleswizard eagerly. “You can replay action . . . slow everything down . . . and they flash up a play-by-play breakdown if you need it. Bargain — ten Galleons each.”
“Wish I hadn’t bought this now,” said Ron, gesturing at his dancing shamrock hat and gazing longingly at the Omnioculars.
“Three pairs,” said Harry firmly to the wizard.
“No — don’t bother,” said Ron, going red. He was always touchy about the fact that Harry, who had inherited a small fortune from his parents, had much more money than he did.
No matter how Rowling describes them, I will always imagine the Omnioculars as looking exactly like the nightvision goggles in Jurassic Park:) But the reason this is my favorite set up is it's just a gentle reminder. After all, we've seen Ron resent Harry's money before, but we need to be reminded of it here because later Ron's resentment of Harry is going to boil over and the two are going to be in their biggest fight of the series.
But here, Rowling doesn't show the boys in conflict. Sure, Ron goes red momentarily, but he gets his Omnioculars, they watch the world cup, and the story moves on. Later, though, when the boys are at odds, the reader will remember Ron's reaction to Harry's money here and the conflict will be deeper and more nuanced because Rowling took the time to set up way back in this chapter as well as the other books.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a book far longer than most of us will ever get away with publishing, but there's hardly a wasted sentence that isn't accomplishing something. Even Rowling's throw-away gags for younger readers deepen characterization:
"I bought this in a Muggle shop,” said the old wizard stubbornly. “Muggles wear them.”
“Muggle women wear them, Archie, not the men, they wear these,” said the Ministry wizard, and he brandished the pinstriped trousers.
“I’m not putting them on,” said old Archie in indignation. “I like a healthy breeze ’round my privates, thanks.”
Hermione was overcome with such a strong fit of the giggles at this point that she had to duck out of the queue and only returned when Archie had collected his water and moved away.
Hermione rarely seems more like a tween girl than when she's giggling here. And come on, the first time you read that passage, it had to make you at least smile:) Dick jokes are cheap, perhaps, but they were good enough for Shakespeare and they're good enough for Rowling. What does that tell you about their literary merrit?
And that's where we'll leave it:) Meet me here next week for Chapter 8.