Monday, July 30

Too many holes.

Caution. Minor HP spoilers ahead.

I used to work at a leading independent children's bookstore, owned by an energetic mover and shaker in the world of selling children's books. Therefore, just about any author of children or teen lit on tour would come to our store and I met a lot of them. I never met the author whose name rhymes with bowling, she only toured for her first book and that was before I started my job. The boss and manager had dinner with her way back then. Thought she was a nice woman and that her book had some potential.

I did meet, twice, a nice young woman whose name sort of rhymes with Hay Shears. On her second book tour, I had a chance to chat with her before her reading. I wasn't trying to be mean or anything, but sometimes I ask questions without thinking them through. I was trying to be sympathetic to the challenges of writing when I commented on (one of) the continuity errors. As she developed the characters and found it would really help to tweak the past, she must have had to wrestle with the editor? How did an author decide to change facts from book to book? She gave me a deer in the headlights look and asked what I meant. Well, I said, one of the main character's grandmother lived in one state and had had limited contact with her grandkids over the years. In the next book, grandma lived in a different state and the grandkids had (until a few years ago) spent significant parts of their summers with her. No. She had not realized this, nor had the editor caught it. Oops.

One European author who is popular abroad didn't need to tour the US so I haven't met her. I got to read the galley of her second book (second published in America that is, riding on the reading wave sparked by Ms Rhymes with Bowling) right after it arrived at the store and it was a good read, but oh dear, the climax of that book had a glaring error. At one point, two people are locked in a building as two other people leave. The building is being watched; any activity would have been noticed. Then someone sets fire to the building so as I was reading I was worrying about the folks trapped inside. Well, the author wasn't --- somehow they ended up somewhere else. The galley had a very friendly note asking for comments, so I very helpfully emailed the editor. I hoped this could be caught before the final version was printed? I got a polite thank you, but I don't think anyone actually read the email or else didn't care. The book was published just like the galley. Did anyone else ever notice, I wonder? (props if you did. let me know.)

Ms Rowling has written seven books with the same characters. Seven! She's done an admirable job overall with continuity within and between volumes. So consistent that I could forgive occasional lapses, such as the fact that at the end of one book, Harry has lost his Marauder's Map to someone not inclined to give it back. However, at the beginning of the next book it is back in his possession. And the lack of internal consistency on whether or not apparition makes noise. And on and on, actually. There are lots of continuity errors, but I've been willing to forgive them. Overall the books have been good stories with decent consistency.

I finished Book Seven and enjoyed it. Didn't like the epilogue. Really didn't like the epilogue. But my husband thought perhaps she wanted to stress that these folks lived regular ordinary boring happy lives and therefore she was Not Going To Write About Them Anymore. I also noticed in chapter one a squat man with a wheezy giggle who was on the Dark Side and who took special delight in the fact that the Ministry had been infiltrated. Who was he? Was he in the Ministry? JK is usually good about following up on these sorts of clues, so I expected him to reappear. Two short men with high pitched, wheezy voices did appear: Elphias Doge and Deadalus Diggle. Which one was an agent for evil? What would happen to the Dursleys? Well, nothing was said again. I was irked. But oh well. Easy to forgive. And no one else I have talked to found it troubling.

This weekend I decided it was time to restart Book Seven. I had memorized the edging pattern for Leda's Dream and figured I could knit while rereading, to see if I was justified in being irked about the anonymous short wheezy guy and maybe I would understand the whole Elder Wand thing better. But on page one, I started thinking about chapter one and the rest of the book and a huge plot hole became apparent. A quick check of a scene near the end of the book confirmed it. I was stunned. I was furious. How could such a major glaring error in time sequencing have been allowed?

This is perhaps the straw that breaks the hippogriff's back. I am surprised at myself for my reaction but I am really pissed off. Does anyone else know which error I must mean? Am I overreacting?


Patti said...

Tell me, doggoneit! I don't have time to re-read!

I did notice the thing with the map and went hm. I thought that possibly "they" went through whathisface's effects and returned it to Harry.

Kathleen said...

I haven't read any of them - so I can't help. But I can offer my opinion on continuity in general -- I find the lack of continuity to be anywhere from a gnatty annoyance to a full-blown, "throw the book against the wall" hissy fit - depending on my mood, the book, and many other circumstances! :) One of my biggest bothers, however, is how much I notice it, and typos, and missing words, and misused words. I almost don't want to read anymore!

Good think I took up knitting! ;)

Kathleen said...

and good thinG I don't get paid for blog commenting! :) Sorry for that major typo - you would think I could be more tolerant, since I'm so often guilty myself!

Treesh said...

If you are referring to the business about the memory charm, I've been doing a bit of digging around.

Rowling answers questions about that (and other items) in her online question and answer session on Leaky Cauldron (transcript here).

She says:

"They are two different charms. She has not wiped her parents’ memories (as she later does to Dolohov and Rowle); she has bewitched them to make them believe that they are different people."

Convenient ...

Anonymous said...

What about Hermione doing all the cooking, when it's Harry who actually has experience at it? (remember the Dursleys making him get breakfast?)


Monica said...

Gah tell me what plot hole you found!! There are tons of inconsistencies that I find... but in the end I'm just reading it for entertainment. Although it's bothersome, I don't really retain it.

I think that Tolkien however reeeaaallly was into his whole world and there are no errors in stories (that i can see).