Apparently, I can’t get enough of it. A friend told me both about the Chinese version of Harry Potter (Harry Potter and the Golden Dragon. The only mention of it I can find online is on the fan fiction site. And don’t even get me started on fan fiction…) and about a short story she read in school that was similar to Garfield’s Nine Lives. It’s everywhere, I tell you.
I had to refresh my memory, so I checked out the Colleen McCullough: A Critical Companion by Mary Jean DeMarr and reread the section on The Ladies of Missalonghi. Completely forgot that DeMarr writes the whole thing off as a “parody of the genre.” She claims that McCullough was merely making fun of the sentimental type of romance that L.M. Montgomery had written. That’s why there’s the relationship based on deceit, the odd character of Una who pushes the characters together and the wry, snappy humor throughout. I don’t know… Why wouldn’t McCullough just say it was a parody then and get the whole plagiarism thing out of the way?
It reminds me a little bit of an English class in high school when we were reading Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros”. One of my more brilliant friends made the observation that he had read that Ionesco was portraying fascism in the play. The teacher looked at him (not my favorite teacher, mind you) and said, “Do you really think it matters what the author was trying to say?” I was stunned. Blown away. I mean…doesn’t it? Shouldn’t that make all the difference in the world what the author was trying to say? What the intent was? Why else was he writing it if he didn’t have a purpose or a goal? The teacher’s argument was that what with all the subconscious and subtext and deconstructionist theory out there, the author really doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing because he’s at the whim of his talent and creativity. Intent means nothing.
I still don’t agree with it. There’s something to be said for critical analysis. I can geek out on it as much as the next English major can. But as a writer, I also have to really give credit to what the author thought he was writing about, too. Because (and this goes back to my whole McCullough argument about plagiarism) if the author knew he was copying a story that someone else had written, wouldn’t he go out of his way to make it as original as possible so that he didn’t get caught? If J.K. Rowling did steal this idea, then she really did an excellent job of hiding it. There are very few similarities (and one of my new favorites is the claim that she stole the idea of having the wizards ride trains. Um. Yes. Right. Because no one rides trains in the UK…) and those that are there are very well disguised. (Again. If she did steal it.)
So I don’t buy it. I don’t buy DeMarr’s argument about the parody, nor do I buy my English teacher’s argument about author intent, and I especially don’t buy that Rowling plagiarized this guy.