Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 1-5)

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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25 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    About the most glaring problem with HPMOR is that Harry speaks like an American. Its subtle and a bit difficult to point out. But once you notice it, you can’t unsee it.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      I saw a note on the website that there was an ongoing process of embritishening the dialogue, which has by now covered the first dozen or so chapters. But still I agree with your assessment – even if they’ve rooted out garbage cans and pants in favour of dustbins and trousers, there’s still an underlying Americanness to Harry’s lines.

      Which I can somewhat explain away by saying he worships Richard Feynmann, so as he models his thought on Feynmann’s lectures and books, he’s unconsciously taking on some of Feynmann’s American habits of speech too.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I did not notice that when I read through it… but, yes. I can see how I would not have noticed Harry having a significantly different cultural voice because the point of the fiction is to change Harry’s intellectual voice and, since I share the cultural voice with the writer, the cultural change was transparent to me.

      (But it wouldn’t have been transparent to someone from a culture that isn’t either American or British.)

      As such, I can totally see how this would be a problem for others.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      Yeah, the Americanism are a bit distracting.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Didn’t read the fanfic but one thing that Rowling never really explained was how Muggle born children got into Hogwarts. We know they received the letter but most muggle parents would have no idea about magic and would see the entire thing as a cruel joke played on young children. Even if they accepted the idea of magic in theory, they might not like the idea of sending ten year old kids off to boarding school, especially one that didn’t have much of a real world curriculum.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      If they didn’t hear one way or the other, I assume they sent Hagrid to the kid’s house.

      (Also: You should read the fic. Chapter Two touches on the point you just made.)Report

  3. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I really enjoyed what I’ve read so far. The flattery sequence in 5 was hilarious.

    I am pretty ambivalent about Harry Potter, especially the later books. I read my daughter up to the goblet of fire as bedtime stories, and I’m stopping there. There’s certainly some fun stuff in there, but I found they weren’t enough to carry the slow pacing.

    HPMOR seems so far to keep a quick pace more like the earlier books, so I’m having an easier time forgiving whatever flaws I run into.

    Harry Potter being an unlikeable character in HPMOR, as some folks remarked on in the announcement thread, isn’t that much of a departure for me – I don’t find Harry likeable in the original series either. But (spoiler?) By the end of chapter 7 I was sure surprised – like, he’s not just kind of white bread unsympathetic, what the heck is he up to here?

    I downloaded the first five chapters to read on my phone on the flight from Sao Paulo to Toronto, and quickly found myself wishing I had more to read. Grabbed 6-8 for Toronto-Edmonton and again for myself wishing I’d grabbed more (though I was pretty dazed – end up reading 4 & 5 in reverse order, and not realising until later that I’d skipped 7).Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      I’m pleased that you enjoyed it! (And, if you ask me, the pacing remains quick the entire story. There might be one or two relatively slower chapters but they tend to come as a relief.)

      As for unlikability, oh my goodness yes. He has not even *BEGUN* to be unlikable. Oh, goodness. The parts in the middle…Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The flattery section is one of my favourites.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC says:

      To download fanfic for offline reading, the best thing to do is to get the epub of the entire thing instead of doing it piecemeal

      There’s an epub link provided on hpmor.com if you scroll down a bit, and also Calibre can make one from the fanfiction.net version.Report

    • >I read my daughter up to the goblet of fire as bedtime stories, and I’m stopping there

      For what it’s worth, I think that Goblet is the consensus low point in the series. It might be worth pushing through the next book. (Then again, maybe not.) I certainly did enjoy the original series, but now that you’ve been exposed to HPMOR, you might find the flaws in the original too distracting to like those books in the same wayReport

  4. Avatar J_A says:

    There are two great scenes in these couple of chapters

    1 When Professor McGonagall turns into a cat, destroying Harry’s carefully constructed world of physical laws

    2 When Harry and Professor McGonagall discuss abused children

    The first of the two scenes is not only funny, but quickly put magic in perspective. Magic, we assume, is “natural”. It exists in the same universe we do. It’s just physics we still don’t understand. Harry realizes in shock that this is wrong: magic contradicts all the physics we know. All his understanding of the world goes out of the window.

    The second is a conversation that I wish came out every time we talk about abuse. We cannot prove a negative. No one can. Hence we need to be extremely careful about how we talk about it. Once you start, there’s no way back. Agatha Christie once said that murder affects everything and everyone, not just the criminal and the victim. This is similar, and this very short conversation between Professor McGonnagal and Harry clearly shines a bright light on it.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      I like the conversation #2, and the flip side to that conversation that comes up a couple of chapters later.

      I didn’t notice that they were probably deliberately placed close together until just now.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      One of my favorite scenes from the cat chapter happened at the beginning where Harry’s dad said “Huh.”

      (This probably ties into Murali’s criticism of the story.)Report

  5. Avatar James K says:

    Naturally the arbitrage scene piqued my interest, but then the wizarding world break so many physical laws, why not the Law of One Price as well?

    As an aside, one of the reasons I assume goblin coin is so dominant is that apparently goblins have a way of making their coins magically durable, as pure gold is too soft to be used for coins.Report

    • Avatar Catchling says:

      Also, one may presume it (somehow) can’t be counterfeited. Like, there’s something wizards can do to confirm a coin was goblin-made and therefore in official circulation.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        They briefly talk about counterfeiting in a few chapters.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC says:

        Yeah, that’s pretty much the fanon on it.

        We are specifically told at one point that goblins have magic, it’s just not wand magic. So the assumption is that whatever goblins are doing to make Galleons, it’s a form of magic wizards can’t do.

        We do see Galleons duplicated a few times, but no one actually tries to spend the duplicates. And considering that the duplication spell doesn’t seem difficult at all, surely that can’t work as counterfeiting. There must be some trivial test that lets people determine if they’re fake. (Which makes the DA coins much less safe, but as long as no one twigs onto them in the first place…)Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    (Point of order? I’m guessing that 5 chapters a week is not too much/too few?)Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      Are we aiming to read all 122 chapters? At 5 chapters a week that would take us into September. Too long to expect people to hang on?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        What do you think?

        It seems to me that most of the people here are coming back to it after having read it once already. What’s most important to me is that the people who are reading it for the first time are at a lively pace that keeps them engaged.

        (On a logistical level, it’s easy for me to throw a weekly post up with one or two sentences describing the chapters so *I* don’t mind having to do that every week until September… I mean, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.)Report

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