Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 6-15)



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18 Responses

  1. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    I somehow missed that we were reading up to 15, and just read to 10. All good.

    I quite liked Draco and Lucius’ correspondence. The dripped ink was a nice touch.

    The conversation before that, between Harry and Draco – what the heck? After Draco casually chats about raping someone, Harry just kind of files that tidbit away and continues with getting his strategic alliances set up? I get the feeling this is going to be an early portent of where things will really go off the rails.

    Yeah, Quidditch is a terribly designed sport. Even for a kid’s novel it was irritating to me how transparently the whole thing was designed for making single characters disproportionately important while somehow clinging to “Harry must be in a large-team sport. An individual or small-team sport won’t do because then there wouldn’t be enough team mates to hoist him on their shoulders”Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      The conversation before that, between Harry and Draco – what the heck? After Draco casually chats about raping someone, Harry just kind of files that tidbit away and continues with getting his strategic alliances set up?

      I don’t think that’s a fair characterisation. I would describe it as: Harry is shocked Draco thinks he can get away with rape. Realises that he’s almost certainly right. Sighs and adds “overthrow government of magical Britain” to his to-do list.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        He does, it’s true. It throws him off his stride briefly. And then he’s back to offering Draco the power of science.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Harry has a lot of faith in the power of science.Report

        • Avatar DavidTC says:

          Well, I mean, what alternatives would we rather be true about Draco? That he’s unaware of this? That he thinks it’s appalling?

          A large part of HPMoR is Harry run into utterly horrific things and sorta resolving to fix the gigantic problems later, but first has to fix the immediate problem in front of him now.

          The gigantic problem here is what Wizarding society is like, but Harry can’t fix that. The problem within Harry’s current scope is _Draco_.

          Rejecting Draco because he’s a product of his society does not actually accomplish anything.

          This is, possibly, intended to be a criticism of how Harry acts in the original books towards the bad guys, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair. In the original books, the ‘pureblood’ racism was presented as something that only a few specific people really pushed…that society was _prejudiced_, but it was, say, in the 1970s of civil rights. Or like the 2000s, but with some neo-Nazi insurgency.

          I.e., in OG HP, there already was a large segment of society saying ‘This isn’t how people should act’, and a bunch of racists think otherwise. Poweful people, yes, but not society at large. (Must…resist…making analogy…with stuff more current than…the books.)

          The magical society in HPMoR is nowhere near that point, and is a much more separatist and medieval society, one that has mostly ignored any social change for thousands of years (And had some of their own in screwy directions.)…which is what people often _think_ Rowling presented, but really didn’t.

          It’s perfectly reasonable to write off the Nazis as a lost cause in 2000. It is not reasonable to write off all the racists as a lost cause if you somehow find yourself in the _1700s_. Not if you want to make things better. You have to operate within the framework of the racists and point out how what they think is wrong.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog says:

            I don’t know about a “rather” – I mean, Draco is shaping up to be a quite interesting, character, if morally repugnant to the reader. I didn’t find Draco a very interesting character in the original books.

            It’s just an observation that Harry is going about setting up his alliances, runs into “I’d like to rape her when I’m older” in conversation with a prospective ally, and continues. And I’m guessing (not having read the book before) that this is some foreshadowing of where Harry runs into trouble later, due to too-cold amoral utilitarianism in decisions of this type.

            If Harry were meant to be a more likeable character / one whose tragic flaw is over-confidence in his ability in diplomatic maneuvering , I’d imagine he might hear this, and decide “OK, I need to make sure hostilities don’t escalate to war with this guy, but I am also not going to get close to him if it can at all be helped.”Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              And I’m guessing (not having read the book before) that this is some foreshadowing of where Harry runs into trouble later, due to too-cold amoral utilitarianism in decisions of this type.

              Erm…not really. This Harry is actually rather bad at being cold-blooded, even when he knows he ‘should’. He can do it when it doesn’t cause actual harm, in hypothetical or pretend situations, but he’s incredibly bad at standing there and even allowing people to be hurt, even when he’s deduced things would be better off if he did that. (He manages to specifically do that once, in a rather notable instance, and then regrets it.)

              It’s easy to look at HPMoR, especially at the start, and think “The writer of this believes ‘logic’ can solve everything and has written a cold-calculating bastard who will do just that’.

              That’s not really how it works out. Logic is extremely useful when it tells HPMoR Harry how to plan stuff…it’s a good deal less useful when someone is actively being hurt and logic is telling him he shouldn’t do anything for the Greater Good because it will weaken his general position. He cannot make himself act that way, even if he knows he ‘should’. He has to act.

              Although he still uses logic to _make a damn plan_ instead of running in like an idiot waving his wand, like canonical Harry does repeatedly.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      From The Telegraph:

      “[Quidditch] was invented in a small hotel in Manchester after a row with my then boyfriend,” she has written alongside the text. “I had been pondering the things that hold a society together, cause it to congregate and signify its particular character and knew I needed a sport.

      “It infuriates men…which is quite satisfying given my state of mind when I invented it.”

      This continues through fanfic.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        That is.. interesting.

        So, if I read that right, she “needed a sport”, and also invented it when she was annoyed at someone who likes sport, so she invented a deliberately crappy sport. The dynamics of fan enthusiasm are at least reasonably well portrayed, in that that’s a thing the writer observed directly and with some degree of interest.

        But sports themselves, she doesn’t much care about or like (or at least didn’t like in the moment she invented the sport).

        This does not change my opinion of how good of an author Rowling is.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Quiddich is what soccer looks like to Americans.Report

          • Avatar dragonfrog says:

            Okay that made me laugh.Report

            • Avatar J_A says:

              I know it was supposed to be a joke, but actually, seen with European eyes, Quidditch is closer to American Football than soccer is, with a bunch of players who never score and whose function is to attack the actual ball playing players, and different things getting rewarded with different points.

              In soccer, everybody but the goalie is doing the same thing, pushing the ball forward into the opponent’s goal, and every goal is worth one pointReport

    • Avatar J_A says:

      Much later in the book, Hermione asks where Harry is, and she’s told he’s watching a Quidditch match. Her answer (from memory) is something like “Please don’t lie to me”Report

  2. Avatar James K says:

    I really enjoy time paradoxes. My favourite description of the “who actually came up with the prank?” paradox comes from Dr Who:


  3. Avatar J_A says:

    Só no one was going to mention the Sorting Hat becoming self aware? That’s one of the best parts of the book. What is awareness?Report

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