Margins #5: Harry Potter and the Missing Gossip Girls

The Margins of James Joyce & Missy Franklin…
XLI. His Dark Materials Trilogy has no golden compass, despite the title of the first book. This confused me when I first read the books with my Dad and brother as a kid. Author Phillip Pullman used the working title Golden Compass because of a line in Milton’s Paradise Lost,

the golden compasses, prepared
In God’s eternal store, to circumscribe
The universe, and all created things.

The compass mentioned by Milton drew circles instead of showed direction. U.S. editors loved the working title, believing it was a reference to an artifact in the book. Pullman couldn’t persuade them to change it. Outside of America, the first book is called Northern Lights rather than The Golden Compass. Similarly, across the pond, the first book is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

XLII. J.K. Rowling released a story about an American wizarding school, Ilvermorny. The school likely factors into the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie due out in November. On Pottermore, you can find your American House—I am a Thunderbird. I also tried the new Hogwarts sorting hat. The survey placed me in Hufflepuff. This caused a momentary identity crisis—I’ve always been a Gryffindor. However, Hufflepuffs are hardworking, loyal and accepting of everyone. In an ideal world, we should all want to be Hufflepuffs. I just can’t bring myself to abandon my imaginary Gryffindor identity.

XLIII. J.K. Rowling is the most famous U.K. author since James Joyce, best known for Dubliners and Ulysses. Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, was written out of history. Lucia apparently wrote well, dated Samuel Beckett and had sessions with Carl Jung. All records of such things were destroyed. Lucia spent the last 50 years of her life in a mental institution. I found out about her from an article about a new fictional book, The Joyce Girl. The book’s author argues that women of the time period (Lucia, Zelda Fitzgerald and others) were repressed in a rapidly changing society. Were these women mad or just misunderstood by men?

XLIV. Do we mistreat extreme mental illness? What if, instead of locking people up in asylums, we put them in stranger’s homes with free reign? That’s been the practice in Geel, Belgium for centuries. This town was part of a mind-altering episode of Invisibilia: The Problem with the Solution. In the episode, one of the hosts confronts her family’s affect on her sister’s mental illness. With heightened compassion, we need to reexamine how we treat mental illness in America.

XLV. Facebook comments are a desert for compassion and I broke the rule by reading a few comments. The piece was by the New York Times’ Wesley Morris, one of my favorite writers, on his disappointment in The Shallows. He went to the movie to see Kate Hudson, but the movie’s star was actually Blake Lively. He confused blondes in the preview. The piece served as a critique on Hollywood movies interchangeable motifs and roles. Facebook commenters just cried sexism. The commenters either came in with prejudice or did not read the piece. Morris is a great writer and crafted a unique critique. None of the Facebook comments were unique.

XLVI. What if Facebook never created comments? In the early days of Facebook, we actually had to travel to friends’ walls to reply to a post. Then Facebook created comments as a time saver. Comments also opened the door to these hate-filled, self-righteous, pointless arguments between strangers and marginal friends.

XLVII. Gossip may serve an evolutionary purpose. We bond over gossipy stories and learn what falls outside of societal norms. Such lessons include, anti-Semitic tweets from Presidential candidates, NBA free agent moves and Sunday nights not watching Game of Thrones. YOU DON’T WATCH IT? Neither do I.

In the right light, gossip serves as an entertaining warning, but constant gossiping hurts your mental health and character.

XLVIII. “Keep your gaze to the horizon. You can scan your mirrors every now and then, but let your peripheral vision do most of the work in your vicinity. Every rock in the road does not need your attention. The real problems will always be down the road.” I’m pretty sure my driving instructor meant this as advice to a 15-year-old driver and not as a rule in life.

XLIX. The Fourth of July is the easiest holiday to remember its date. Independence day is July Fourth! The second easiest holiday is New Year’s, but most holidays roam all over the place. Memorial Day and Thanksgiving have these vague rules and then there’s Easter. I spend all spring wandering around asking people, “when’s Easter?”

I would like to say that Cinco de Mayo is easy to remember, but Spanish isn’t a real language in America. Cinco de Mayo may mean May the Fifth, but to most Americans it happily appears ever year. It’s also diminished now because Taco Tuesday happens every week.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend. Let patriotism continues through the rest of the summer with the Olympics approaching.

L. Missy Franklin qualified for three of four events she was hoping to swim for Team USA. Winning four gold medals in 2012, the Colorado native was a bright spot of the games. However, the U.S.’s golden girl has struggled at times over the last few years. Still, she continues to be a model athlete and person. She even praised the teammates who beat her out in the 200-meter backstroke. “The point of this meet is to get the best of the best and right now that’s Olivia Smoliga and Kathleen Baker. They’re going to represent us in the best way possible, and I’m incredibly proud of them.”

Go Team U.S.A.

Each week, Margins follows a narrative through the twists and turns of culture, media and society. The author, Derek Kessinger, works as a writer, journalist and is a student at Experience Institute.

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