Top Shelf: Nothing exists outside of the text

Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling.

How often do you finish a book, only to have an author come out with wild statements about the text? This character dies after the book ends, this one was secretly gay, these two get married and the couple you thought would be together forever actually broke up two years later.

It’s becoming more and more common nowadays (need I point out all of J.K. Rowling’s tweets?) and to be honest, it’s ridiculous. Because here’s the thing: Nothing exists outside of the text. The author’s role is to write the book. Once that book is published and on the shelves, their role in its creation is done. After that, it’s the readers’ job to interpret the text.

This is important, because your interpretation of a book is different from your friend’s, your professor’s and, inevitably, from the author’s.

Your life experiences have an effect on what you take from the book and how you read it. You’ll gain more from a character who lost their mother if you lost a parent too, while your friend who hasn’t will just see them as another character. The author brings their own experiences to their text and they are different from yours. It’s part of the trade. It’s not that people are misinterpreting what the author wrote; they’re just interpreting it differently. That’s how literature works.

Thus, it’s your job to decide what happens after the text, to make up futures for the characters you love. You want to argue that this character is secretly a werewolf? Go ahead if you can back it up with the text. That’s what’s so fun about books: You can make them your own.

That’s not the job of the author. Their role ended as soon as their book did. They don’t get to decide what happens to their characters after they’re released into the world. Authors like to compare writing a book to having a kid, and they unknowingly chose the perfect analogy: A mom might be the one to birth her kid, but she’s not the one who gets to decide its future.

So yes. You’re allowed to disagree with the author. Hell, I’ve rejected half of what Joanne Rowling has been saying lately. There’s a reason so many Harry Potter fans have completely rejected “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” as canon. Rowling didn’t even write it and it completely destroys half the characterization she spent seven books cultivating. Not to mention she’s fallen into the habit of releasing new information about her series every week via her Twitter.

She’s made Nagini the snake a Korean woman, announced Dumbledore was gay (then didn’t include it in the Harry Potter movies or in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts” movie) and has said she always thought the “t” in “Voldemort” is silent and we’re all mispronouncing it. She keeps trying to add diversity to her books to make up for what she excluded the first time around, but it’s getting out of hand. The last Harry Potter book was published in 2007. I love the series endlessly, but it’s over. She needs to let it die.

She can’t be trusted with her own series anymore, and she’s a perfect example for why author’s shouldn’t get a say in what happens outside of the text. By releasing all of this information, she’s tearing apart the story people grew up on and love. She’s ruining people’s perceptions of the characters they thought they knew and is creating a disconnect between the readers and her books. She’s more or less changing reality, which isn’t fair for anyone involved.

Imagine the absurdity. Imagine you handed in a paper for one of your classes and your teacher gave you a C because you neglected to mention an important part of the argument. You don’t get to say “Oh, it was implied! I just didn’t include it, but I knew it all along!” That’s not how writing works!

Whatever gets published is the final draft. After that, it’s fair game. Authors don’t get to decide what happens to their books after they’re published. That’s our job.


Courtney Gavitt is a Staff Writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at courtney.gavitt@uconn.edu.