Imperfect Characters in Fiction

So I’m reading through the University of Chicago magazine for my job, and I came across the following in an article that caught my eye.  The article is on Harry Potter, and suggests that J.K. Rowling should be put “on a shelf with Stoker, Chaucer, [and] Austen.”  Having been acquainted with the former only through visual media, Chaucer only through tenth grade English, and the latter only through reputation, I am in no position to judge this assessment.  But the following quotation in the article caught my eye, and is what I feel like mentioning today:

Rowling’s Harry Potter novels turn on this same theme.  Each book is loaded with reminders of how everyone but the long-suffering, brilliant, and saintly (Lupin, Hermione, and Dumbledore, respectively) is captive to their preconceptions about others and usually almost brutal in their unkindness to the objects of their prejudice.

This is part of why I struggle writing fiction.

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To-do list

1. Write a post on Sam Harris’s recent talk trying to dissolve the fact-value distinction

2. Figure out if I need to change my blog name because I just googled marry me moses and there is a band of the same name

3. Taxes


5. Take out trash

6. Watch the next episode of the Prisoner

7. Watch tonight’s episode of LOST!  I have heard rumors it was good

8. Enjoy life

Nothing is in that order.


I think one day I would rest happy if I could publish a work, any work, one work, of science fiction or fantasy.  And they call them “works” because, well, you have to work at them, and as an individual far more prone to watching an episode of Star Trek than sitting down to write, I have trouble working on things that don’t involve deadlines set by other people.

But tonight I could not sleep, and I could not sleep because I’ve been tossing around some things in my head and on paper for a while now that needed expression.  The results are below the jump: this is a chapter in a larger work I’m trying to put together, but it stands alone and I thought was pretty good.  I would appreciate any thoughts you have.  Especially you, Adam.

Speaking of Adam, check out his blog.

Alright, to what I banged out tonight.

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1 Corinthians 13:12

Yesterday, I had to drive into downtown Chicago for work.  I was helping pack boxes.  Thrilling, I know.

But as I drove into the city from Lakeshore Drive and began trying to find the parking garage I had been assigned, I got lost.  Several times.  There is a maze of tunnels north of Millenium Park, streets underneath streets…it turns into a multi-leveled maze beneath a swarm of hotels and hotspots and skyscrapers, and one minute you’ll be driving above ground and the next you’ll descend into a helter-skelter pattern of concrete-and-steel passages in the city’s underbelly.  I was reminded of that show I had a passing fancy for, “Cities of the Underworld,” only that show was about ancient cities lying underneath modern ones; this is a modern city lying underneath a modern city.

I found my spot and did my work, and came back, and left.  But as I walked from North Michigan Aveneue back to my parking space in a garage on East Illinois, a thought occurred to me.  I could have been born in this city, and spent every hour of my life, from birth to death, simply walking the city.  I could have walked underneath the L, ridden its trained, explored the underworks, descended to the sewers, and still have found only a fraction of this city.  And it is a certainty that, once I grew old, I would find areas of that city I thought I had explored, and find them under construction, or condemned, or revitalized in ways I could never expect.

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This is it. Oh my God this is it.

So I decided to start a blog, about two years after it stopped being the cool thing to do, because I am not cool, apparently.

I intend to use this blog to share things I think.  I almost said “musings,” but seriously, I have read a ton of these blogs over the years, and everyone shares their musings.  I have decided not to muse, but rather to try to think, and think well, and occasionally think wrong, and hope that those occasions are ones wherein whoever ends up reading this blog tells me that I am thinking wrong.

A few things.  First, I will probably end up commenting on a wide variety of things, because I’m interested in lots of things.  But as for me, I am a student in Divinity School at the University of Chicago.  I am a committed leftist who probably identifies more with some form of idealistic anarchy than any other social project, yet also identifies with some Niebuhrian-or-otherwise tendencies to view attempts to achieve such anarchy with some suspicion.  I believe in fantasy literature.  I really do.  I construe that term broadly too — I include science fiction under the umbrella, and think some of the best fantasy today is being written by science fiction writers.

I am a Christian.  If you are not, you’re cool with me.  If there is a Hell then I’ve been misinformed as to the nature of the God I worship and so I’ll enjoy eternal torment with the rest of my heathen friends.  But I tend to think that the end of time will wash away everything in perfect eschatological glory and my heathen friends and I will have a real party with each other.  Yes, I am aware this belief is fundamentally irrational and cannot be proven by natural science.  Yes, I believe in evolution.  No, I am not interested in your theories as to how I am deluded and in need of Richard Dawkins.  Yes, you may air those theories in my comments section.

Speaking of comments, since I will touch on, well, touchy subjects, I have a few rules.  First, I don’t really intend to police my comments.  But if I see or am informed of the following:

  1. Spam or Advertising
  2. “Triggering” comments (see Wikipedia: Trauma trigger)
  3. Being a rude person.  I will decide what constitutes rude, and if it means I sometimes let my friends or people I know act rudely but not some random person who comes in and starts insulting people for being “angry asexual feminists” or whatever dumbass trope is on the Rush Limbaugh show these days, well, then, tough shit.
  4. Attacking someone based on a category into which they fall, whether chosen or innate: you may question someone’s faith, for instance, but you cannot attack them for holding it.  I will try to be very careful about this one, more careful than the being rude rule, and if you honestly think I’ve made an error in deleting a comment or leaving a comment standing, I appreciate honest e-mails.  I do not, however, appreciate dishonest whining.  Search yourself, and know that you are right in the sense that only something like God could agree with you, before bothering me about it.
  5. Other reasons yet to be encountered.  If I encounter new reasons, however, I will update this post to reflect the growing list of things that bother me and will not be permitted in the comments.

Please note that I may occasionally allow comments that should be deleted (though not trauma triggers) as object lessons for others in what annoying commentary looks like.  Rest assured, this will only happen once other commenters have completely excoriated you.

And finally, I love you all.  Love should be a rule of life, shouldn’t it?  Feel free to e-mail me at any time: tolkienista at gmail dot com.  Welcome to Marry Me Moses!