Now She Tells Us

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THE PLANK OCTOBER 22, 2007

Now She Tells Us

At a reading at Carnegie Hall on Friday night, J.K. Rowling disclosed the fact, long suspected but never before confirmed, that her beloved character Albus Dumbledore was gay.

I'm with Ross Douthat on this: Rowling had seven books, comprising approximately eleventy thousand pages, in which to share with readers the details of her characters' lives. Retroactively adding nuance seems a bit unsporting to me.

At the reading, Rowling reportedly declared her books to be a "prolonged argument for tolerance," and presumably she thinks the revelation of Dumbledore's sexuality is part of that argument. Except of course, that she never mentioned it in the books themselves. If she wants her oeuvre to be pro-gay, then great. But it seems to me this really requires disclosing, however delicately, Dumbledore's orientation, rather than just leaving it open to speculation. If, on the other hand, she felt that raising the whole subject of same-sex attraction in her books was (for whatever reason) problematic, she probably ought to have left it at that. As it now stands, Dumbledore's sexuality is a kind of half-fact, unmentioned in Rowling's oeuvre but confirmed outside of it. Talk about your literary closet.

--Christopher Orr

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posted in: the plank, social issues, ross douthat

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