It's not only the past that is another country
I detested and still detest that attitude. You may therefore imagine my pleasure when I found that JKR had, not just declared that Dumbledore was homosexual, but that he was homosexual IN THAT, as a teen-ager – as a teen-ager, mind you – he had been infatuated with the handsome and brilliant Grindelwald. Because, you know, infatuation – especially in the case of a brilliant intellect starved of intellectual companionship – has no proper home except the crotch!
This has confirmed something I was already sure of in my own mind: that male love, of whatever kind, is a closed book to JKR. She knows that it exists, but has no more access to its grammar and syntax, its content and meaning and forms of manifestation, than I to Chinese. I became certain of this when, in Half-Blood Prince, JKR tried to chronicle the journey of Harry’s mind towards the realization of his love for Ginny. The climax of this sequence is the famous (for all the wrong reason) image of the “beast” within Harry “roaring in triumph” – which is, I believe, the most widely mocked passage in JKR’s whole work, and not for no reason either. But the whole sequence, from beginning to end, rings as false as brass for gold. There are perhaps some aspects of daily life in which I am less qualified than others: but the way and the stages by which men fall in love are not among them. I have been deeply, intensely, painfully in love four times in my life, and I remember them all with a blinding clarity. And JKR simply got everything wrong. To begin with, Harry’s melodramatic fears about the reaction of Ginny’s brothers to his loving her (which assumes that all males, even decent Weasleys, suddenly turn into gibbering monsters where anyone shows interest in their sisters) are nonsense. A man experiencing love, and, what is more, experiencing it for the first time, does not envisage obstacles. If any happen, he assumes that they will go down, like the walls of Jericho, at the sound of the trumpets of his love. The only thing he fears is the girl herself; he will turn up at her door twenty times before he finds the courage to ring the bell once, he will send her unsigned Valentines written with his left hand from improbable places, and if he ever gets up the nerve to tell her what he means (and she will, by then, have got the point long since – unless she is preternaturally stupid), he will be in an agony of terror till she has finished going through the usual platitudes about being just friends. Roaring beasts? Love is more likely to make Bayard or Achilles into a terrified sheep; or, as I put it rather more poetically in some lines to Debbie,
O Love, the mountains bend their proud heads down,
And lions hide in your lap their royal frown.
JKR’s language suggests someone who regards male love as something wholly aggressive, brutal in nature, and vaguely threatening: the opposite of the effect of actual love on an actual male human being.
What I find strange, passing strange, is that this beautiful and attractive young woman, twice married, a writer of great talent and keen observation, should be so unfamiliar, not only with the inwardness of male love, but even with the visible externals – the convulsions of terror, the profusions of poetry, the lover turning up at her address forty times only not to ring the bell once. In her three decades of life, and in spite of her beauty and charm, has no man ever courted her in the normal way? Or is it that she is, somehow, simply incapable of perceiving these things? In the following essay, I point out how a masterpiece of the movie art was almost, but thankfully not quite, ruined by the incapacity of its all-male creative crew to even perceive how women acted and moved; and I do wonder whether we are getting to the point where women suffer from a similar disconnect to men. It would not be a good thing, if so.