Wilmington’s literary community keeps gaining accolades (two National Book Awards nominees in 2015) and attention in the press. With multiple established publishers in the state (Algonquin, Blair) and new smaller presses gaining traction (Eno, Bull City), it is timely to shine a light on discussions around literature, publishing and the importance of communicating a truthful story in our present world.
Welcome to Carpe Librum, encore’s biweekly book column, wherein I will dissect a current title or an old book or maybe a podcast—because literature does not exist in a vacuum but emerges to participate in a larger, cultural conversation. I will feature many NC writers; however, the hope is to place the discussion in a larger context and therefore examine works around the world.
The Fox and the Foxhound: Love, Marriage, and Harry Potter Podcast
By Amanda Young and Kevin Wilson
The idea of pre-marital counseling isn’t universally embraced. Some people shun it, not wanting to discuss their lives with a stranger—sometimes an unmarried one at that. Others pursue it as a matter of course and others actively seek it prior to nuptials. One friend credits premarital counseling ending an engagement before they made a colossal mistake. Two local creators are taking a different approach to the topic. They have asked J. K. Rowling to get them through premarital counseling.
Amanda Young and Kevin Wilson are getting married. If you have even a passing acquaintance with Amanda, you know she is obsessed with Harry Potter and his world. What is shocking is she is marrying a man who has never read the books. Despite the fact they have shared a home for years, he has never read the books that are the basis of her personal cosmology.
For me the parallel would be trying to build a life with someone who had never heard of Arlo Guthrie. Unthinkable.
In Kevin’s defense, he has decided to read the series. Now, they have launched a podcast, discussing the books and lessons they will apply to their marriage. It is actually pretty damn brilliant.
Each episode involves discussing the portion of the book they have each read thus far. The commentary is, of course, entertaining. I mean they are two, smart, witty performers, so they can put on a show! Not to mention they have great material to work with.
But the literary criticism and deconstruction is actually some of the most insightful I have encountered about literature in a long time. Now, I love “Thug Notes” and “Sassy Gay Friend,” both of which explore the classics in relatable, contemporary ways. But “The Fox and the Foxhound” isn’t really (intentionally) a comedic take on the Potter books—neither is it a one-note joke. It is a very thoughtful look at what sharing an unfolding life can look like: as a couple, as a reader, as a thinking person—who applies the themes and messages of art to the real world—and not least of all, as the hero of a story that will touch millions of lives (Rowling and Potter). Together, they explore the Potter books but also the films, theme parks and conventions fan culture.
For example, as this goes to press, the duo are headed to LeakyCon, a Harry Potter Convention. “I am doing my typical Tonks cosplay (she’s my go-to and the perfect choice for me, all of my Hufflepuff stuff works, I love wearing wigs, and if I trip or act goofy as I am prone to do . . . it just looks like a character choice),” Young confirms in an email. “Kev won’t cosplay unless it’s really done correctly, and he doesn’t feel like he knows enough about anyone to really do it, so for now he’s planning on just wearing some Ravenclaw stuff throughout the weekend.”
In the interest of honesty, I should disclose I really admire both Young and Wilson as people, thinkers and creators. I do wish I could spend more time with them in real life. Since that has yet to happen, listening to their podcast in many ways feels like I get all the benefits of having them in my living room, holding forth on the weighty topics on the universe; it is a wonderful consolation prize.
I also should add, sort of like Kevin, I missed the Harry Potter boat. I read the first book aloud as a bedtime book with my college boyfriend, and I never really read beyond it. As Kevin points out, you can’t live in this culture without absorbing some of Harry Potter. Following their journey and insight, the audience almost gets a master class in world-building, character development and novel plotting. As a lover of literature and devoted audience member, it is mesmerizing to absorb the way the story is experienced and discussed. As a writer … it is invaluable. To have the opportunity to listen to two intelligent, devoted audience members break down the books, relate them to real life and reassemble them before my very ears is pretty much what most creative writing programs attempt to do.
The pièce de résistance comes at the end of the episode, when they ask each other what they learned and how to apply it to their forthcoming nuptials. It’s the most important step; it is not about theoretical ideals of love, or even something you say or do. It is about the building blocks of daily life and decisions you make all day long every day.
How we treat the most important people in our lives should be at the forefront and a lens we apply to art, philosophy and reflection of life.