Despite the fact I announced I would have no opinions in re Dumbledore’s sexual orientation, I, of course, do and have been arguing them ferociously to the J.K. Rowling in my head. The short version is that while I applauded her mischief and relished the subsequent panty-twisting, I thought she had no business making up her readers’ minds about what happens (or, in this case, happened) to Harry Potter and his fellows beyond what information she gave us in the books. By telling us that Dumbledore was gay, she implied that she had the story all sewn up, that readers had only to ask–her–to fill in the blanks she had left. But filling in those blanks, melding a story with one’s (or One’s, to quote from the hilarious Uncommon Reader) own imagination is what reading is all about. A huge part of the reason the Harry Potter books (volumes one through three, anyway) held so little charm for me was Rowling’s insistence upon doing all the coloring-in herself, leaving the reader few opportunities to put his or her own imagination to work. That’s why I grumbled that they were books for people who generally preferred to watch TV, and that’s why I though Rowling’s announcement was a little grabby. (The child_lit railings about whether it was a corrective or a confirmation of the Potter series’ “heteronormativity” left me untouched; the only flag you need to fly is your own).
But I’ve since learned that Rowling’s remarks were less peremptory than I had thought. While the newspapers were reporting that she said “Dumbledore is gay,” the Leaky Cauldron has posted a rough transcript of the Carnegie Hall q-and-a, and according to that she said (in response to the question “did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?”) “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.” That I always thought matters enormously. Writers are as free as readers to mentally embroider or annotate a book; I imagine that a writer has to, even, settling into her imagination a rich landscape from which details are drawn for the page. I’m reminded of Margaret Mitchell being asked if she thought Scarlett ever got Rhett back. She didn’t think so, she said. That didn’t — and needn’t — stop optimistic readers everywhere from imagining otherwise.