Friday, June 06, 2008

great speech

I'm sure this will be blogged everywhere, because it's so damn good. But let me say how touching I found the J K Rowling commencement speech:

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting. loved the last line.

Adam Lasnik said...

Agree that that is touching / profound / cool / etc. But -- as in many other situations -- it's hard to separate the message (good) with the messenger (in Rowling's case, recently pretty rotten). Specifically, Ms. Rowling has been a real jerk in whining about and threatening the fellow who made a book *about* (and supplementing, not substituting for) her books, in the process showing contempt for the concept of fair use and readers'/writers' rights.

Adam Lasnik said...

Ah, forgot to give some context:

(and more info can be found on the big 'g' via searches for Rowling and Lawsuit, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Without knowing all the details of the case, I think that Ms. J.K. Rowling has every right to protect her IP.

George Lucas doesn't mind "fan" films based on Star Wars, but does mind if they are trying to make money off the films.

Having a free fan website is the correct use of fair use, but printing and selling such a book is not.

Rowling isn't the jerk here...

Adam Lasnik said...

Sorry, Anonymous, I don't see why money should be an issue here.

If I, for instance, authored a book called "Understanding the Star Wars Universe" or a book on "Learning Klingon For Dummies," why should it matter:
- whether I charge for the books or not
- how much I charge

I think the key questions should be, instead, is the work transformative and does it avoid damaging the marketplace for the existing material. With the Potter dictionary, the answers are (seemingly) yes and (pretty certainly) no respectively.

Or would you, say, be against Clif Notes? After all, if we went by Rowling's argument, a study guide to Moby Dick could have been written by Melville and could not have been written without Melville's sweat and tears on the original book, so why should the Clif Notes company benefit?