August 22nd, 2012

Enormous recs post

This should have gone up days ago, but although I kept hacking at it I was too sluggish to finish. Now it is finished, but I cannot promise that it makes any sense.

1. I have been rereading some of the darker Snarry classics, where hatred and addiction and obsession and madness run together in a manner so dangerously volatile that either Snape or Harry ruins or even kills the other in the end: [ profile] nothingbutfic's by the light of lesser stars, [personal profile] loupgarou's Dangling Conversation, [ profile] debchan's What He Wants, [ profile] atrata's Nine Adulteries. I love each of these stories to death, even though they are supremely painful and even though they are entirely AU now that canon has closed. As I suspect many of you know them as well, I shall refrain from boring you with detailled reviews of each. But if you don't know them, and you are interested in portrayals of Snape as a deeply horrible man (with a conscience or in self-denial), and of Harry as war and trauma and Horcruxes might have twisted him, then you may enjoy giving them a try. (Please heed all warnings.)

1.1. Not convinced? As Nine Adulteries is particularly fresh in my mind (the order above is my reading order), let me offer you a little teaser. Believe me when I say that every word here, from the title which should be taken very literally to the shocking closing passage, is significant. As a result, you will probably be like me and need to read this more than once.

Snape's characterisation could not be more brilliant to my mind. This is Snape as I want to write him, as a (Faustian) scientist, as a (mad) experimenter fighting for self-control and objectivity and at once wildly succeeding and failing in that quest, whose very work with dark potions and of course the magic of the mind is the consequential product of both complete objectification and uncontrolled, wild passion. His laboratory is a fantastical biology lab gone out of control, filled with hybrid products, products at once natural and artificial that were once alive and now are bottled in preserving solutions to make them easily accessible for study. It is a most gruesome and extraordinary setting that he has created as his own stage. The glimpses we are granted into his mind are equally frightening, equally fascinating. The story is told from his very skewed perspective (and oh, the self-denial, the self-interest, the self-hatred). At the same time, the structure adheres to the logic of his own classification system for certain potions. In this way, the hybridity of his lab, the split in his mind, the dichotomy between cool precision and overwhelming feeling is preserved in the very form of the tale itself ... and I shan't say any more for fear of giving the game completely away.

2. [personal profile] delphi's entire [community profile] kink_bingo card (links to tag). I can do that, right?

2.1. Here are a few titles to get you started: Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Filch/Millicent) features deliciously awful Filch, tantilising glimpses into the Slytherin girls dormitory, and a wonderfully sensible-in-a-Slytherin-way Millicent. Then there's Poison (Snape/Dumbledore), a chilling foreshadowing of the Astronomy Tower -- powerplay in bed. In a very few perceptive words, [personal profile] delphi reveals both characters' strengths and weaknesses. I cried for them. Finally, Wicked Game (Horace + Argus + Severus), where Filch is horribly, wonderfully depraved, Severus is forced into making a wretched self-discovery, and Horace hides boredom and a nasty, manipulative streak beneath mild manners and a common sense approach.

3. Speaking of the wonderful [personal profile] delphi, she recently recced [ profile] kellychambliss's extraordinary Right nor Wrong (unrequited Filch/Snape and Umbridge/Snape; Snape/McGonagall) on [ profile] crack_broom here. I thought I had read this story before, but it turns out I had misremembered, and oh what a pleasure it was to discover it for a first time! This story deserves a very long review (one I still owe the author) because it is a masterpiece on several levels. There's the matter of Filch's pitch-perfect inner voice, for one, and one of the most convicing Filch backstories I've encountered, for another. Furthermore, there's the brilliant deconstruction of Filch's name to provide the structure for the story's main kink, voyeurism. For reasons of space, I've chosen to focus on only the latter element here.

Argus Panoptes Filch. I have no idea if this is the middle name JKR gave him, but if it isn't then it should be. For of course Filch doesn't merely harken back to the mythological creature with a hundred eyes, to mythological conceptions of policing. His penal institute is also fairly modern. In other words, the striking feature of modern caretaking, of modern policing, is the panoptical gaze. And Filch has it -- can see anywhere and everywhere. Why? How? The key, it seems, is desire. Aesthetics. The love of looking, not just the machine act. With this his desire we gaze at the quintessential object of desire (our own desire): Snape of course, Snape in places we should not be able to see him, Snape the Legilmens, the spy, the master of seeing who does not realise he is being seen. No wonder Filch desires to see him. Is it a wonder we, who can only look, who as readers are destined to be voyeurs, desire to see him? And so it is not only Filch we come to understand in this story but also (ourselves) Snape:

Severus were a man what made people feel things - - strong things, dark things, needy things. The Headmistress weren't the first person to want him. To want to understand him or save him or join in his righteous darkness. To want to share the power of him. To have him want them.

Oh yes. I think I have gone on too long, but hopefully you see what I mean. This is absolute genius.

4. [personal profile] dueltastic wrote Though I do not wish to wish these things (McGonagall/Snape, McGonagall/Scrimgeour) speaks directly to questions I have been surrounding myself with of late: questions of choice and conscience and what Snape meant when he said in DH that the only people he'd seen die of late were those he could not save. Well, this is one of those instances where he cannot save a prisoner, where he decides he cannot save him. For the prisoner is none other than Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic. He is tied to Snape through McGonagall: both men loved her, and still love her, ultimately even willing her their posessions after death, finding anchor in her once they have vanished from this earth. And so throughout the interrogation, the torture, Snape appears controlled and yet is anything but, plagued by thoughts and perhaps even fantasies of McGonagall and Scrimgeour together. There is torture and death, and as he tears apart Scrimgeour's face so do the ribbons of their connection through McGonagall seem to intertwine in broken strands. And of course one can argue with Snape that he must keep cover, that putting Scrimgeour in Bellatrix' hands would be worse, that the best he can do for this man in suffering is to end his life quickly. To give him a mercy death. But that is horrible. One wants to scream at Snape to find another solution, even as one is made aware that he has an audience, that he himself is in danger. One wonders whether it was his own decision to run the interrogation or whether he has been directly ordered to do it, and what that means for his position, his conscience. There are no easy answers to the questions this fic raises, and that is part of its brilliance.

5. Finally, a recent article from the New York Times: The Art of the Sequel, which does not speak to fanworks directly but nonetheless gets at something essential about them.

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