Rowling Trial Wraps Up on Day Three
By John Sellers -- Publishers Weekly, 4/16/2008
Despite Judge Robert P. Patterson’s calling the lawsuit a “so-called three-day trial" at one point during Tuesday’s proceedings, on Wednesday the remaining witnesses took the stand—including J.K. Rowling once more—and closing arguments were delivered in Rowling and Warner Brothers’ trial vs. RDR Books.
Although the trial is over, both sides have until May 9 to submit legal paperwork to Judge Patterson, so a decision in the case won’t be forthcoming anytime soon.
Wednesday did prove to be a book-lover’s dream, beginning with Judge Patterson referencing Charles Dickens’s Bleak House in his opening comments—in an oblique comment on the way that lengthy trials can ruin lives—as well as Shakespeare’s tragedies, which he recalled his father reading to him when he was young. Building on comments he made at the end of the previous day’s proceedings, Patterson reiterated that he felt this was a case that “could be settled and should be settled,” and that it would only take “a little imagination” to make that happen.
The case proceeded regardless, and literary references continued to surface, as two academics took the stand and offered opposing testimonies on the efficacy of Steven Vander Ark’s Harry Potter Lexicon as a reference guide to literature. First up was Dr. Janet Sorensen, a professor of literature at the University of California, Berkeley, who defined a reference guide to literature as a work that would help “illuminate layers of meaning” in a book, citing Milton’s Paradise Lost and Pamela by Samuel Richardson as early examples of books that generated companion titles.
During cross-examination by plaintiff lawyer Dale Cendali of O’Melveny & Myers, Sorensen also pointed out that Richardson himself had written a companion book to Pamela, “because he was disappointed with the others out there,” a seeming reference to Rowling’s own ability to write a Potter encyclopedia if she is dissatisfied with the Lexicon’s quality.
Sorensen made reference to the numerous companion books published about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia tales, both fictional worlds, saying that the Lexicon fit into a “spectrum” of reference materials offering varying degrees of insight, analysis and information.
Sorensen additionally testified that she first read the Harry Potter novels as part of her preparation for the trial and found the Lexicon manuscript useful as a “memory refresher” when trying to keep the various characters straight. While she acknowledged that the Lexicon offered little in the way of analysis or criticism of Rowling’s work, she maintained that its core value was its ability to organize and synthesize Rowling’s expansive, rich universe.
For the full report go to PW.