Harry Potter Mania

Monday, August 27, 2007

It’s bad to leave the Each Day post as my last real writing. It feels dirty, like I set myself a task and failed so miserably at it, that the only evidence of its existence lies in its failure. I’m here to rectify that. I’m slogging through a short story that is not moving along very well. It’s been wallowing in my folders for a bit. I keep pulling it up, wondering where I should take it, before slipping it back under the piles of used newspapers, hoping it’ll accidentally end up in the recycle bin. It hasn’t yet, although not from lack of effort on my part.

I’m reading through the Harry Potter books. Jennifer, Doolies’s sister, suggested we read the series when she visited Seattle. We bought the books a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve done my part. I’m halfway through book five in the seven-book series. It’s been an enjoyable read, except for the end of book four where Lord Voldemort speaks an overly long exposition of what he did while we weren’t looking. For such an evil guy, he talks a lot. My theory is that J. K. Rowling rushed into writing the book without planning how she was going to tie everything together at the end. She realized too late that the reader was going to need a lot of information in a short time to understand what had happened. She accomplished this inelegantly by having him describe what he was doing for the benefit of his cronies. It’s so easy to criticize. It’s also possible that she thought this through and agonized over her decision. She had a lot of information to convey, and without switching perspective (which, except for the introductions (arguably), she never did), there was no way she could get across what he had been doing.

For a children’s book, it’s very good. I’ve read better fantasy novels, but J. K. Rowling has a wonderful way of making you feel like you’re at Hogwarts (the witch and wizard school). It made me miss school, something that’s almost impossible to imagine—that’s grade school, not graduate school, which I do miss. Her characters are strongly drawn, even if a bit one-dimensional. I keep hoping that some of the eviler characters, like Draco Malfoy, will come around and save Harry Potter. I doubt it will happen, but I’m hopeful.

Besides school, Rowling also does a great job of portraying the strong emotions of children and people in general. For example, in her fifth book, she returns to injustice (a very common theme among children for obvious reasons). You feel what it’s like to be the child who’s misunderstood and misjudged, or just unfairly treated because they are powerless.

This was well portrayed in the last movie, which showed the fifth book (and fifth year at Hogwarts). The movies, by the way, are very close to the books. So close that you wouldn’t miss many details if you decided to forgo reading the books. I don’t recommend that, though. The books are addicting like chewy candy that gets stuck in your teeth. Even before you tongue the leftovers off your teeth, you’re already popping the next one into your mouth. Like a good Stephen King or John Grisham novel, you just want to know what happened next. Good storytelling does that.