Friday, August 10, 2007

Goodbye, Harry Potter

From the Salon review by Laura Miller (there are definitely spoilers in it, so consider yourself warned):

"But Rowling is most definitely a novelist; she writes about people and stuff, not about elemental forces and unconscious urges. Like all true novelists, she is the champion of the specific and the domestic, the often unsung pleasures and perils of a good lunch, a crush, a ball game with friends and a little gossip about machinations at the ministry -- which is why the doings at Hogwarts and in the Weasley household were always the best parts of the series. Her books, for all their spells and incantations and magical creatures, have never been the stuff that dreams are made of. Instead, they're the stuff that life is made of.

That's why Harry's great reward isn't something otherworldly, like Frodo Baggins sailing into immortality with the elves in the Uttermost West. He gets married, settles down with a good woman and has a few kids. His fate is to make many return visits to platform nine and three-quarters, even if he never again boards the Hogwarts Express. He gets to feel that twinge, that "little bereavement" that every parent feels on his child's first day of school; time passing, life going on. It's a very ordinary, unheroic sort of feeling, and that, more even than the assurance of the book's final sentence, tells us that all really is well. "

I also like her response to A.S. Byatt's criticism of HP. She doesn't dispute it, but she does justify why HP lacks the sublime quality that other (higher?) fantasy achieves:

"Some critics have objected to an Op-Ed the British novelist A.S. Byatt wrote for the New York Times in 2003, in which she complained that Rowling's books lack the "shiver of awe" she expects from superior fantasy. But you don't have to dismiss Harry Potter the way Byatt does to recognize that she has a point. The sublime is missing from Rowling's series, but then you won't find it in "Barchester Towers" or "A Confederacy of Dunces," either, which doesn't make them anything less than masterly novels. The sublime and the comic don't mix well, and to try to squeeze both into a children's book is the kind of experiment even a master potion-concocter like Severus Snape would wisely avoid."

And lastly - to this, of course, I would answer YES!

"Much as we may love Harry, Hermione, Ron, Hagrid and Dumbledore, don't we all love Hogwarts just a little bit more?"

You can read the whole review here.

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