Monday, July 23, 2007

Quick-Quill Notes on Harry Potter

Ok, many apologies for not replying to comments or posting. I was doing the unthinkable: I woke up at 6am on Saturday, went to the nearest bookstore where I had booked an advance copy, and got my Harry Potter. I finished the book by ten at night, with breaks for meals and Fireman's Ball.

So what do I think?


The story whizzes along breathlessly with one damned thing following another. Injuries, deaths, destruction of houses, places people - and you don't care all that much.

A sense that JKR is writing very specifically to the questions that fan forums have been raising for the last couple of years. This is a double-edged sword, because it is not clear whther the fans will heave a huge sigh of satisfaction at having their minutely-detailed theories confirmed, or suffer from a sense of disappointment that after all, there are no sudden or new twists and that the imagination does have its limits.

RAB: The locket left in the basin in the lake, with a note from RAB. Speculation was rife about who it could have been, but the most obvious solution was that it was Regulus Black, with everyone remembering the locket at 12 Grimmauld Place that would not open, that Mundungus very likely stole.

And then the theories about how Regulus could have got to the lake and back with the locket without the Inferi or the potion killing him: the fans will be pleased to know - or will they? - that they were right in every respect.

The Deathly Hallows themselves, three objects supposedly gifted by Death himself to three brothers, which together would allow the holder to conquer death is the biggest red herring. Harry's dawning realisation of the futility of having to choose between Horcruxes and Hallows is the crux of what could have been the philosophical underpinning of the entire last instalment, but it is an opportunity lost. This is not to say that he does not make a choice or that he does not realise what the choice means; it only means that JKR chooses to let go of the chance to make something larger of it.

The worst moment in the book, for me, comes when the Three Investigators are at Bill and Fleur's place, with the rescued Ollivander and Griphook and late one evening, Lupin comes thundering on the door indentifying himself in great detail (lest the others open the door to an imposter). He staggers in and we expect nothing less than an announcement of a death, tragic and inevitable. Instead Lupin descends into bathos:

"Who is it?" Bill called.

"It is I, Remus John Lupin!" called a voice over the howling wind. Harry experienced a thrill of fear; what had happened? "I am a werewolf, married to Nymphadora Tonks, and you, the Secret Keeper of Shell Cottage, told me the address and bade me come in an emergency!"

"Lupin," muttered Bill, and ran to the door and wrenched it open.

Lupin fell over the threshold. he was white-faced, wrapped in a travelling cloak, and his greying hair windswept. He straightened up, looked around the room, making sure of who was there, then cried out aloud, "It's a boy! We've named him Ted, after Dora's father!"
I mean, really!

There are many deaths, of course, but they happen so casually that you can't bring yourself to care. What is of more concern is the way Harry - Harry, not Molly, or McGonagall or anyone else who are on the Good Side but the Boy Who Lived, the Compassionate One himself - does not scruple to use the Unforgivable curses - the Imperius and the Cruciatus - when he feels the need to. And for JKR to let that go without question when she spent a couple of pages in the beginning on Harry piously claiming that he will not blast people out of the way just becasue they happen to be there, because it Voldemort's way, is a great piece of dishonesty.

Next only to Lupin's announcement, is the epilogue. I mean, who wants to know who makes how many babies and what they're called? That is supposed to be a happy ending? For whom?!

Which brings me to a few burning questions and observations about the series:

1. How come all these wizards and witches get married straight out of Hogwarts and start to produce babies like rabbits? I mean, you look at the dates, and they've all had kids by the time they're 21. 21! I hadn't even done studying then! Of course, I'm not a witch, but I did grow up at approximately the same time as some of the characters in the book, right? No one can deny the outside world impinges on the magical one.

2. And why do the women all, without question, take on the names of their husbands? Hermione Weasley has a terrible ring to it.

3. Do magical folk never get divorced? Do they never quarrel over custody and visitation? When there are so many other laws governing every aspect of their lives, how did the Ministry of Magic fail to bring this into the purview of their law-making?

4. Does it strike anyone else how closely the House system at Hogwarts resembles a caste structure? Ravenclaw=Intellect (we know for the first time in the last book that they get into their common room by answering difficult, philosophical questions); Gryffindor=Bravery and Chivalry; Hufflepuff=Loyalty and Steadfastness; Slytherin=Ambition.

5. And finally, a large question about Free Will and Destiny. Or rather, an Observation:

Free Will: The importance of choice. You can choose waht you want to become, Harry. The world is not divided into Good People and Death Eaters (Sirius). You chose Gryffindor and that made all the difference (Dumbledore).

Destiny: That despite all these noble thoughts, you have Albus growing into a venerable old white bearded gentleman; that Lupin was called what he was before he was bitten by a werewolf; that Fenrir, also a werewolf, must have been presciently named after the great Norse wolf; that Sirius' Animagus would be a big dog. Likewise with Xenophilius Lovegood, Sibyl Trelawney (isn't Trelawney a good Cornish name, and doesn't it call to mind all the magic and Second Sight of the Arthurian legends?) and Griphook.

The fault, Dear Brutus lies in the stars and in our names. What did Shakespeare know?

So anyway. That's that series done with. I won't say I didn't enjoy reading it; I did. But also with a faint sense of disappointment, because it could have ended well if JKR wasn't so intent on tying up every thread no matter how tiny.

Not that she hasn't left any questions to answer, but I can't see how she can make another book of the ones that are left. Such as: who cleans up the mess? The Ministry? A new one? What about all the other Magical creatures who fought with the Good Side? (and how did the Sword of Gryffindor turn up with Neville when Griphook reclaimed it as the goblins' property?)

I don't see how this can end except in several years of legislation and talking and paper work. The Revolution has been Buried under paper work, oh my comrades, and there's no help for Harry but to sit in on meeting after meeting.


Cheshire Cat said...

Oh, that awful epilogue... No schmaltzier it get can.

The near-wholesale destruction of the Tonks household is just like in a Hollywood movie - if you need to kill off somebody, kill off the token werewolves and witches. I can't imagine getting to snog Victoire is much of a compensation for that.

Who cares, anyway, considering that Ms. Rowling is not telling us the truth about Harry Potter. She's too scared of disappointing her fans. In the REAL Harry Potter, Ron betrays Harry and is punished for it, and Harry and Hermione end up together...

Space Bar said...

oh my god--a harry-hermione shipper!

yes, wasn't that weird. it made you think of the kind of babies that ted and victoire will make.

Anindita Sengupta said...

Agree with you...the end was so cringe-worthy!. All of them paired up with babies galore (and don't miss the names). The attempt to be 'cute' almost had me throwing up. I would have liked something more punchy -- Harry and Hermione (why not?) or Hermione dying or Dumbledore turning out to be the Dark Lord's right hand man.

I liked Snape's story though.