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Harry Potter: The Books

By admin Published: June 27, 2007

Only so many hours in the day, right? Some things have to be put off. For instance, I have never sat and watched "Titanic" from beginning to end. And, until recently, I had never read a Harry Potter book -- a situation I rather aggressively remedied ...

Since I've now got this pop-culture shingle, and with both the last Potter book and the fifth Potter movie looming, it seemed time to acquire information that went beyond being able to nod knowingly at references to Muggles. So I borrowed the first three novels from my younger son -- who has read them all -- as beach reading on vacation. And within a few days was looking for a Sanibel Island bookstore to get the other three.

And yes, I have ordered my copy of the seventh. And have stockpiled copies of the four movies to get through before the fifth one comes out.

I will have issues about the movies; the first one, for example, seems much too glossy-looking in comparison to the books, where so many things, no matter how marvelous, still feel as if they carry a rich layer of dust of centuries gone by. But I will withhold judgment of the fifth, in the hope that it will match the darkness of the book. (I expect to blog more about the movies once I have gotten through them.)

Of course, I have issues with the books, too. None so great that it kept me from reading on, and reading on. J.K. Rowling knows how to weave a big story, and to create delightful details of the magical world. And she tantalizes adults with other threads, such as the parallels between the Ministry of Magic and Great Britain on the eve of World War II, with the ministry repeatedly turning a blind eye to Voldemort akin to Chamberlain's attempts to appease Hitler; even the entrance of Scrimgeour, at first described in terms that echo in Winston Churchill, proves a disappointment in battling the Dark Lord.

But that's getting a little more specific than I mean to be here. Let me turn instead to issues. For one, there are times Rowling seems to be spinning her wheels, trapped in the one-year-at-Hogwarts-per-book structure; the sixth book, even with its climactic death, is a slowdown after all that has been set in motion in the fifth. (Does this mean it's at least partly the equivalent of the "Phony War" at the beginning of WW II? But I digress again.)

A greater problem, though, is how Rowling deals with the emotional lives of her preadolescent and adolescent characters. Harry's more than a bit of a whiner, for one thing, and -- especially as the books move along -- his aging outpaces his maturity. Just about anything involving romance is clumsy, and the Ron-Hermione bickering becomes unbearable. Where the characters have to deal with death and pain and loss on a grand scale, Rowling keeps love and attraction on a level that will not alarm her readers under the age of 10.

Still, as I have said, there is plenty to entertain older readers, or at least this older reader. It's almost enough to make me watch "Titanic."

Well, maybe if they make a "Titanic II."

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