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Sunday, August 05, 2007

HARRY POTTER AND THE GODDAMNED THING'S FINALLY OVER (2007)

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING!!! If you haven’t finished reading HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, do not proceed any further since I’ll be talking about it in detail that gives a lot of shit away! Read the fucking thing and then check back in, okay? You have been warned.

And so the ten-year odyssey of young wizard Harry Potter has finally come to its end, a final chapter that author J.K. “My Family Will Never Have To Work Again For the Rest of Time” Rowling promises is the absolutely last time she’ll write the uber-popular character’s adventures. To the more cynical out there that may sound like she’s leaving things open for any number of ghost writers (no pun intended) to continue the world’s most lucrative franchise in printed fiction, but I flat-out trust her statement of over-and-done for two reasons:

1. The tale wraps up every single loose thread left hanging over the course of the six previous novels, leaving nothing more to go over, and then caps it all off with a coda taking place “nineteen years later” in which we see Harry and the survivors of the events in this book grown up, married, and seeing their kids off to Hogwarts, giving us the perfect fairy tale ending where everybody lives happily ever after and their offspring carry on the legacy of their ancestors’ sorcerous talents.
2. After the Croesus-level wealth she’s garnered from the Harry Potter books, movies, and merchandise, J.K. Rowling sure as shit doesn’t need the money.

That said, I’m glad that the whole goddamned thing’s finally over.

I’ve been reading the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione since the first book surfaced in 1997 and have more or less enjoyed all of the novels, each successfully fudging the line that defines “children’s” entertainment by being stories that both parents and their children — to say nothing of the casual reader — can share and enjoy. But the whole shebang got tedious for me when, book after book, I was subjected to wading through a recounting of Harry’s latest round of abuse from the Dursleys, his rail journey to Hogwarts that reinforced previously established friendships and enmities, the feast of sweets in the main hall — a bit that never appealed to me and only got more annoying over time since I’m the only member of my family who’s never had a sweet tooth and still prefers a good bowl of soup to a chocolate éclair — and other familiar elements like the Quidditch matches before settling down to the business and mysteries of the particular installment. But, as my friend Ginna set me straight on, the first four Potter novels are kid’s books, and they work well to serve children’s love of repetition in storytelling, so those elements really are not intended for me so I should just shut the fuck up.

Then came the fifth book in the series, HARRY POTTER AND ADOLESCENCE IS A MOTHERFUCKER, in which Harry and friends faced raging pubescent hormones in the midst of more magical rigmarole and the reuniting of the Order of the Phoenix (if you’ve read this far you don’t need me to explain it). A lot of the adult Potterphiles hated this book because it shook up the familiar formula and allowed the kids to cross the threshold of childhood into young adulthood, thereby opening the door for surly teen behavior, confusing and frustrating experiences when former school chums are suddenly noticed to be quite attractive, and other such concerns, and that was just what I needed to reignite my interest in the series. Things got much darker, the danger become more ferocious, and the content had grown up with the young readers who were aging at roughly the same rate as their heroes, and I figured that if Harry was grownup enough to think semi-chaste thoughts about Cho Chang, then the series was finally ready to get down to business. And I wasn’t wrong; in the subsequent book, HARRY POTTER AND THE SHITLOAD OF EXPOSITION, Harry both embraced and rejected romance, learned the whole skinny on his arch enemy, Voldemort, witnessed his mentor Dumbledore’s seeming murder at the hands of the much-despised Severus Snape — my favorite character in the series — and came to grips with the fact that he just might not come out of his inevitable final confrontation with the dark wizard alive.

Which brings me to HARRY POTTER AND THE GODDAMNED THING'S FINALLY OVER.

I enjoyed the book and was very much satisfied with how it all wrapped up, but I have to say that more than any other of Rowling’s works this one was in sore need of some serious editing. It’s seven hundred and fifty-nine pages long, and roughly the first half of the book is spent telling us over and over again how Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s months-long quest for the Horcruxes goes nowhere, an annoying sample of padding out the story so the fans wouldn’t feel ripped off by getting a final installment that wasn’t physically heavy enough to commit successful felonious assault with. But once the story finally gets past all the filler bullshit, the narrative sweep shoves the reader headfirst into the action and culminates with the Battle of Hogwarts, a truly epic and harrowing orgy of spells, violence and vengeance that leaves many dead, and explains the full story about exactly what happened when Snape “killed” Dumbledore — yes, Dumbledore really is dead, but there’s a lot more to it than that — plus giving us a heartbreaking look into Snape’s past and the tale of his one true love, a woman who he could never have and how his love for her spurred him into a covert role as an unexpected guardian angel…

There’s a lot of disturbing shit going down this time around, perhaps the worst of which is the lengthy revelation of the saintly Dumbledore’s shocking past. If you're still reading this you know what I'm talikng about, but there’s been some debate among the fans as to exactly what happened that so severely traumatized Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, at the age of six after a trio of Muggle boys saw her working magic and attempted to get her to repeat her trick; the boys did something so heinous to her that she was psychologically damaged beyond repair, and her father was sent to the wizard’s prison Azkaban for killing his daughter’s human assailants, so there’s been some question as to whether Ariana was raped. Rowling does not state it as such, but the way in which it’s phrased sort of implies more than just a severe beating, and while that would be enough to send a father into a rage, a sexual assault would more than likely drive a father, especially one with the power to do magical damage, into a murderous berserker fury. But while I can understand the readers who read it as a rape, I have to disagree with them since Ariana was only six and there’s no evidence that establishes her assailants as being all that much older than she was. Sure, such horrid things are possible, but I just didn’t see it like that.

Anyway, by the time I’d reached the final novel I was totally exhausted by the whole Harry potter experience and am glad to it all over and done with (well, the books anyway). I lost hardcore interest in the series a couple of years back and only read the new book to see how it all turned out, and when all is said and done I’m glad I kept up with it. Rowling can definitely spin a yarn, and that’s what it’s all about; anything that can get children to stop playing video games long enough to read a nearly eight-hundred page book and come back for more while possibly getting them interested in letting their literary exploration burst forth in infinite new directions is okay by me.

5 comments:

Bobby the Blue Baxojayz said...

I haven't read any of the books, nor seen any of the movies. I was hoping Harry would die, just so I can giggle myself to sleep thinking about all the heart-broken fans getting broken up over the calamity...

Anonymous said...

For some reason everyone always thought Snape would be my favorite too--but it's probably Luna--esp. since I saw her in the last movie.

Jes

Anonymous said...

I love Luna but didn't like the portrayal of her in the last movie. I think they toned her down too much. She came off as merely a little dreamy, and in the books she comes across as weird and definitely more of an oddball.

Melanie

Anonymous said...

Actually, I liked the underlying wisdom and stoicism the little actress emoted, but that is my general complaint about movies vs. books--the underdevelopment of the characters:

'I read my books upside down, but I know what's real and I'll speak with you as if you do too and I'm above responding to mockery, and if you don't ask me to explain myself I won't. Now on to the next scene.'

jg

Firefly said...

I agree with your friend Ginna about the repetition. Actually, I think repetition is one of the things that helps kids learn to read. Also, by doing this, Rowling ensures that someone can start the series on book 3 and not be left out of the action. In an adult series the reader would be left without some information, but kids aren’t necessarily skilled readers yet, and so they need help “filling in the blanks.”

I was also bored by the quiddich matches though. I mostly skimmed them. And I was even more bored by them in the movies, except the first one where the special effects were new. But many boys like sports, and the danger and roughness of quiddich is a little like rugby. Rowling does something that I find very clever in this series. Boys tend to like to read books with multiple characters, where you get to know each one a bit, while girls tend to prefer books where you get to know one character very well. (I like both, so I guess that proves once again I was a tomboy.) So by structuring her books to give us a partial view of everyone’s character and character development, she keeps the girls interested. The romance also keeps the girls interested. By having adventures and multiple characters, she keeps the boys interested. Her books follow the British tradition of boarding school adventures like The Famous Five series and The Secret Seven series, both by Enid Blyton. I grew up reading those and that is part of why I love the Harry Potter books and also C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

I never heard this idea of Ariana being raped. I think you’re right, but now I gotta reread Book 7 with that thought in mind.

And I also agree that anything that pulls kids away from the Wii or other addictive video games is great. Kids read this so they can be up on it to talk with their friends at school and I think that’s a triumph.