I’m just wild about Harry!

The wife and I took our three munchkins to the bookstore at midnight to buy the last Harry Potter book. I figured that such an event would never come again in our lifetimes, since there has been a social phenomenon nothing like the Potter books in our lifetimes. I have heard of fans lining up at movies or rock concerts at midnight to see a show, but who ever heard of such furious delight over a mere book?

For those of you who were ten years old in 1997, when HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE came out, and who are now 20-year-olds, this series has been with you your whole reading life. Now it concludes.

My wife and I read aloud to each other, and so we spent the whole weekend curled up with HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. We were afraid to go out of the house, for fear any of the surprises would be spoiled.

Our fears were not without merit. On the day, for example, when HARRY POTTER AND THE HALFBLOOD PRINCE came out, I was at the barbers getting my beard shaved. The barber had tucked a cloth over my arms so that I could not raise my hands, for example, to plug my ears. The television was tuned to MTV. Instead of showing us videos of halfclad starlets singing rock songs, as they ought, MTV decided to run a ‘new’ piece where a giggling blond simply screamed out the surprises in that book amid gales of laughter. It was deliberately meant to ruin things for anyone who happened to overhear: I overheard, because I had no choice. There has been enmity between MTV and the Wright Household since that day, between their seed and my seed.

I notice, by the way, that even reviews with no spoilers contain spoilers. For example, the mere fact that I knew THE SIXTH SENSE had a surprise twist ending allowed me to figure out the surprise, which I would not have otherwise. So you cannot even say whether you liked the book or where disappointed, because that will tell readers what to expect.

However I will make one or two comments about the book, which I will hide beneath the cut.


First, I do not think Rowling is a great writer, but I do think she is a good craftsman: her plots are not cobbled together haphazardly like, say, those of Heinlein. She tells a solid, entertaining, rousing tale. Her character development is better than what you will read in most juveniles and even in most grown-up fiction: Lord Voldemort, unlike Sauron, has an understandable human motive for his cruel acts. Even Albus Dumbledore is human, warts and all, in a way that, or example, Gandalf is not.

The people who claim the Harry Potter is some sort of diabolical trick to teach our young children magic maintain an absurd claim. Rowling’s message of her book is Biblical in its moral code and flavor. It reflects the morals of Christendom in just the same fashion that, for example, WIZARD OF EARTHSEA reflects the approach of Taoism. The last chapter could be called THE PASSION OF POTTER, and the only way to make the Christian symbolism and message any clearer would be to have Aslan and Queen Lucy of Narnia show up.

Potter even offers his enemy a chance for remorse repentance before the end: which is more than Frodo gives Sauron, and a darn sight more than Professor Ransom gives the Un-Man Weston on Venus.

If Christians reject Harry Potter on the grounds that it contains good wizards and witches, by that same logic, they would have to also reject THE WIZARD OF OZ (which contains Glinda), THE LORD OF THE RINGS (Gandalf), THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (Ramandu), BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (Eglantine Price) KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (Kiki) any true version of the King Arthur story (Merlin), any true version of tales of the paladin of Charlemagne (Malagigi), or, for that matter, CINDERELLA or MARY POPPINS or PETER PAN (Fairy Godmother, Tinkerbelle). Basically, if Christians snub potter for its alleged occultism, they might as well snub nearly all of children’s literature and fairy tales, and give up on the Inklings.

Does Harry live or does he die? If he does die, does he stay dead? (in a fantasy story or superhero comic, you have to ask that question). I shall not say. You will have to read the book.

I will say only that certain of my misgivings that I entertained at the end of the penultimate book were satisfied and resolved in this one.

But I will also say this: do not expect Gandalf to pop out of the ground again like he does in Tolkien. The villain in Rowling is a villain because he seeks to use magic to overcome death and win immortality. The entire moral point of the tale would be undercut if someone like Dumbledore used the Philosopher’s Stone return as an undead, like Gandalf the White.

(Oh, come on! Of course Mithrandir is an undead! So is the Dread Pirate Wesley in THE PRINCESS BRIDE. For that matter, so is Klaatu in DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. I am still waiting for Hugh Jackman and Sarah Michelle Gellar to jump out of a bush and impale them on stakes.)

I will say also that the British certainly know how to write what it feels like when a society is taken over by the Nazis or other forces of Darkness. Many a scene in DEATHLY HALLOWS reminded me of the scouring of the Shire; or of the scenes where the National Institute of Coordinated Experimentation took over the college and village of Bracton; or the pigs taking over the Animal Farm. At each step, the characters say to each other: “Surely no one will let this go a step further” and, surely, no one ever does.

Of all the exaggerations and humor in the book, my only objection was the way yellow journalism was portrayed. I used to be a journalist. It is MUCH MUCH WORSE than what Rowling intimates here. Rita Skeeter is par for the course.