Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Potter Blog

I read Harry Potter 7 a week and a half ago, in one sitting. It was a fast reading, the way I approach most Potter books. You know, you wait for years wondering what will happen next, and finally when you get the chance, you go full tilt. At the end, instead of thinking, "Is that all there is?", you are in agony that the next volume won't be out in years.

If you don't learn anything from actually reading Harry Potter, at least you experience the lessons of long term gratification versus short term gratification. Americans that we are, we don't like having to wait for anything. J.K. Rowling makes the wait worth it. J.K. Rowling is cool that way.

Before I read "Deathly Hallows", I waited two extra days to buy it until I had a full day off. I knew once I had a copy, it would be hard for me to not to read it nonstop. I read a lot, but I am only this way with Potter books. I usually read several books at once, sort of sampling a few chapters in one book and then switching to another completely different. Or, sometimes, I read several books dealing with the same theme. Often, I like to rent DVD's the same way.

And what do I think about Rowling's latest? I don't know. I'm still processing it.

A girl at work is very conservative. She doesn't even wear pants--skirts always. When I told her that I was planning to read the new Potter on my day off, she asked me a question she already knew the answer to about Harry's occupation, and shared how uncomfortable she was with reading about magic, even as a fantasy. I respect that. And it really put a damper on my enjoyment of the books, questioning why I chose to read them.

Initially, I started to read them because so many of the younger people that I work with love them. Sometimes, they are a jumping off point to talk about spiritual things, or even moral things. Already, I spoke with a co-worker about The Chronicles of Narnia, which she never read and I offered to share the DVD with her. Another co-worker is an atheist, and we talked about the latest movie and my discomfort at watching adults trying to kill teenaged students. He has a lot in common with my conservative co-worker, his moral compass is just as finely tuned as hers. He doesn't like the violence in Harry Potter, especially scenes where children are targets for murder, Cedric dying in The Order of Phoenix totally turned him off, as well as kids playing life threatening nonsensical games on flying broomsticks. And he didn't like kids breaking rules and being rewarded for it. He just isn't entertained.

Which all were good conversations I never would have had without talking about Harry Potter.

But the reason I like to read them is because, as you might have guessed already, Severus Snape intrigues me. Obviously, he packs around a lot of emotional baggage, and his treatment of Harry gives away that he's damaged goods. After he killed Dumbledore, I really wanted to know if there was any way Rowling could redeem him, convincingly. I wanted to know what keeps abused people from perpetuating the abuse. I wanted to know if Rowling believes that there was hope for the redemption of Snapes in the real world. Rowling's message in that regard, is that it comes at high prices. My question has been, was Snape willing to pay the price? And to my surprise, The Deathly Hallows reveals that Dumbledore and Snape had a lot in common.

Has J.K. Rowling really written something that will be worth reading and re-reading years beyond today? After all the questionable violence, open hatred and spell casting? I think J.K. Rowling set the bar higher for children's literature--that she understands kids a lot better than most of us. She knows that they are seeing the real frightening, abusive world as it really is, no matter how much adults try to protect them from it. And for every loved child who experiences protection from the world's harshest realities, there are thousands who are the victims of those same harsh realities. It would be good, I think, for them to know from the examples set in Rowling's books that it is possible to forgive those who hurt you, and even love when love is not given in return. Perhaps then, the Gospel message would seem familiar to them, and they would welcome it? If the price to pay is to invent magic as a fantasy, is it too high a price? Is it too high a price to sacrifice beloved characters to grisly deaths, and subject the story's hero to it over and over again? Rowling doesn't seem to think so. And I think she's cool that way.

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