A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003 :::
Wild About Harry. A Mind That Suits was introduced to Harry Potter by a friend when Goblet of Fire came out a few years ago, and instantly became addicted. At a Costco shortly thereafter, he spotted the first three, and snapped them up. This time around, A Mind That Suits was going to resist Harry mania, as part of keeping a year long commitment to no longer buying books on a whim. A whim, indisputably, is what motivated him to hop off the Metro yesterday where he knew there was a bookstore that was likely to still have copies. He knew that he was probably not wasting his time by doing intensive research, i.e., he asked some random kid on the subway where he got his.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is simply superb. The first 100 pages make the 800+ pages hardly seem long enough...one just wants it to go on and on and on. The magic is well-handled, though there is a Stephen King-ish quality to it, where new things pop up as plot devices or atmosphere, and not as part of a systematic whole. It is not an incoherent world, however, not by a long shot, and, unlike Stephen King's, this magical world is building. I am sure that geeks the world over are providing enough "back story" on their websites to satisfy the curious, and JK Rowling is inventive enough to keep them on their toes.

As for the alternative society she has created, here, Rowlings has triumphed. One feels completely at home, and the healthy and unhealthy parts of the society all ring true. As with all intelligently written children's literature, the world of the wizards mirrors the real world, and allows young minds to chew on real problems. Although her leftish sympathies are clear enough, Rowlings is also highly critical of government agencies, as befits a former victim of the welfare state. The story is, if A Mind That Suits recalls correctly, that she left her sleeping child upstairs in their apartment while she went down to the coffeeshop on the ground floor and wrote longhand into the night. One wonders what her caseworkers would have thought if they found out, and she had to prove she was actually being as responsible a parent as she could be. One has no doubt that at least one of them, when reading about what a success she has become, mainly noticed her behavior while on welfare.

As a perceptive Washington Post review noted, Harry has become a very believable teenager, and it is here that A Mind That Suits, who deals with teenage boys all the time, finds himself exulting. For Harry is a complete teenager: he feels the power of his mind and body, he has acquired quite a snarly mouth, and he has perfected his habit of lying to an art. Rawlings herself pointed out what a liar he is in interviews for Goblet of Fire, and she is quite right. It's not nasty lying, it's normal boy lying: adults so overreact to normal teenage male impulses, and are so concerned to prevent them from handling their own problems, that they quickly develop an "everything's all right" demeanor. It's part of the frustration of being fully aware as an adult but not fully formed as one. "I'm not a child," Harry is raging inside as adults decide what he can and cannot know, and yet when he is confronted with some startling facts of about his God-father's family he stammers incoherently.

Indeed, here is where Rawlings parts company with nanny-state expectations: her characters are all quite rounded, and are most emphatically not walking personfications of virtues and vices to edify young minds. These wizards are all people, if you will. Most importantly, the men are men and display frankly masculine traits; the women are highly feminine, if most of them are powerful; and the boys and girls are all, well, boys and girls, not undifferentiated "young people." And there are fully formed villains and heroes in both sexes. There is simply no doubting that our activist-infected culture teaches boys from the earliest age that they are scum, and you can be sure that millions of angry boys have locked their doors so they can dwell in a world where they are welcome, undisturbed by the angry scolds who normally surround them.

A Mind That Suits would rather be reading Harry than talking about him, so he will sign off now. Two years until the next one, huh? A Mind That Suits feels like a teenager longing for graduation...

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 10:24 AM



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What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

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