A Mind That Suits
What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.
Friday, July 20, 2007 :::
What a great, fat lot of wholesome fun!
What grand, joyous silliness!
To what is A Mind That Suits referring?
If you feel like asking that, then a certain pudgy, balding English teacher must ask in turn if you are a hermit.
For he comes not to buy J.K Rawling, but to praise her.
The buying part will take place tomorrow, at the Borders in bustling Silver Spring, Maryland, whose staff will at that point be completely uninterested in the feelings of anyone there for the latest and last Harry Potter novel.
The store will of course have been open since midnight, but age will prevent A Mind That Suits from really partaking in the revelries. He will be there for perhaps two hours prior to opening to take it all in, he will wait to see if he won the raffle at 11:30 for one of the first ten places in line, he will wait for the whoop that accompanies the official opening, and he will probably then head home, because he will probably have lost the raffle.
But now, for the praising.
What a grand accomplishment.
We are not going to quibble here over prose style, because J.K. Rowling deliberately went for a quick-paced, action-packed narrative. But it is still a fine prose style, one that will teach many youngsters how to think about language.
And what a lot of youngsters have learned about language from her, although a recent study indicated that kids are still reading less. One suspects that many of the minority of kids who are reading more, are doing so because of J.K Rowling. One suspects that there are kids who only read J.K Rowling.
But the sprightly language did allow Ms. Rowling to do one very wonderful thing.
Our unhinged society, for once, is unhinged about an author who teaches young people the very sharp line between good and bad. There is no ambiguity here. One is reminded of Galadriel’s comment, to Samwise Gamgee, that he used “magic” to describe both things that were good and things that were bad. As in Middle Earth, even most of the spells and wizardry in the world of Harry Potter seem to be divided between things that do good and things that do bad. Most certainly, there is no ambiguity about which side any wizard should be on, no matter what tools he employs.
Within that world of good and bad, we have real people, battling to do their best, or overcome by temptation to do their worst.
Weren’t we talking about wizards?
Here it may be wise to quote the great Dr. Johnson’s Preface on Shakespeare:
“Shakespeare is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirrour of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate but upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets a character is too often an individual; in those of Shakespeare it is commonly a species.”
Just so. J.K Rowling created a fantastic world in which we may observe how real humans behave.
Consider just the three main protagonists.
There’s doofy Ron, who never once thinks about what he should be doing, but, when called upon to do it, nearly always delivers. (Let’s expand that to his entire family, the Weasleys, who do their disorganized best, especially the parents, who always support their children. It remains to be seen—we will all see at midnight tonight—just how many of the children repay that love.)
Then there’s Hermione, so pompous and interfering and completely unaware of how often she goofs up, but who is so desperate to do the very best she can for everyone she loves.
Above all, there’s Harry himself, upon whom a very great burden has been placed at a very young age. We always sympathize with him, but there is a lot wrong with him. Most particularly, he lies continuously and almost always without apology. His hostile friend (or deepest foe?) Severus Snape points this out just as continuously.
This is the normal way with boys. Because so much can go so wrong with them, the adults around them nearly always overreact. Harry learns this early, so his answer to nearly every query from concerned adults is, “Oh, nothing much is going on.”
Actually, that’s what nearly every boy says. As with Everyboy, about half the time, this lands Harry in a lot more trouble than would have happened if he had just fessed up. But boys don’t just fess up. Yet they often do they best they can, and that is what Harry always seems to be doing. Harry Potter may be the best fictional representation of a real actual boy since Tom Sawyer. (Huckleberry Finn of course suggest himself, but he is too particular, although he is also very real.)
So just what is it that A Mind That Suits so loves about Harry?
For the answer to that, we must look back to the origins of the whole business.
As everyone knows, Ms. Rowling wrote the first novel when she was a single mother on welfare in Scotland. She waited until her young daughter went to sleep, then snuck downstairs to an all- night café and scribbled out longhand Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone. (In the US, it is “Sorcerer’s Stone.”) She thereby probably violated perhaps every child welfare law on the books, or at least would have in the States. We will get back to that daughter's welfare in a moment.
In the overall world of popular culture, no single work may have been so brilliantly written, because it so obviously had an audience of one.
As a certain pudgy, balding English teacher commented after finishing it, to the valued friend who introduced him to the World of Hogwarts, in the typical Steven Spielberg “lonely boy” film, an utterly normal lonely boy takes on all the evil in the world and vanquishes it. To give the lonely boy actual supernatural powers seems like weighting the scales.
And so, after the first book enjoyed the kind of success that Steven Spielberg movies so deservedly enjoy, the very greatest film director of all time was left with something of a dilemma: “Do I do this wonderful story, so very like other stories that I have done, or do I move on?”
The Washington Post, in the complicated aftermath, ran a lengthy story on what happened when Atlas Shrugged, or, more particularly, when the mighty Steven decided that he no longer made that kind of film. (Now that one thinks of it, moving the mighty Steven on to AI, Minority Report, and Catch Me If You Can should be added to Ms. Rowling’s considerable accomplishments.)
When Mr. Spielberg said no, Chris Columbus, of course, got the job, which meant he didn’t take this other job, which then somebody else took, and on and on down the whole ranks of Hollywood. A Mind That Suits commented to that same valued friend that it was probably the first time in 10 years the Washington Post had run an article on something the average American actually cared about.
So just what is it that A Mind That Suits finds himself feeling as the whole thing rings down to a glorious end?
Ms. Rowling once commented that she loved America. She cited as a reason a personal appearance at the Tower Records in Manhattan. (RIP, Tower Records, but that is another story.) At one point, this woman grabbed her hand enthusiastically and proclaimed loudly, “I am so glad that you are so rich.” In Britain, Ms. Rowling dryly noted, we don’t say those kinds of things.
So let’s add it all up: the books that got millions of youngsters reading, the moral lessons they have been taught, the brilliant characters, the wild imagination, the wonderful films, all done under her watchful eye. What makes him happy?
Here, a certain pudgy, balding English teacher will reveal himself to be an American.
J.K Rowling: single mother on welfare to happily married billionairess. How well did she take care of that daughter?
When it comes right down to it, A Mind That Suits is so glad that J.K Rowling is so rich.
::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 6:51 PM