Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More Harry Potter

I should be speculating on whom Bush will nominate to a perch among the Supremes but I don't want to. Though it might be Edith Jones if he has felt especially bad yearnings towards the bottle.

But let's talk about something more pleasant. I went out on Sunday night and bought all the Harry Potter books except for the latest one, and I have now read books 2-4 in addition to the first one I read years ago. I have to eat some of my earlier comments: The ideas about class and race do become more complicated and more interesting, and the black-and-whiteness of the thinking more realistic. And Rowling is very skilled in the way she shows the slow effects of more years on the main characters' world views. Not bad, at all, though reading all those books in a day or so (well, during the nights, actually) has left me a little muddled on the plot lines.

There are some fairly serious gaps in the plots, though. This isn't necessarily as bad as it might be in a different type of book because we are expected to suspend our disbelief about magic and so on to begin with. But the little slips are still annoying, and they affect the background, too. For example, the whole idea of Muggle technology being banned doesn't extend to anything older like newspapers or photographs or listening to the wireless, it seems, and it is not yet clear (at the end of book 4) what the wizards largely live on. The only employment seems to be the Ministry of Wizardry, but Harry's parents didn't work for it or did they? Where does all the gold in the goblin vaults come from? Alternatively, why don't the wizards just conjure everything they need, why is there money at all or servants? Perhaps these omissions are because children and teenagers don't care about the source of money or who makes their beds; they just want more money from their parents, usually, and someone else to make the beds, but as an economist goddess I'd like to know.

I've gone all critical again, and should add that I'm quite enjoying the books. But they don't have the same effect on me as Ursula LeGuin's series does, say. The kind of effect where your emotions, intellect and the spiritual bits get all going at the same time and transport you into some other place for a while. Or Sheri Tepper's The True Game and the other books relating to that field of chess pieces. Or Tolkien's books. Still, if lots of children read Harry Potter Rowling has succeeded in something very important, and I sincerely applaud her achievement. Though she could have made book 5 a little thinner. It will fall apart in the bath tonight, I fear.