Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finally, the mail was delivered!

And in with the Christmas cards, a few bills and ads that are now out of date, I received my copy of Harry Potter and Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds, by Travis Prinzi. The delay was due to our nasty weather. The Postal Service decided that they would not put anyone at risk delivering mail - for all of this week, as it turned out - by eliminating anyone who lives on a hill. Well, their concern is laudable, but they really should have sent someone out after the first day or so to see if the hills were still too dangerous. Ours had been sanded and was perfectly easy for everyone to negotiate, even some of the drivers who, just days before, constantly proved to the world that they had no idea how to drive on snow and ice. So if they could do it, then certainly the mail carriers could have managed. It was a bit irritating to know that there should be mail in the box, but there was none, and no announcement that they weren't delivering any. It just didn't show up. At least Metro got the word out to the press that the bus schedules were changed, and the waste disposal companies did the same. The Post Office, however, just let us all make daily trips across the street to the empty mail box.

I suppose the reason it was so annoying to me was really because I know that my book had actually made it to the bulk station in town and was just waiting to be delivered. It was that close. So now I have it, and have started reading.

And with that, I'll have the last cup of tea and another piece of pumpkin pie while I read just a little more before going to bed.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Harry Potter and Imagination, by Travis Prinzi

I've been looking forward to reading Travis's book for a while now. Travis Prinzi is from The Hog's Head. Just as with Hogwart's (John Granger's site), the Hog's Head is always a place with interesting discussions. I ordered my book over a month ago, and just last week received an email that it will ship soon, or has been shipped. With all the snow we've had, I'm afraid it might be delayed, but I'm looking forward to reading it when it does finally arrive on my doorstep.

Even before I've read it, this is a book that will be well worth adding to your Harry Potter book shelf, or shelves, in my case.

Give yourself or a friend a great Christmas gift, and buy Harry Potter and Imagination, by Travis Prinzi.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling

I rushed to my local Barnes and Noble when the release date was first announced. As has happened before, I was seemingly the first person to ask about reserving copies - they had to find someone to find out about the book. So, last Thursday, I picked up my copies. I've since been reading each fairy tale with its Dumbledore commentary, one at a time, much as I would if reading any book of fairy tales. And I'm quite enjoying it.

They are like the old familiar fairy tales, but different. There is a point to them all - a moral, which Rowling now seems more comfortable admitting. But they also have her quirky sense of humor that is evident - well, not so much in "The Hairy Heart". That is the one that just doesn't have much joy in it - but a moral nonetheless.

And as usual, I love her use of the English language. That was one of the first things I enjoyed when I read my very first Harry Potter book back in 1999. Even in these fairy tales, I don't feel that Rowling dumbs down language. She seems to assume that the reader, no matter what age, is intelligent enough to know the words she uses, or will ask or look in the dictionary for a definition. That's something that has been missing from children's literature far too long, and I was so happy to find someone who respects her own intellect and that of her readers.

So, I may come back to say more later, but right now I need to put the Christmas lights on the bushes in the front yard. Terry did his part by getting the ones on the eaves up yesterday, so it's now my turn. And I'd better get busy or I'll be doing it in the rain and the dark like I did last year.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Almost November, thank goodness for that!

It seems that politics and the current election have taken over my life. I watch it and read blogs, when I'm not watching it. I am now much more familiar with all the political pundits than I ever hoped to be. I don't like politics. I found it interesting when I was younger and there were people like John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., to listen to. And we all know how that ended. What has followed were too many years with the Republicans in power telling us that we should only be concerned about ourselves, shouldn't trust anyone else in the world because they are evil. . .

Hmmm, so much of that has a familiar ring to it. Where have I heard all that recently? Oh, now I remember - from the books that inspired this blog in the first place, Harry Potter. The dire warnings about "us" and "them" that the divisive campaign run by the Republicans are the same sort of thing that came from Cornelius Fudge, Rufus Scrimgeour (though he did turn out to have some honor), and Dolores Umbridge.

One of the things that Rowling did when she wrote Harry Potter (all the books), was to raise the awareness in people of all ages, but especially the young, that it is dangerous to blindly follow leaders without thinking for yourself. Study the issues, listen to both sides, read whatever you can to be informed. The fictional characters that did that in Harry Potter realized that the current Ministry of Magic was corrupt, had their own narrow agenda, and didn't have a clue how to fight the evil that threatened them all. They weren't willing to look beyond the end of their own wands, so to speak. It doesn't take much to see that the same applies to the current US administration. Rather than looking for real solutions to problems, the ones currently in power resort to fear mongering and flat out lying about anyone who is not "with us".

What we are now seeing is the last desperate effort of the Republicans to sway those undecided voters by playing on people's fears for the economy, especially. Don't be fooled by anything they say at this point. McCain and Palin haven't had anything consistent to say on their own behalf. Obama and Biden have the clear vision of what it will take to pull our country out of the mess that we are in.

If you are a US citizen, please VOTE on November 4. Terry and I already have voted, by absentee ballot. Now it's just a matter of waiting for November 5 to see if Americans have the common sense that I give them credit for having.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Banned Books Week

I always love this week out of the year. It is the ALA's Banned Books Week. It's not that I love the fact that so many books have been challenged or banned, it's just that I love the focus on so many books, books that should be available to everyone, that happens because of Banned Books Week.

I actually bought one of the American Library Assn. READ posters a few years ago, when Alan Rickman posed with a banned/challenged book. As it turned out, the book he is holding is Catcher in the Rye, which I have read. I didn't like it - at all. I read it in high school because so many people were talking about it. It's not one that I will read again, but I'm glad I read it for myself. And more than that, I'm thankful that I had a mom who encouraged me to read all the time. I'm also thankful that I was able to check out that particular book from my high school library. I didn't have to buy it or search for it. It was there, on the shelf, waiting.

I understand the point of having some guidelines for elementary schools, but mostly because there are books that just aren't age appropriate for six to eleven year olds. There are plenty of books they could be reading that would be a better choice than something like Catcher in the Rye. But the important thing is that books are available for those who want to read them, without someone or some group deciding for the students, young or older, or for adults, that a book shouldn't even be available.

I started reading Harry Potter in 1999, when I read a news article that talked about the growing group of parents who wanted to ban the books. So, of course, I went to the book store that day and bought the first book. Before I even finished reading it, I had returned to buy the second and third books. I was hooked. But more than that, I could honestly say to someone who didn't like Harry Potter that they should read the books for themselves before deciding they weren't good for children to read. I never talked to anyone who disliked the books and wanted them banned or even restricted who had actually read any of them.

And that is what people lose sight of when they start talking of banning books. They fail to see that a book they don't like (usually haven't read), might have something that will make it just the right book for someone else. If they don't want to read a book, or don't want their children to read a book, that's a family issue and choice. But their choice shouldn't influence whether or not other families chose something different.

It's not just about Harry Potter though. I always enjoy looking at the list of banned or challenged books and seeing just how many I have read, or that at least I've heard about them and thought I would pick them up some day.

If you are looking for a list of books to read, the Banned Books list is an interesting place to start.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Have I forgotten Harry?

Hardly. I've finished reading Deathly Hallows again, and find that I like it better each time through. I've rewatched "Order of the Phoenix" several times as it was on HBO a lot in August. I liked that as a movie, but I kept waiting for Fawkes to swoop in and swallow up the snake attacking in the Ministry battle. Of course, Hollywood can't seem to bring themselves to include the very Christian elements of any of the books, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it was left out.

I was unhappy, like many fans, that Warner Brothers pushed the release of "Half-Blood Prince: movie to next summer. But having recently read some of the reviews of the early screenings, maybe that's not such a disappointment after all. It seems that it would allow them to fix the things that are wrong or decide to include the things omitted, such as Dumbledore's funeral. But since they are starting to shoot the next installment in February, I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

And I've been reading. I started reading John Granger's book, How Harry Cast His Spell, which is great. But then I got his other book (that apparently is being redone for release later), The Deathly Hallows Lectures. Also great. I've decided to finish that first. One of the books that John has mentioned more than once is Dante's Divine Comedy, which I might have read a portion of in high school, but certainly not the whole thing. I was in Barnes and Noble and saw one of their copies of it and decided it was time to add that to my library. The one that I have is a translation by Longfellow with the illustrations by Gustave Dore. It's a slow read, but I don't think it's the sort of book to race through, so I'm reading it in smaller sections, one canto per read at the most.

I'm looking forward to, and have already reserved, the 10 Anniversary edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in September and The Tales of Beedle the Bard in December. Sometimes this fall, Travis Prinzi's book will be out, and I'll probably buy the one by Melissa Anelli from The Leaky Cauldron, a look at how the fandom of Harry Potter happened.

And in the meantime, we are preparing for a trip to the east coast this fall to Virginia. I'll finally get to see many of those historical sites that used to consume all my interest. So in addition to reading all about Harry, I'm trying to brush up on American history, which I've ignored for a number of years.

And we have choir starting again - really starting with a rehearsal every week and singing at least three Sundays a month. I'm quite happy about that but it does fill up my schedule. The adult Bible study classes begin this evening. I'll be continuing the one that I've been in for the last several years. It's a precepts study that started with Genesis and we've been working out way through the Old Testament. Having finished 2 Samuel last spring, we are ready for Kings and Chronicles.

Fall has turned out to be very busy at our house, so I haven't been blogging here much, though I've added some things to my other one, Eeyore's Ramblings, about the fan reactions to the HBP movie delay and about church. I have some photo work to do, a short "movie" from our church's last Guatemala trip, actually printing the photos from our April trip to Walt Disney World, the photos we will take in Virginia, Thanksgiving at our house. . .

Can we just skip to December? Things might be a little calmer by then. Oh, wait, no they won't. What am I thinking?

My point is, that it isn't likely that I will update here any more frequently than I have been. But I do check other Harry Potter blogs, and other friend's blogs every day, sometimes with a comment, but sometimes not.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, Neville, Harry and Jo

I'm a day late for wishing Neville a Happy Birthday and almost too late to wish one for Harry and Jo, but here it is, better late than never.

I saw the Happy Birthday posted yesterday on Rowling's official site for Neville and was reminded that he is one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. He was the one who was bumbling in the first book and seemed to be only there for comic relief, perhaps to make the real heroes look even better. Much to Harry's credit, he didn't belittle Neville, even when others laughed at his misfortunes; Neville was constantly losing his toad, Trevor, falling from his broomstick, receiving a remembrall from his formidable Gran because of his unfortunate tendency to forget just about everything, and was more intimidated by Severus Snape than any other student even when Snape wasn't singling him out for ineptitude.

But even when Neville seemed to be slowing down the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, he was a true and faithful friend, always supportive and always trying to do the right thing. We had no idea just how much of a friend he would be until the last book when Neville, as many of us had hoped, finally showed, in the strongest way, that he was indeed a true Gryffindor, properly placed in the house for those who are brave and courageous. To stand up to your friends takes a special kind of courage, as we saw in the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Over time we saw Neville continue to stand up to his friends, but more often, he was standing up for them, especially for Harry. We began to see that Neville was willing to stand up against the evil that threatened Harry in Order of the Phoenix, encouraging Harry to resist giving in to Lucius Malfoy at the Department of Mysteries. That was a courage that none would have suspected from the meek Neville we first met when he was frantically searching the Hogwarts Express for Trevor, with Hermione's help. By the end of Half-Blood Prince, we could see that Neville was loyal, not only willing to help, but also willing to fight, when he and Luna joined in the battle at the end.

The best, however, was learning what Neville had been doing all during their seventh year at Hogwarts, while Harry, Ron and Hermione were on the run and Horcrux hunting, and it was a fantastic surprise. There was Neville, fighting against the evil that pervaded Hogwarts and the wizarding world, spilling over into the Muggle one, in Deathly Hallows, with a courage beyond what any of us might have imagined for him. And at last, he faced the greatest evil of all, Lord Voldemort, and proved once and for all that he had what was needed to survive and to win the battle.

So, in many ways, Neville is my favorite character. He went far beyond what I expected. After all, I had no doubt that Harry, the hero, would survive--well, at least until he defeated Voldemort. And I suspected that if Harry made it through, that Ron and Hermione would as well. At least, that was what I hoped. So in making a list of who might not live, the trio wasn't really on the list, but Neville was. And I was so happy that he not only lived but lived well and heroically. Best surprise of the final book, actually. (There were certainly some sad ones, but this isn't the place for them.)

And then, of course, Happy Birthday to Harry Potter and his creator, Jo Rowling. I'm so glad that we can still wish Harry a Happy Birthday, and that he finally found a happy family life, something that he so clearly wanted and needed for most of his young life.

I remember reading this post last year after my first reading of Deathly Hallows, and I was pleased to see that Beth has posted it in honor of Harry's and Jo's birthdays. So go here, read and enjoy her insightful reflections. Having recently finished reading all seven books in a row, with only a few sidetracks for other books, I really did appreciate remembering how I felt last summer about this time after devouring and then re-reading the last Harry Potter book.

This kind of answers the question that many were discussing earlier--how did I celebrate the one year anniversary of the last book of my favorite book series. I celebrated by doing what I've been doing for the last nine years, by reading and listening to Harry Potter. Again and again, and probably something that I will continue to do, even as I read and listen to all kinds of other books. The Harry Potter books, and especially the last one, will always hold a special place on my book shelf--and a special place in my heart.

So, thanks, Jo Rowling, and Happy Birthday to you and to Harry.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Seven Books, One Story

I have been re-reading all the Harry Potter books in order and had hoped to post some of my thoughts as I read through them. My books all look like the Half-Blood Princes's copy of Advanced Potions, with notes in the margins and in the end pages of each book. However, just as I did when I first read each book, I was too engrossed in the story (and too undisciplined) to take the time to write it all out.

I'm now about half-way through the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm still jotting more notes to add to the ones I made the first two or three times I read the book. And I have yet to post anything about my observations.

The thing that I have noticed the most is that the planning for all the important (and even some of the not terribly important) details was all in the books from the first all the way through. Deathly Hallows is filled, as was Half-Blood Prince, with echos of all the preceding books and foreshadowing of the end of the tale.

Sometimes a story loses its impact on re-reading. But, for me, Harry Potter just takes on more richness and meaning each time I read it. Even though I know how everything turns out, I still find that I'm drawn into the story and can't wait to find out how they will solve the next problem or get out of their current sticky mess. And with each reading, I find little details that I didn't see before.

For example, when Harry, Ron and Hermione finally are able to listen to Potterwatch and hear the twins' friend Lee Jordan talking, his code name is River, as in the Jordan River? Nice touch, that one, as it lets those who see it make that analogy of the ones doing Potterwatch (Lee, Remus, Kingsley, Fred) wandering in the wilderness and waiting for the right time to cross the river--to return to the place where they should be, while the trio also wanders in the wilderness. Yes, it's a stretch, but it's that sort of subtlety that I enjoy so much when I read the Harry Potter books.

I'll add more later, but not for a few days. I'll have to wait till the trio escapes from Malfoy Manner, and I know what comes after that one.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Death as a theme in Harry Potter

I'm most of the way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I've been meaning to post a few thoughts as I read, but that hasn't happened.

But I do want to post some of my thoughts about one of Rowling's most recent comments that the series has the main theme of death. In many ways, I understand what she is saying, but it seems to me that it's so much more than just death. In having Harry deal with death from the very beginning, we see that he understands it differently as he gets older. He also comes to understand death differently each time he is confronted with the death of someone else.

There was the senseless and cruel killing of his parents when he was a baby. But he didn't really know his parents, so the loss is one of possibilities never realized. It's the sort of thing that we experience as we try to imagine what life would have been like had our grandparents, aunts or uncles, or in some cases, a parent, lived. We long for, as did Harry, something that we should have had but cannot recapture, no matter how hard we try.

For me, it was the realization that my father, who died when I was not quite eleven years old, would not be there for my first date, first dance, high school graduation, college, marriage, children. . . all those things that a child takes for granted. It was also the realization, at some point, that even though I was old enough to remember my dad, I was not old enough to really know who he was as a person. So the loss of a parent in childhood is very different than the loss of a parent when we are adults. I very keenly feel the loss of my mother, who was part of my life until I was in my 40s. My image of her changed from being just my mom to being a delightful, sometimes frustrating, always complex woman, one whom I admired deeply even when we disagreed on rare occasions.

But back to Harry. In each of the books, he does deal with death. In the first one, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, he sees the unicorn that has been killed for evil purposes. It's not the death of a person, but the death of something described as pure and innocent. In a sense, that is the beginning of the death of Harry's own innocence. It's his realization that there is someone intent on killing him--not easy for anyone, but especially not an easy concept for an 11 year old. By books end, he has already decided that he is willing to sacrifice himself to prevent Voldemort from regaining power. The result is the death (though Harry does not see it), of Quirrell after Voldemort had no further use for him.

The second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and the rest of the school are threatened with death throughout, with Harry hearing a disembodied voice saying it wants to kill, and in a vicious way. Saying it wants to "rip, tear, and kill" wouldn't exactly make for sweet peaceful dreams. It's a wonder Harry got any sleep that year.

The threatened death (of Ginny) doesn't happen, but only because Harry and Ron figured out where to go to try to rescue her. The help they received in learning of her whereabouts was from Myrtle, who had been killed by the Basilisk fifty years before. Harry comes very near losing his own life once he finds Ginny and the memory of Tom Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets. But he is saved from death when he shows his loyalty to Dumbledore and asks for help, a prayer, uttered in desperation:

Help me--help me--Harry thought, his eyes screwed tight under the hat. Please help me--[COS, p. 319]

Harry's plea is answered, though not in any way he might have expected. (Just as our own prayers are sometimes answered in unexpected ways, I might add.) Inside the Sorting Hat, the Sword of Gryffindor appears. He is still not safe from death. It's only after the Basilisk has been blinded by Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, that Harry manages to kill the Basilisk. In the process, Harry's arm is pierced by a Basilisk fang, and Riddle tells him that it was all for naught; Harry will soon be dead, his mother's sacrifice having bought him only a little time. After pulling the fang from his injured arm, Harry sees Fawkes once again, Fawkes with his healing tears. Fawkes once again guides Harry by dropping the diary in his lap, and Harry stabs the "heart of the book" with the basilisk fang, ending the threat of the memory of Tom Riddle. If we had not realized before just how special Harry is, we should see it now. At age twelve Harry chose to act to prevent the death of his friends by risking his own life--not the ordinary choice for a twelve year old or for many adults either.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book has Harry facing death in almost a more theoretical way. He is haunted throughout the book by the voices of his parents as they are killed whenever a dementor comes near him. Harry, Ron and Hermione are horrified as they hear the executioner kill Buckbeak, the hippogriff.

But in the process, Harry comes face to face with the person he believes is responsible for betraying his parents to Voldemort. In learning the truth, he spares Pettigrew's life, the real betrayer, not for the sake of Pettigrew himself, but to prevent his father's best friends from committing murder. It's in this book that Rowling begins to have Harry learn the meaning of the soul, the purity of the soul and the importance of that purity and innocence. What happens to a person who is "soul-less". It's an existence, according to Remus Lupin, that is worse than death. Without the soul, a person's body continues on, but the very essence of the person is gone.

Dumbledore told Harry in his first year that there were things worse than death, but for an eleven, twelve, or thirteen year old that's hard to imagine, as he looks forward to the rest of his life. So for the first time, Harry has to grapple with what that means. He's in a position at the end of this book to save the lives of two--Buckbeak, who has been killed, and Sirius Black, wrongly accused of Lily's and James's betrayal, who faces the rest of his life without his soul, the sentence imposed on him by the Ministry of Magic.

Not only does Harry manage, with Hermione's great help, to save Buckbeak and Sirius, but he also begins to see that he is not as alone in life as he thought. His father is with him always, found within himself. Death robbed Harry of his father and mother's physical presence, but not of their love. Their love lives on in him, and in their friends, Sirius and Remus. Not a bad message, that. And it's one that will be repeated to Harry at the end of the fifth book, by Luna Lovegood, who is the most accepting of the characters concerning death.

In the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we see Harry dealing with death as it happens. It's the sudden and senseless death of Cedric. They have become friends, though not as close as Ron or Hermione, but friends, nonetheless. Harry is powerless to prevent Cedric's death; he sees it, is horrified and devastated, but then he must now face Voldemort. Any previous threats to Harry's life pale by comparison with the ominous intentions of Voldemort and his assembled Death Eaters.

It's in this book that Rowling has Harry deal with the death of a fellow student, someone who had done nothing wrong, someone who had unknowingly crossed the path of evil. Real life is like that. People die who are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and there is no way to make any sense of it. Dumbledore shows Harry and the school that it is fitting to honor the memory of such a person, but that we must also remember the circumstances of his death. This is the sort of death that teens must sometimes deal with, when a classmate is killed in a car accident or a drive-by shooting, or a shooting at school. They are senseless, random, unjustified in any way, but so very real, leaving friends and family with unanswered questions and heart ache that can take years to heal.

We see the aftermath of Harry's reaction to Cedric's death in the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He is filled with anger that spills over into all his relationships, even with his closest friends. It is the anger of having seen something so horrible, yet not having any resolution. Voldemort was not caught and punished, and worse yet, was that Harry was disbelieved by many and purposely discredited, along with the only other public figure who did believe him--Albus Dumbledore. His close friends believe in Harry still, but for much of Order of the Phoenix, Harry endures feelings of isolation, even ridicule, all because of a death that he witnessed. In all of that, the worst part, which is not mentioned in the book, is that Harry seems to receive no counseling at all. He is left to work through his emotions, his understanding of what happened, on his own.

The end of the fifth book finds Harry once again confronted with the sudden death of someone for whom he cares, Sirius Black, his godfather. It happens in an instant, unexpected, just as was Cedric's death. But this time, Harry feels even more responsibility; it is because he allowed himself to be manipulated by Voldemort that Sirius was even there. The death of someone close to us is hard enough to bear; it is worse still, almost unbearable, if we feel that we are responsible in any way. While Harry acknowledges his part in Sirius's death, as does Dumbledore, it is too much for Harry to accept. It doesn't take him long to place the blame on someone else, someone he doesn't like, and is certain that he hates. Severus Snape is very often the scapegoat for anything wrong in Harry's life.

How often do we do the same thing? When something goes wrong, it's much easier to blame someone that has made our life difficult or unpleasant than to accept our own part in it. Rowling gives Harry hard deaths to handle, and thereby gives the readers the opportunity to examine our own views, our own experiences, our own emotions. There are no easy answers to how to cope with the death of loved ones. But as I mentioned before, it is Nick who was afraid of death, tells Harry that Sirius would have gone on, he would not have wanted the life chosen by Nick of being "neither here nor there" [OP, p. 861]. More importantly, it is Luna Lovegood who tells him that death is not the end, those we love who have died are there, lurking just beyond the veil [OP, p. 861].

In looking at our views of death, Rowling also allows us to explore our views of life. What truly makes a life valuable or worth living? What happens to a life that is lived selfishly, or to one that is lived with love for others? What happens to a person who is consumed by anger or bitterness, compared to one who is full of compassion and love and acceptance of everything in life, the good and the bad. At the end of Phoenix, Rowling throws in one more thing with which Harry must come to terms, and that is his hatred for Snape, and the necessity of forgiveness and redemption.

Death is a very strong theme throughout the books, especially in the last two, which I will save for another post. But it's not the only theme. The theme of love, forgiveness, redemption, friendship and loyalty, are equally as present and as strong. Perhaps she sees death as the main theme because it is the one that is dealt with throughout. It is through all the other themes that Harry is finally able to come to some resolution of the deaths of his parents, which were at the very beginning, the very heart of the story.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Snape and. . . no, it's mostly Snape

Over at the Leaky Cauldron, there is a post about a recent interview by J.K. Rowling in which she says that Dumbledore and Snape are the most important characters, aside from the trio. It was nice to hear her say that, as so many of us have thought just the same thing. The ensuing "conversation" however has turned into the silliness that prompted me to stop posting on several forums where I had once been very active. So I won't provide a link. If you want to wade through all of it, you'll have to find it on your own.

However, it did get me started on posting some of my thoughts about the series. My current reading is in Order of the Phoenix, a little more than half-way on. (Harry has just seen the initial response to his interview published in the Quibbler.) So, the following is what I wrote, which intentionally doesn't respond to the poster who is only interested in irritating people and in arguing.


Rhiannon said: "Eeyore It is good to see you again. I thought you had left us."

Thank you and no, I haven't left. I actually check for news here every day. I don't comment much anymore, but sometimes read through the comments. In reading through the comments on this one, I'm reminded of the reason that I am not active on the forum any longer. After I finished Deathly Hallows, it was so complete for me, and I found the ending so satisfying, that I had to stop reading all the criticisms from others. Yes, I had my little nitpicks, but they weren't important enough for me to ruin the feelings I had at the end of my favorite series of books. And I read all the time, and have all my life.

I think that one of the things that bothered me the most was Harry's use of the Unforgivables toward the end of DH. But when I started thinking about it, it was a vivid picture of the horror of war. They were fighting for their lives and watched others being tortured or senselessly killed, and they reacted in whatever way they could think of. War has a way of dehumanizing even the best of people. Was the use of Unforgivables right? No. But that does happen in war; good, moral people make bad choices that they would ordinarily never consider. At the very end, though, in facing Voldemort, Harry did not use an Unforgivable Curse. Instead he didn't even use a curse that was intended to harm, but used a defensive spell. A spell that would protect him, and interestingly enough, it was a spell that he had first learned from Snape. Nice touch, that one.

I found Snape to be one of the most fascinating of Rowling's characters, because he was the most complex and his story unfolded so slowly for us. But the clues were there from the beginning. If there wasn't something hidden in Snape's past concerning Harry, why would Snape hate him from the first book. It was in rereading POA, though, and especially in OP that I started to see that people who saw that Snape loved Lily were right. Snape always raged against James and Sirius, sometimes against Lupin by association, but never once said a word against Lily. Harry was the one who made those jumps, assuming that Snape also hated his mother.

Snape very much resembles the character of Sydney Carton in "A Tale of Two Cities" by Dickens (another literary character who is rather nasty to others and not very likeable), and once I saw that, I knew that Snape was on some sort of sacrificial path because of his love for Lily, just as Carton willingly sacrificed himself to save Lucy and her family. That book has the best redemptive ending of any book I've ever read.

Lily befriended Snape when he was younger and looked a bit odd, when Petunia saw him as "that awful boy" (the other thing that convinced me that Snape loved Lily). I was glad to see that Lily returned his friendship, and that it wasn't completely one-sided. She tried to stand up for him, and was called a horrific name (the wizarding version of a racial slur), and she did listen to him later. But in the end, she chose her own path in life just as Snape did. She saw her childhood friend getting in deeper and deeper with dark wizards that she saw as being on an evil path, and even after she talked to Snape and tried to warn him , he refused to veer from his own chosen path.

It was one of the saddest things in the books for me. Snape, with his unhappy childhood, ended up being influenced by those in his house who were happy to use his considerable talent to their own purposes. I can't imagine that they really liked him as a person, given that he was from a poor family and was not a pure-blood. But people who have been bullied for so long and pushed out sometimes will follow anyone who gives them the promise of power. And those who are bullied sometimes become the bully, which is just what we saw with Snape. Like Dumbledore, I have to wonder, would Snape have turned out differently had he been sorted into Gryffindor or Ravenclaw? (yeah, I can't see him in Hufflepuff at all. LOL) I think it could have made the difference because he might have been more influenced by Lily and wouldn't have had the opportunity to spend so much time with the Lestranges and future Death Eaters.

Once he knew that he was the one responsible for Lily's death, he did repent (just as Sydney Carton did), and then Snape spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his part in the death of the only person he ever loved or respected. But he was still the solitary soul he had been as a child and he'd never learned how to reach out to others. He still saw any emotional vulnerability as a weakness because he knew how Voldemort would use it.

And what does Snape have every day of the term for seven years (well, six really)? He sees the face of the student who bullied him just because he could, and the eyes of the one person he loved. Instead of seeing that Harry was much more like Lily than like James, Snape is stuck in that adolescent hatred. Sirius was no better, as he was never able to let go of his hatred against Snape. Neither of them had the chance to "grow up" because of the circumstances surrounding the death of Lily and James. Because of that one tragedy, Sirius ends up in Azkaban for twelve years and then in hiding for two more; Snape ends up truly regretting the part he played and repents and does what is right in trying to protect Harry. But Snape was never really able to forgive himself.

Are there any perfect characters in Harry Potter? No. That is the brilliance of the books. Jo gave us heroes and villains who are all flawed and so very human. Just as we are all flawed and very human. Jo gave us something much better than cardboard cut-outs of good guys and bad guys. In giving us realistic characters, she has also given us the opportunity to explore how people in real life interact. And she has pointed the way for seeing the wrongs in our own world through not resolving all the issues in hers.

Sorry to run on so long. I promise I won't do it again. Well, I'll try to refrain from it anyway. ;-)


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

More from Jo

One of the latest bits of information about Jo Rowling is that she went through a time of depression and even thought of suicide. I didn't find it particularly surprising, to be honest. I think it's really all there in the books, that feeling of utter despair and hopelessness is so clearly written whenever Harry is around a dementor in Prisoner of Azkaban, or later, in Order of the Phoenix when he feels so alone. Even for people who haven't experienced the depth of that sort of depression, Jo gives a good picture of what it must be like.

Saying that I wasn't surprised by her comments in no way diminishes the importance of it. By sharing that very personal information, something she didn't need to tell anyone, she has opened the door for her readers who might be suffering from depression to seek help. She has taken away any stigma that might have prevented someone from acknowledging their own need for help.

And she, as John Granger points out at Hogwarts Professor, has made us all think of what would have happened had she acted on those thoughts of suicide. Any action we take can have an affect on so many others, even in small ways, such as the enjoyment we've had in reading her wonderful books and coming to love her characters. She is an amazing woman, our Jo. Amazing in her creativity, and in her compassion and humanity.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Deathly Hallows" as two movies

It's been a long time since I've posted anything here, but it's not due to lack of interest in Harry Potter. Quite the contrary. I've been rereading all the books, with the intention of stopping after each one for a few comments (or more) relevant to how my understanding of the story has changed since we now have all seven of the books. However, I have found that, mixed with real life and actually reading some books that were not Harry Potter, I've been just as compelled to jump into the next book as soon as I've finished whichever one I was reading. So at the moment, I'm about half-way through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

And now comes the news from Warner Brothers that they are doing what I thought they should have done with Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. Well, at least with the last two, and they should have made Prisoner of Azkaban about 10 minutes longer to include more of the back story for the Marauders and the talk at the end that Dumbledore and Sirius have with Harry.

The word from WB is that the splitting of Deathly Hallows into two movies is for artistic reasons and not monetary. Yes, well, I don't think many people are buying that, but whatever. I'm just very pleased that they will have the opportunity to really include all the richness of the story in this last view we'll have of Harry Potter on the big screen. Very pleased indeed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's been quite a long time since I've posted anything, but that doesn't mean that I've lost interest in Harry Potter. That can't be farther from the truth. The truth is that it's been a hectic end of the year for me, for our family. November was the moving month for both our daughters, and I helped with the packing and some unpacking for both. That was November, which meant that when I was wrapping all that china and other breakables in newspapers that I hadn't time to read, I also wasn't on my lap top more than checking my email.

The little time that I did have (before I finally had to do my least favorite task and go shopping for Christmas gifts), I spent reading. Somewhere in the fall I managed to finish books that weren't Harry Potter, while I also reread the first two Potter books. I was going to post some things as I read, but that just didn't happen. I'm now about half-way through Prisoner of Azkaban. It's rather nice to read the books at a more leisurely pace, all the while making notes in the margins or at the end of the books.

The question has been put out on several sites about how our lives were affected by reading Harry Potter. I haven't responded to any of them, but it is something I've been thinking about.

And I'm still thinking about it. I think for now I'll just say that it has changed my life in ways I'd never have guessed--for the better, I think. Maybe tomorrow after all the Christmas ornaments are back in their boxes and the lights are off the tree I'll allow myself to go down that long memory lane of Harry Potter.

But not tonight--I do need to get some sleep.