Monday, September 24, 2007

ROFL - Rowling on the Floor, Laughing....

Kind of late in the day to do a 'deathly' review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? Or is this the right time, now that the initial euphoria is over, I mean?

Here's a book and a series that has involved the world real-time into a fictional world. In the past ten years, we have kept pace with the author's imagination - happily gone wherever it has led us. I recall coming back from a trip to the US, telling all and sundry here in India, you've got to read Harry Potter. I'd bought five copies of Chamber of Secrets (that was the one out those days) along with Philosopher's Stone, as the de facto gift for everything - birthdays, weddings, home visits, whatever. And trying to explain it was an amazing children's book series though it was me recommending it; also a book for all ages...

JKR's confidence by now, her seventh in the series, borders at an arrogance - that we Harry Potter lovers would be waiting with bated breath, would've read the books in the right order, and know all about Polyjuice Potions, Expelliarmuses, Disillusionment Charms etc. No need to explain and no need to try and come up with any other new surprises that a magical world gives full leeway to its maker to bring about. Recall the amazing idea of Tom Riddle's diary? Pensieve? Time Turner? And in this Deathly Hallows, forget coming up with the new stuff, she seems to have kedged a line off Pulitzer winner Toni Morrison's Tanner lectures of 1988 ( wherein Toni refers to one of her novels as 'Book can be seen to open with its close'). Uh oh...
Kavya Vishwanathan, you are no longer alone. One, a does-not-know-any-better teenager and the other, a nouveau billionaire with a host of secretaries to do the background reading up, and provide the appropriate warnings wherever necessary.

Also why try to keep the book lean and crisp any longer, when the world - mainly consisting of children following the proverbial Pied Piper, fawns over every extra word put in? So we get 600 plus pages of a vista that seems either to take its readership for granted ( it meanders along even while the book seems to move at breakneck speed) or made to order with a Warner Bros. future for itself - wont this Big Battle look great on screen? Same with the Gringotts seige that is suspiciously like an entertainment ride in one of the modern 'Disney Worlds' (can already imagine this ride in the future 'Harry Potter World' coming up). Humour is absent even when the Weasley twins are around - and often, when we are exhorted by the author to LAUGH since the characters on the pages are laughing till their bellies ache or something like that (page 119: they were all laughing so much...) bewildered we smile at the joke that escapes us.

And she puts Deaths (the capital D is my interpretation), into the story with the attitude of - 'haven't I told the world I am writing for a mature world and not merely for children'? Haphazardly, and helter-skelter. When a Weasley brother dies - come to think of it, one of the ones we loved best all through, it is with this same sanctimonious underlying feeling - did you think I'd leave you to get away scot-free, she seems to be saying to the hapless readers, caught in the throngs of the imagination of a You-Know-Who author who has risen Phoenix-like in the past decade, to capture and ensnare our minds. There is no real mourning for this character. And no naming of children after him either, in the nineteen years later last chapter. With all the other dead guys having got their place in, with the names of the next gen, this most deserving bro is left 'out in the cold'! :-(

A last chapter that seems to have a close-to-reality feel paralleling JKR's personal life - as the brood expands, and the babies start to grow. A fellow blogger Uma Damle has written it well : the unexpectedly expected ending rather than an expectedly unexpected one. Also, wonder what a feminist reading of the book will come up with... Mrs. Weasley, Hermione and Fleur do all the cooking as and when there is any cooking spoken of, and the men - well, they go out to work. Also, in the last chapter, please note, it is men who do the driving, no mention of women, however 'brainy' they may have been through the long journey so far.

Anyway, the wait - from July to September, was worthwhile. I did not have to buy the book after all :-) My nine year old niece Ishani has kindly lent her personal copy of the book to her much much older aunt, just a few days ago. To me, this has been a well-timed borrowing along with being down with a viral attack ... in other words, no rapid reading, and consequently, more time to mull over JKR's plans for our imagination.

And a glimpse into hers too. Why in the world does she want us to accept that if a Horcrux has a bit of your soul, you don't feel a modicum of anything while it is being destroyed, but just sharing a thought within your mind, like Harry does with You-Know-Who, is excruciatingly painful.

Or why she believes that a mom can protect a child only till his 17th birthday. Is it because the law so decides in this non-Muggle world? The eons-old maternal instincts actually follow the bureaucratic decree of current times!

Perhaps, what does it matter, eh?
While the Galleons roll in, into the Gringotts of the Muggle...

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