Saturday, July 16, 2005
Whatever you think about Harry Potter
it is surely an amazing thing the way those books transform even lukewarm readers into book-obsessed fiends! Imagine how great it would be if every week a new release caused such excitement that the bookstores stayed open till midnight to satisfy the urgent needs of waiting customers... I had my eye on the clock all evening--I was at a friend's birthday party, and had scoped out the Barnes and Noble on 8th St. as a possible purchase venue. (I preordered last time from Amazon and the book got enmired in one of those it-wasn't-delivered, it's-supposed-to-be-at-the-post-office-on-104th-St.-but-isn't dramas that is more hassle than it's worth.) On my way back to the Christopher St. 1 station around 1:30am, I popped in and bought a copy. The trip home passed by in a flash; I was thinking about staying up till I finished it, but around 4:30 the voice of reason said that it would be wiser to go to bed and finish reading it in the morning. And so I did. Very enjoyable, really. Not the best installment in the sequence--Rowling relies heavily in this one on the device of the pensieve (which stores memories that can then be unwound again) to develop a parallel narrative from Lord Voldemort's past, and there's something sterile about seeing scenes in that format, as if you told the backstory in a movie by having the characters sitting there and watching it on television--but there is a good reason that these books sell a gazillion copies and elicit compulsive rereading, they are the perfect comfort reading. There's an excellent potion that gives you good luck, although it sounds rather addictive (and these books would be more interesting if you got Harry addicted and wrestling with his worse self, he's a bit too pure of heart for his own good). There's the occasional self-conscious gesture about the formulaic nature of the books ("The run-up to this crucial match had all the usual features: members of rival Houses attempting to intimidate opposing teams in the corridors; unpleasant chants about individual players being rehearsed loudly as they passed; the team members themselves either swaggering around enjoying all the attention or else dashing into bathrooms between classes to throw up"). The energy level isn't as high as in some of the earlier books, but I am still ridiculously impatient for the next and final installment. I want it right now!