Sunday, July 22, 2007

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, 2007.

Do you not know what happens in the book yet? If you don't want to know, don't read this blog entry. I'm not much for summarizing plot, but I'm not going to conceal it. Deal with your own issues elsewhere.

This blog entry is in two parts.

Part I: The book itself.
A writer to Salon commented that Rowling's prose is sturdy. It's unexceptional, but it's fun and it suits the purpose. It's not Tolkien, and it's not art. It is quite entertaining, though. An associate writes that much of the book is filler, as Ron and Hermione and Harry wander through England without a real plan. It's dull. Note to JKR: not having an editor? Dumb idea on your part. There are moments of levity, but most of the book is an attempt to be as well-done with the chapter ending cliff-hangers as is a novel by Dan Brown; Rowling doesn't do it as well. Harry's death is poorly written; the train station scene ludicrous. The entire situation lacks the pathos needed. The fights through the climax are fine, but I have the sense that characters were introduced in other books so I'd care that they're killed off now; with few exceptions, I was not much moved. Ho hum.
The part which I found baffling was the postlude set 19 years into the future, with a happily married Harry, complete with three kids. I recognize that some people aren't happy unless they know everything turns out well, but the postlude was just silly.
The book is quite good for children's pulp.

Part II: Spoiler silliness

Right. Anyone remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet?

Chor. Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur'd piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

The eminent playwright begins the play by telling you EVERYTHING that will happen. I don't remember people being upset about this when Luhrman's version was splashed on movie screens across the globe. Yet, for the last months, there has been inch after inch of copy filled with news of the embargo on this book. Who's been feeding spoilers? There's surely a special hell for those people!

I have no sympathy for this crap. What happens is never as important as how it happens. Little Nell dies, people. So does Smike. If you missed it being telegraphed when they were first introduced, it doesn't matter. The HOW matters, and that's the point of the sonnet I've quoted above. I've grown weary of the idea that knowing what happens "spoils" what is to come. That's just not the way books have ever worked for me. /rant.


Jim said...

I agree with your comments on the writing and plot itself - enjoyable book, but nothing fantastic came out of it. Most of the plot was very predictable and I totally agree that it felt that many of the characters were introduced simply to die. I wish there was more follow-up with the consequences of those deaths.. I left not caring too much about most of them.

The spoiler bit though, I've given a lot of thought. I think there's something to feeling that you're "discovering" the truth. It's just not the same knowing that somebody else has gone there before and told you everything.

It's different when the author does it - Romeo and Juliet, as you mentioned gets away with this at the very introduction. But this plays on the underlying theme of fate. While reading/watching you're hoping that they can actually make their own fate, which in many ways drives the plot.

Rowling didn't take this direction in her work, and so having somebody tell you how things turn out actually does impact your experience while reading. I think that reading through with spoilers is much closer in feeling to a second pass through the book.

That said, as I mentioned above, many of the deaths in the book had little impact on me, so I'm not sure I would have cared _that_ much. Just my two cents.

Matthew said...

1) Good thoughts, Jim.

2) Everyone, go see "Seen Reading"'s "the Harry Potter post"

rob said...

although i agree a little bit about the journey being the best part, it's not always the case. for instance, in the lord of the rings, we all know that the ring will be destroyed, but it's how it is destroyed that is interesting.

however, a blatant spoiler such as "snape killed dumbledore!" gives away the twist ending, and it's not the journey to how snape killed dumbledore that is interesting, it is the mere fact that he did kill dumbledore that is interesting. that's why i was avoiding spoilers.