Friday, July 29, 2016
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
Okay. I avoided reading this series as long as I possibly could, but curiosity got the better of me and I went for it. We all know about Harry Potter...orphan Annie'd by his heroically wizardy parents and left to live with his rhabdophobic aunt and uncle, this kid is obviously destined for some far-fetched, magical save that puts him in just enough danger to keep it interesting. Three-headed dogs, illegal dragons, trolls, whiny blond boys, a mysterious but lethal enemy lurking, and professors who are either unbelievably under-prepared for the logistics of boarding school living or questionably irresponsible in the level of freedom they give these largely unsupervised children...it's all in here. Run into a brick wall, no injuries? Check. Handing over the secrets of magical nukes to eleven year old children? Yup. Oh, you wanna get into the restricted part of the library where the books might eat you alive? Okay, let's get you in there with an invisibility cloak! You want to break those long-standing rules about brand new students zipping around on magical jet engines with no helmets on? Yeah, dude, let's ROCK!
I get it. I get that there's a pop culture tide that goes along with this book, and I get that parents can connect with their kids and their friends young and older by reading it together. But here's what I don't get, especially from this book in particular, considered outside the influence of the eight movies I've already sat through: the core messages in this book are kinda iffy. Harry is handed the perfect out to his unfortunate circumstances in the form of wizard school, and when he gets that perfect out he turns it on the Dursleys and chooses to treat them to the same bullying and fear mongering that they used to make his own life miserable. He makes friends at Hogwarts, and that's great, but he bonds with one because they have a common dislike of Malfoy (a boy they hardly know), and he bonds with the other only after making fun of her for being intelligent, driven, but somewhat socially awkward. Then he uses those friends and everything they offer him to unravel the mystery of the Sorcerer's Stone (which is absolutely none of their business, frankly), and in the pursuit of that mystery he allows those friends to sacrifice themselves for his cause. The main adult they hang out with is the dropout moving live animals through the black market of wizardom, and he's lovable but not bright, baiting these kids to involve themselves to the point of mortal danger instead of having veterans of the last major magical conflict handle it. And in the meantime, they vilify an entire quarter of their schoolmates for being Slytherin, they either crap their pants or set fire to Snape, who did nothing but expect discipline, respect, and space from these uppity upstart children, and Harry basically lets his buddies do the heavy lifting while he focuses on Quidditch.
I know I'm in the minority here, and that's okay, but this book hit a lot of peeves for me. I know people love it because it's "magical," and to those people I say...have you read any other sci-fi/fantasy EVER? Because what's in this book is not original, inspired stuff. Mythology, Shakespeare, Tolkien, practically every other fantasy writer writing prior to the release of this book...it's all out there. The saving grace here is that ignoring the plot holes and grossly unoriginal representation of wizarding, the characters are intentionally flawed, and that kept me reading into the second book. Because it's impossible to read Harry Potter in a bubble, I know that there will be growth and change in these characters, and that believable human element is what made the rest of this mess a tolerable read for me. And it's hard to ignore that although I have issues with this book, it's a piece of...literature that has brought a lot of people together, and even if I don't respect the work, I can respect that result.