Sunday, July 17, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Finished Novel

There are those who knock J. K. Rowling as being a pedestrian writer, cranking out predictable drama that resides in the ranks of literature somewhere slightly above the average comic book. With the novel "Half Blood Prince" it's clear that Rowling has accepted the gauntlent, and created a piece of post-modernist avant garde surrealism for her latest novel. How so? By Pushing the boundaries of what makes for a great novel. You see, in most works it's assumed that the main protagonist will, at some point, engage in some activity that puts him or her in the center of the plot. Cliches such as this are avoided in this book, where Harry Potter manages over the course of nearly 650 pages to do absolutely nothing other than to follow people around and complain about his life.

When reading "Half Blood Prince" I would propose the following thought experiment. Imagine Harry being replaced by a puppet. Would the plot change at all? Let's give it a shot, shall we?

"Harry! Voldemort is on the loose We need to examine the memories of those who knew him so we can discover his weakness."

"...."

"You know there's a Quidditch match this weekend."

"....."

"Right. Hey, Dumbledore is about to go on an amazing adventure. Care to tag along?"

"...."


With the exception of taking a luck potion that allows him to stumble upon a little bit of information that Dumbledore should have had anyways, poor Harry Potter is relegated to the role of being "Mr. Exposition boy" where his only job is to stand still while other people explain what's going on the world. One wonders if Ms. Rowling is simply tired of the character, or can't quite figure out how to move the plot along to get to the end of the series.

Then again, this may be the point of the whole novel. It's really nothing more than a set-up to the final book. Why give us in two chapters what you can drag into a 600 page book that will sell millions? For the next three years we'll be debating minor plot points, and placing our book orders in advance. On the bright side, however, Ms. Rowling can now roll around in a brand new pile of money, since her old one must be smelling a bit rank by now.

Despite all this, it's still a fine read for the summer. Making fun of Harry Potter might be the "new black" this season, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that with each book she crafts a corner of the universe that provides more entertainment than most novelists create in a lifetime. Like all great entertainers, there is something intangible she posses that elevates the material. You can study the book page by page, and still not find what it is that makes the books so enjoyable.

Laugh at the Harry Potter fans if you must, but I doubt you'll find many who will care. I'm a chain smoking, bitter cynic and even I will admit that one of my highlights this week was picking up my copy at midnight and reading it before the sun came up. I can point to a dozen faults with the book, but in the end that doesn't matter when weighed against the joy I get from reading it in the first place. It's just that good.

In other words, despite all my complaints, let's gather 'round and discuss that spoilery stuff. If you haven't finished the book yet (and to be honest, why the heck not?) then stop reading.

Ready?

Good.

Damn. We all knew Dumbledore was going to buy it in this book, but who saw it going down that way? When first reading the book, I was impressed with the way that J.K. made us distrust Snape again. Let's face it, it was starting to become old hat. Harry and crew think Snape is working for the Dark Lord. Every assures them Snape has changed. Harry and Crew find the real bad guys and it turns out Snape was innocent all along. With that early chapter, we begin to have doubts. With the end of the book, he's back on all of our bad guy lists....or is he?

Dumbledore was always firm in his conviction that Snape was a changed man. The story now is that Dumbledore was just blinded by his trust in human nature...but does that fit? Dumbledore was many things, but it was clear that he wasn't half as dim as most of the characters in these books. He's supposed to be on top of this sort of thing. What if Snape is still working for the good guys? What if Snape was following orders?

Let's look at the death. What are his final words? "Servus....please..." We know that he's not a man who would be begging for his life. He doesn't ask Snape "how could you?" Only the request "please".

Snape doesn't kill Harry after. There's no reason to think that Voldemort had standing orders to leave Harry alone, otherwise it would have been mentioned during the battle at the Ministry of Magic in the last book. Snape has sorts of reasons to want to kill Harry, and yet he doesn't. He merely deflects Harry's curses and wanders off.

So why would killing Dumbledore be part of the plan? Well,, he knew that in the end it would be Harry facing the Dark Lord on his own. Could his dying have been to release some kind of magic that will help Harry in the next book? Could it have been a plan that not only helps Harry, but makes sure that Snape would be in a position to help in the end? I would bet money on it.

hat else have we learned this book? Well, for one thing that Voldy has split up his soul for immortality. The soul can be placed in an object either living or dead, and all must be destroyed for Voldy to die. A living thing, eh? What living thing do we know of that is connected to Voldemorts soul?

Yeah, good ol' Harry. It's been established that a bit of Voldemort remained behind in Harry after the attack. It's also been established that to split off your soul it requires a human death. What if the attack on Harry's parents was really a sacrifice to transfer his soul into some other object? What if it backfired, and Harry is the seventh horcrux? What if Harry has to sacrifice himself for the enemy to be defeated.

Good way to end of the series dontcha think?

As for the mysterious RAB...my Aunt Claire writes the following;

Re RAB's identity -- gotta be Regulus Black. Remember how Sirius told Harry that his brother had become disillusioned with Voldemort and had tried to leave the Death Eaters, but it's like the Mob, you can never leave, so Voldemort ordered him killed. I think what disillusioned Regulus -- besides the absolutely stunning level of violence, depravity, murder, and torture required of Death Eaters, of course -- was when he discovered Voldemort's secret, that he was trying to make himself immortal by the use of Horcrux. I mean, it's bad enough to finally realize your sworn leige lord is a genocidal psychopath, but if you think he's found a way to make himself IMMORTAL ...



Also, I suspect Regulus discovered that Voldemort was a Mudblood, and he(Regulus) was going to be damned before he let some Mudblood rule forever as the wizarding world's king. It also must have really galled him to think that one of the wizarding world's most sacred relics, the Slyterin necklace, had been polluted by the piece of soul of a Mudblood. He'd want to either rescue the relic or destroy it just for that reason."


No argument there....except one wonders why the brain trust of Harry and crew didn't notice it in their search for the identity.

Is it 2008 yet? Get off your rump, J.K. and start writing.