Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Harry Potter and the Great Expectation... No, Wait - That's Been Done

So I like Harry Potter. I'm counting down the days until book 7 comes out. Get over it. There are worse things I could be hanging out for. A trend of wearing red and green without something in between. Michael Jordan's next comeback. Michael Jackson's next tour. The apocalypse.

What can I say? I'm excited! Whoa... Better be careful - that felt like a heart flutter. I'm deliciously apprehensive. There's a lightning-shaped twinkle in my eye. I'm constantly contemplating character conundrums. I'm flirting with farcical facts that figure prominently in the paperback palace of my mind. I'm thinking up theories about horcruxes, hippogriffs, Hermione and high heels - I've said too much. You will disregard that last remark. Move to strike. So ordered. Denny Crane.

Is it wrong that I'm excited about the page count? Book 7 looks like being the longest in the series. This is a big deal for me. I read quite fast. I like reading fast - it keeps the sense of pace and action that some books need. The downside, of course, is that books are often over far too quickly. So I read them again. And again. I read books like movies. I've been asked "Why read a book twice? You know what's going to happen." My response: I know that Leo dies at the end of Titanic, but that doesn't stop me leaping around the room yelling "The tard is dead! Arnold, you're a twat! And you almost ruined The Beach for me!" whenever I see his sad little face fade into the depths. Or something like that. Regardless, more pages = more Harry Potter goodness.

Maybe I'm more excited about the story being all wrapped up in a neat little package. I can generally find at least one thing in a book that is worth taking away and thinking about - whether it be storyline technique, characterisation, subject matter, dialogue, whatever. There are very few books that have absolutely nothing to offer. There are many in the Harry Potter series. The series picks a tone that is, strangely enough, reminiscent of Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (although you probably couldn't rebuild Dublin from its pages). By not using the first person narrative, but not acting as a completely impartial omnipresent observer, J. K. only goes inside Harry's head. This leads to a narrative somewhere between the first and third person, with the reader learning as Harry learns, a very effective way to keep an interest in the storyline. And no, it's not called a second person narrative. No one likes a smartarse.

The other aspect of the series that has confronted me the most is the development of the story. Sometimes I listen to an musician and think "Why has no one else come up with that?" Some melodies are so simple and obvious, so right, that it makes me shake my head and wonder why it took this long. Mathematicians feel this way when a simple proof is given to a complex problem, especially if the problem has been around for a while. J. K. has a gift for picking ways forward from plot situations that are the most true, and that resonate with readers. This is an incredible talent, and something I aspire to. It's a strange feeling when you reach a state like that, what Aristotle called "flow", even if only in random peaks. You know what to do next - it's obvious. Sometimes it takes trial and error, but when the right course of action presents, you feel awake. It's a lovely warm wet slap in the face, like an espresso. It's a great feeling. Again, something to work towards.

I could go on like this for quite a while, but my lunch break is never long enough, and I still need to reread books 5 and 6 to prep for the big day, so I'll leave it there. But picture me, round at my local bookstore next Saturday morning, rain, hail or, well, rain. This is Melbourne in July, after all. I'll have my free hot chocolate for pre-ordering the book, and I'll be quivering in anticipation next the furry little freak holding the broomstick. Or maybe I'll just be shivering. Melbourne, July, remember? And no, I won't be dressed up. I'm far too dignified for that sort of childish behaviour.


Rosanna said...

I'm very pleased to see another post on Harry Potter in the blogsphere. I can't get enough of it either, and today saw the newest movie. Tis brillig.

JK Rowling is an absolute genius - with every book I admire her more and more. She is just fantastic, and must have the most creative mind to think of these endless plot twists and links and secrets and hints between books and characters that re-appear and...

I will stop now, but enjoy the 21st! (I know I will)

Steph said...

I took my nephews to see the latest movie last night, and I was bored into a coma. THEY on the other hand sat on the edges of their seat and watched through their fingers.
T'was a bit scary apparently.

tim said...

rosanna - not sure bout genius - she's much more talented than a lot of people give her credit for, while being a lot more subtle than many realise as well. I don't think I'd call her a genius cos she hasn't really revolutionised anything apart from reading popularity for a lot of kids. What she has done is taken a lot of existing techniques and come up with an excellent synthesis of ideas with a really good story. It's an incredible achievement, but I'm not sure it puts her on a par with Joyce or Conrad.

Of course, I could be wrong - there are many many levels in the books, and I could have completely missed some of them. I have a bad habit of doing that ;)

steph - I'm going on Sunday with the missus and some friends. I'm never as fussed with the movies - I know what's going to happen, and it's usually a contest between enjoying what has been added and being pissed at what was excluded (as with any movie made from a book I like). Course Hermione is nearly legal now... mmm... sweet sweet Hermione... Dammit! Move to strike! So ordered! Denny Crane.

mist1 said...

I have been staring at this comment box for 25 full seconds now. I am trying to resist making a smutty remark about how size matters to me too. Length is very important but, you can't ignore the girth...of the book.

I'm sorry. I know it's inappropriate for a post about Harry Potter but, you started it with the high heels thing.