Saturday, June 16, 2012
100 Books #55 - J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
Well, that was certainly a whole lot of Quidditch. Even more than I was expecting. And that was, what, only the first 20% of the book?
And a whole lot of other stuff as well. I hesitate to use the term "bloat" here, but... wait a minute, no I don't! It's like someone gave this book a whole pocketful of the Weasley Twins' Ton-Tongue Toffees all at once! There are more sub-plots in this one volume than there have been in the rest put together, and not too many of them resolve at all well. House-Elf uprising, I'm looking at you.
But it's fun to see the kids as budding teenagers, Ron and Harry finally noticing that Hermione's a girl and all. I'm sure the hormones will only get worse as we continue onwards. Teenage melodrama, now with hexes. That could really, really be fun, if it doesn't get bogged down with a lot of other stuff.
I get the impression, sometimes, that the author was actually way more interested in Harry's parents' generation than Harry's own, though. How else to explain the mountains of backstory/exposition that we get each novel (none more than here, so far. Pensieve, anyone?)? Everything that happens seems to be traced back to something the previous generation made or did. It's kind of like living in the shadow of the Baby Boomers, which, OMG J.K. Rowling is a Boomer isn't she? Are these books all just coded messages to the rest of us that we'll never be as cool as the Boomers were and we should stop trying and just sit back and say thank you sir and ma'am for being so awesome and may I polish your shoes with my hair again like a good little House Elf?
But no. Writers don't do that, do they?
Let me just say, though, that the House Elf thing really, really bugs me. I mean, sure, Doctor Who has the Ood, but at least the Ood don't feel compelled to punish themselves whenever they make mistakes. And, when freed, they go on to become pretty freaking awesome. Rowling insists on leaving them toiling in the kitchens and insists that they like it that way. This coupled with all the other elitist elements (wizards are better than non-wizards, the latter denigrated as "Muggles"; pure-blooded wizards are better than half-bloods or Muggle-borns who can do magic, the last denigrated as "Mudbloods"; the Houses at Hogwarts, Gryffindor=popular kids, jocks and cheerleaders and pretty girls who are also good students, Ravenclaw=braniacs, Hufflepuff=dorks, Slytherin=posh kids) gives these books an unusually unpleasant edge for me. And yes, I know, all the good guys (who are so very, very good, aren't they?) are Muggle-tolerant if not downright Muggle-fans, so no lectures about that, Potterites. I know. I'm still free to dislike the fictions that make this fictional tolerance necessary when said fictions often threaten to spoil my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
Of course, I risk going down a silly garden path (or, in this case, hedge maze) in reading too much into these books that are, after all, just meant as entertainments. But these elements keep cropping up and annoying me when I'm trying to enjoy all the funny and imaginative bits (current favorite character, well, right up there with the Weasley Twins: Peeves the Poltergeist. The one laugh-out-loud moment I had in Goblet of Fire was when he had to be extracted from a suit of armor that was enchanted to sing Christmas carols; Peeves was substituting his own rude lyrics). Fortunately, there are a lot of these; Rowling's at her best when she's just letting kids be silly kids and ghosts be silly ghosts.*
Goblet of Fire ended on notes of great foreboding even as most of the plots and subplots were resolved with happy endings. And so, while I do like these books best when they focus on pranks and surprises and childhood goofiness, I am curious to see what its like to see this milieu get darker. I know the main characters, that oh-so-perfect trio of Harry and Ron and Hermione, will be all heroic and face it all with courage and perfect goodness (even if they squabble a bit here and there) but what of everybody else? I so love everybody else.
Especially the Twins. And Neville Longbottom. And Severus Snape. And the wacky Weasley parents. And the giggling girls of Gryffindor. And the owls. I can see why there's been a bit of a mania for owls as pets, because Hedwig and Pigwidgeon are adorkable!
*And if magic were real, it would definitely never, ever be safe to accept candy from strangers. Tee hee!