July 19, 2007


Last 'Potter' book has convincing inevitability: a review of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS By J.K. Rowling (MICHIKO KAKUTANI, 7/18/07, THE NEW YORK TIMES)

J.K. Rowling's monumental, spellbinding epic, 10 years in the making, is deeply rooted in traditional literature and Hollywood sagas -- from the Greek myths to Dickens and Tolkien to Star Wars -- and true to its roots, it ends not with modernist, Soprano-esque equivocation, but with good old-fashioned closure: a big screen, heart-racing, bone-chilling confrontation and an epilogue that clearly lays out people's fates.

Getting to the finish line is not seamless -- the last portion of the final book has some lumpy passages of exposition and a couple of clunky detours -- but the series' conclusion and its determination of the main characters' story lines possess a convincing inevitability. [...]

Harry's journey will propel him forward to a final showdown with his archenemy, and also send him backward into the past, back to the house in Godric's Hollow where his parents died, to learn about his own family history and the equally mysterious history of Dumbledore's family. At the same time, he will be forced to ponder the equation between fraternity and independence, free will and fate, and to come to terms with his own frailties and those of others.

It is Rowling's achievement in this series that she manages to make Harry both a familiar adolescent -- coping with the banal frustrations of school and dating -- and an epic hero, kin to everyone from the young King Arthur to Spider-Man and Luke Skywalker.

In doing so, she has created a world as fully detailed as L. Frank Baum's Oz or J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, a world so minutely imagined in terms of its history and rituals and rules that it qualifies as an alternate universe -- which may be one of the reasons the Potter books have spawned such a passionate following and such fervent exegesis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 19, 2007 8:15 AM

I'd argue with the comparison to Tolkien's Middle Earth, though.

Posted by: Buttercup at July 19, 2007 8:49 AM

Buttercup - fair point. The level of detail/imagination in Potter is very good but LOTR had fully developed alternate languages, history/geneology going back centuries, and so forth

Posted by: AWW at July 19, 2007 11:37 AM

Middle Earth would exist if Tolkien hadn't. Hogwarts wouldn't if Rowling didn't.

Posted by: oj at July 19, 2007 1:30 PM