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Beowabbit
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Finished! 
14th-Aug-2007 09:16 am
Misc: spines of old books
I finally finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which my lovely plumtreeblossom gave me) last night on the T. Spoilers and commentary in my first comment below. (I didn’t want to just put them behind a cut-tag, since some people have LJ configured to auto-expand cut tags when they go to somebody’s journal directly.)

There are spoilers in the comments.
Comments 
14th-Aug-2007 01:33 pm (UTC) - HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
So I enjoyed the book as a ripping good yarn. But... Were there this many improbable coincidences in the previous books? (I remember thinking that when I read some of the others, so probably the answer is “yes”.) The one that particularly jumps out is when Harry, Ron, and Hermione discovered the secret of the Sword of Gryffindor in Gringott’s, but I know there were others. And there are just a few too many dei ex machinis. I knew Harry wouldn’t die, just because of the kind of books they are, but I have to say, waving the magic wand (so to speak) and saying “No, after all, you don’t have to die anyway, despite all the careful setup and foreshadowing that’s gotten us to this point” felt kind of hollow. (The last section of the book was good and harrowing despite that, but seeing Harry deliberately choose to sacrifice his life and then get a do-over was kind of unsatisfying.)

But that’s just nit-picking. (Admittedly, these books provide enough nits to feed an entire troop of primates!) I love the books and intend to start re-reading it when I run out of Discworld books, and I love the sweetie-pie who gave me the last book.

DA FTW!
14th-Aug-2007 03:01 pm (UTC) - Re: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
Take a look at Chris Hitchens' review in this past Sunday's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/books/review/Hitchens-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

He calls it "The repeated tactic of deus ex machina (without a deus) "

He has valid points, but nonetheless I read it in a 36 hour period myself!
14th-Aug-2007 03:13 pm (UTC) - Re: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
While I've enjoyed this series more than almost any I've ever read, I have some bones to gnaw on:

dei ex machinis

Amen, and this point deserves a discussion all its own. Deus ex machina was so overemployed that it became predictable and at times almost embarassing to read. It's a literary tool that, if applied very sparlingly, can be effective and as showy (or not) as a skilled writer wants it to be. But put frequent narrative dependence on it, and it becomes a sheepish crutch; a cheap trick that becomes less forgivable with each subsequent use.

Thinking back on as many literary instances of deus ex machina that come to mind (and taking us out of the Potterverse for a minute), the most effective and impressive use of it that I can recall happens during the climax of Jurassic Park. It comes without foreshadowing from an entirely unexpected but ultimately plausable source, and it happened only the once, not repetedly until becoming a routine band-aid for narrative Oh Noes. JKR used it like duct tape, jury-rigging any situation that might have otherwise taken time or tangents to get out of. I lost trust after a while, for the first time in the whole series.

Something else that has always baffled me about the Potter wizarding world is an apparent lack of higher education. A young wizard or witch graduates from wizarding school at 17 or 18, and unless I've missed something very big, their formal education ends there and no such thing as college exists; the young graduates (and drop-outs) tend to marry off promptly and begin breeding posthaste. This is an authorial choice that I've no right to bash because the culture within her universe is hers to dictate. But for a story that takes place in the developed world during modern times, having people begin full adulthood while still in their teens seemd jarringly anachronistic to me. (But maybe I'm over-Americanized).

The Epilogue...oy vey. I think this will go down in history as one of the biggest mistakes in English language publishing. Among other problems, she introduces a fat handful of brand new characters (annoyingly named after other characters) who will never see development. I don't care about those characters. I want to know what happened to the characters I've spent the last 10 years caring about. I want to know what happened in the years immediately following the war with Voldie.

But in spite of all, I consider the series something of a miracle in the way it brought back enthusiasm for reading among young people. Nothing can take that credit away, and the literary world is better for having this series added to it. And I'm glad you're done reading, so we can discuss it more. Love you, my wizard!
14th-Aug-2007 11:18 pm (UTC) - Re: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
Thinking back on as many literary instances of deus ex machina that come to mind (and taking us out of the Potterverse for a minute), the most effective and impressive use of it that I can recall happens during the climax of Jurassic Park. It comes without foreshadowing from an entirely unexpected but ultimately plausable source, and it happened only the once, not repetedly until becoming a routine band-aid for narrative

I felt the exact opposite, not because it happened more than once, but because Crichton uses it the exact same way in so many of his later stories. Andromeda Strain, Congo, Sphere... they all had the same first chapter and the same last chapter, filled out like mad libs with the middle not much more original. But I think I read too many of his books in too short a time as an adolescent. I was so disappointed when I saw the man behind the curtain for the first time...I guess I still blame him.

This is an authorial choice that I've no right to bash because the culture within her universe is hers to dictate.

But from a single mother? Ouch.

But in spite of all, I consider the series something of a miracle in the way it brought back enthusiasm for reading among young people.

I totally agree. I'm not a fan of JKR, despite the fact that I've read and enjoyed all of the earlier 6 and eagerly begun the seventh (thanks to you, since Jay lent it to me:) ). The fact that people (like my family) started reading and talking about books totally impresses me.
15th-Aug-2007 03:24 am (UTC) - Re: HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!
A young wizard or witch graduates from wizarding school at 17 or 18, and unless I've missed something very big, their formal education ends there and no such thing as college exists...

The wizarding population isn't big enough, apparently, to support colleges and universities. Last week I read a rather exhaustive analysis (to the point where I, a fan, was yawning and wondering whether they didn't have better things to do) of the population and economy of wizarding Britain; it made a pretty convincing case that they couldn't afford higher education. If you want to wade through it, it's http://www.redhen-publications.com/WizPopulation.html ...

14th-Aug-2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, and Kreacher’s almost instantaneous change of heart bugged me too, although it was set up pretty well.
14th-Aug-2007 05:18 pm (UTC)
Actually that made sense to me. House Elves don't go through 5 stages of acceptance, they're either all-in or all-out. Look at Dobby.
14th-Aug-2007 05:15 pm (UTC)
I was actually totally ok with the do-over after Harry sacrificed himself. Self-sacrifice had been carefully described many times as an ancient and powerful magic (or rather, alterer of magic). There was a fundamental change to Harry as a result (piece of V's soul in Harry destroyed), which is required by the mythology of death and rebirth. So I don't agree that that's an example of deus ex machina.

What bugged me most about the ending was the contrivance whereby the Sorting Hat was on Neville's person when he had an opportunity to kill Nagini. We know from Chamber of Secrets that a true embodiment of Gryffindor can draw the sword from the hat, so I'm fine with that and count it as a clever plot connection. But the hat was only on the scene because V decided a great way to show off would be to summon it from the castle, stick it on Neville, and set it on fire. Lame.
14th-Aug-2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I'm a big fan of Neville and always wanted him to "do better" than he did his first year, so I was estatic that he drew the sword out. Yeah, yeah, total plot contrivance, but Neville!
14th-Aug-2007 10:34 pm (UTC)
I was happy that the book did not include the one thing that annoyed me from previous books -- Mrs. Norris being re-introduced each time she showed up. I know she's a cat! Stop telling us that she's a cat!
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