Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Harry Potter and the Longest Story on Earth
There is no hiding it: I am a Harry Potter fan.
And although I love the books by themselves, just the way they are, isolated from other literature, there is no way you can avoid the fact that these books express the newest version of the long, long story that has probably lived as long as people have inhabited the earth. You have it expressed in The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (where Frodo and Sam explicitly refer to themselves as taking part in an overall story, far outliving them), fairytales throughout the world, in lore and popular fiction, ballads, songs and so on. Where it all comes from is of course the next question, but the answer to that is still a bit beyond where I have tread. (Although I think it has something to do with where psychology comes from - what shapes us as humans, why we realize our Being in the shape of humans.)
There is the obvious "good vs bad" theme in the Potter books. There is also a demonstration of the human ability to create - to flesh out the web of ideas and deeply rooted images we all take part in. Rowling is brilliant in the way she uses fantasy, in creating a fully inhabited universe that we want to live in and explore on our own. She presents us with mystery, interesting characters, intelligent storylines, tragedy, comedy, solid friendships and a fight for life. The story she produces is as many-layered as expressed by the great variety of people who love her books (her tale, her long story). I think every reader meets her text with his or her own backdrop of ideas, feelings, memories, preferences etc, factors that make a person that particular person. And despite of this, nearly everyone reading her story gets engulfed. In a good way! I take it as a mark of her genius.
This story incorporates all the stories that went before it, and takes it a few steps further, into our own time - or, rather, the author is one step ahead of us, sketching out a newer, fresher world order. Something we feel it is worth reaching out for, something we feel as being the natural next step in the world as we know it.
Everything that is made and put forth in this world leaves an imprint of itself. Everything existent is always coloured by everything else. The Harry Potter saga (still in the making, that is one of the things that is so fantastic about it! that we get to share the long process from beginning to end, not knowing how the story ends) is without question the biggest, most successful story of our time.
One of the reasons, I think, is because Rowling is exactly one or more steps ahead of us all of the time. She made this universe and, more important still, she made the plot, which every good story springs from and moves towards. The plot is not yet revealed to us so the saga of the saga is also unfinished. (The saga of the saga might never finish, as I am sure you are very well aware). The real size and quality of the story, then, is yet to be unfolded. But the quality of the six books we already know leave us with no doubt that the last and concluding chapter (book 7) will live up to the expectations. Probably it will even transcend the previous ones, perhaps leaving some behind, dissatisfied. But more people are going to love it and see that this was the only way the story could be concluded, this was what the population of the world needed to read in the beginning of the 21st century. I believe that.
That is how much trust I place in J. K. Rowling.