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Spitting Image 3:3 — Never having to say you’re sorry

hqdefaultI can almost feel sorry for J. K. Rowling.  By age 40 she had published the most successful literature series in history, become the richest woman in England and, according to Forbes, was the first person ever to become a billionaire by writing books.

By any accounts, 40 is too young to retire.  So what does one do for a second act?

Ms. Rowling tried turning her hand to crime novel writing, but the glare of Harry Potter washes out anything else connected with her name.  After claiming she would never add to the series, now it seems that she is doing precisely that with a forthcoming sequel.

And why not?  Better than the sad attempts to stir up controversy with her post-publication commentaries, which seem aimed at no goal other that remaining relevant after her book sales ceased to make headlines.  First she told us that Albus Dumbledore is gay, an assessment that cooled the enthusiasm of many fans and met with incredulity from many others.

Then she began apologizing for killing off her characters, first Remus Lupin then, most recently, Fred Weasely.

960If Leo Tolstoy were still alive, would we expect him to apologize for killing off Anna Karenina?  Did William Shakespeare go too far by killing off Romeo and Juliet?   Should Arthur Miller have re-imagined the saga of Willy Loman as Life of a Salesman?  And is there anybody with more blood on his hands than Nicholas Sparks?

Ms. Rowling’s gift for making the fantastic seem believable depended upon lacing her stories with the kind of harsh and painful twists that are inevitable in the real world.  Without these, her novels would never have struck such a resonant chord with readers who could be captivated by impossible flights of fancy while finding within the narrative a wealth of down-to-earth lessons and insights for every day living.

Of course, maybe Ms. Rowling didn’t mean any of it, like the April Fool’s joke of Harry being a figment of Ron’s imagination.

We can hope, while suggesting that the author remember the words of King Solomon:  Do not say, “How is it that times gone by were better than these?”  For that is not a question prompted by wisdom.

With a talent for storytelling like yours, Ms. Rowling, no apologies are necessary.


Alan Rickman and the Heart of Darkness

tumblr_m7syd5DoVH1rwhttlo1_1280I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter movies which, as is so often the case, paled in contrast to the sheer genius of the books.  But if there was one portrayal that stood out head and shoulders above the rest, it was Alan Rickman’s pitch-perfect rendering of Severus Snape, the slippery potions-master who tormented Harry Potter throughout his career at Hogwarts while secretly protecting him from harm.

I’ll allow myself to boast that I never doubted Snape’s loyalty, even after he killed Dumbledore at the end of The Half-Blood Prince.  Mostly, I trusted the author.  J.K. Rowling did a brilliant job of developing Dumbledore’s character from the outset of the series.  If Dumbledore trusted Snape, then there was no way Snape could be a traitor.

Reportedly, Alan Rickman turned down the role initially.  He thought the character two-dimension and found no challenge in the role.  But Ms. Rowling had her heart set on him, and so she revealed to Mr. Rickman what no one else knew yet, that Snape was really Harry’s secret protector, who would ultimately give his life to save the boy from harm.

Severus-Snape-Alan-Rickman-rip-severus-snape-8361645-400-309So for all those — young and old alike — who missed the books but saw the movies, Alan Rickman brought to life the character who teaches us that no matter how dark someone may appear on the outside, there may yet reside a soul of light and goodness within.

By way of tribute, I offer this return to my recent essay on the wisdom of Harry Potter.

Read the article at: http://www.learning-mind.com/reading-harry-potter/

Who is Wise? Who is Righteous? One who reads Harry Potter

RADCLIFF...TO GO WITH STORY TITLED POTTER COUNTDOWN--FILE--Actor Daniel Radcliffe writes with a quill in a scene from Warner Bros. "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," in this undated promotional photo. The film has its world premiere in London this weekend and hits theaters Nov. 16. Based on the first of author J.K. Rowling's best-selling series, the movie follows the adventures of Harry, an orphan boy who is invited to become a student at the Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The movie faces huge expectations not only among fans, but at the box office, too. (AP Photo/Warners Bros. Pictures, Peter Mountain/FILE)

Do you want to put an end to bigotry, ultra-nationalism, and racism? It might be easier than you think. Try reading Harry Potter.

No, it’s not magic. According to the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, there’s more to the wildly successful series than just a good story. The tale of a mistreated orphan boy who discovers extraordinary magical abilities is essentially an epic metaphor for the battle between merit and privilege, between status and stature, as pure-blooded wizards contend with half-bloods and “mudbloods” for supremacy over the magical world.

By identifying with the heroes of the story who grapple with the conflict between ancestral identity and the content of character, readers will likely emerge a little more heroic themselves.

That’s what Professor Loris Vezzali and his team of researchers from Italy’s University of Modena and Reggio Emilia concluded after a series of studies which demonstrated how children exposed to the passages dealing with prejudice displayed improved attitudes toward minorities and other social classes. According to Scientific American, this research supports an earlier study in Science, which “found that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, results in keener social perception and increased empathy.”

This really should come as no surprise. Literary fiction seeks to educate as well as entertain. The combination of relaxing the mind, the willing suspension of disbelief, and the integration of moral themes, allows for the better internalization of values. Of course, the benefits are dependent upon the soundness of those values.

But Harry Potter hits the mark with almost unwavering accuracy.

Read the whole article at: http://www.learning-mind.com/reading-harry-potter/