Wherein we read my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling.

Before we pro­ceed: Spoilers. More than a few, because I have to dis­cuss a few things, par­tic­u­larly the ways in which Rowlng some­what pissed me off with this sev­enth novel.

I hate delib­er­ate spoil­ers. I’ve writ­ten a few books myself and know what it’s like to try to care­fully craft a nar­ra­tive, to keep the reader engaged and turn­ing the pages, to keep things mov­ing but not so fast no one can keep up, not so slow any­one wants to skip to the end.

This, then, is your last warn­ing. If you haven’t read the sev­enth Harry Potter yet but intend to, and don’t want the story ruined, don’t read further.

We’ll start with the most irri­tat­ing deaths.

1. Hedwig, Dobby, Fred Weasley and Harry

First chap­ter, Harry’s owl gets smoked like a doob at a Beenie Man con­cert. Hedwig! A friendly, intel­li­gent bird! Who spends most of her time just before her death moon­ing in her cage sadly. Blazed in a few sen­tences, actu­ally unwor­thy of a graf. A famil­iar? Shit. One won­ders how his human friends will fare in light of how briefly Harry seems to mourn his pet, friend and com­pan­ion of seven years.

Then, some­where in the mid­dle of the book, Dobby does three incred­i­bly annoy­ing things.

1. He shows up. Nuff said.
2. He gets killed. For no rea­son, except for #3.
3. He becomes a major focus of mourn­ing for Harry.

Harry! Yes! Not Hermione, who seemed to have a moistie for elves. (And pity Ron; most cuck­olded lovers can con­sole them­selves with the thought that they were dumped for more mus­cu­lar, long-​​penised men. Think about what that means for a minute.)

Rowling writes a lovely coda to Dobby’s life; but rather than let it close the chap­ter and his pres­ence in the nar­ra­tive, we’re forced to spend half of the next god­damned chap­ter deal­ing with Harry dig­ging a fuck­ing grave for Dobby, bury­ing Dobby, etch­ing a by-​​Christ head­stone for Dobby, and, well, fuck Dobby.

When my eighteen-​​year-​​old cat Sputnik died a few months ago, I dug his grave by hand, buried him and am still mourn­ing. I loved that sweet old cat. The worst part for me, apart from the fact that I wasn’t actu­ally there to pet him in his final moments as he died like I was for Mira, was when I placed his stiff­en­ing, cool­ing lit­tle body in the cone-​​shaped hole and felt his back legs press against the wall of soil; I feared that his del­i­cate, dead legs would break; and as I thought of the times he had cud­dled under the sheets with me, curl­ing next to my chest and say­ing murr at me, I felt a lit­tle piece of myself, my self, tear open and bleed.

But you know Sputnik was with me, thick and thin, for two fuck­ing decades. Dobby was … shit, he was Jar-​​Jar. A too-​​cute shitty lit­tle plot con­trivance that was there when con­ve­nient, idi­otic for the sake of strained com­edy, and in gen­eral some­thing that should never have been intro­duced to begin with. He and his ilk took up half of book 4, for fucksake.

And then, near the end of the book, Fred Weasley gets creamed by the mag­i­cal equiv­a­lent of a mor­tar, every­one pulls up their socks, and on with the narrative.

It was like the fuck­ing owl all over again.

Whoops, dead thing, too bad, move on.

Tonks and Lupin bought it too, and I’m sorry, but that was just shitty. I know war involves hideous death. But this seemed a lit­tle gra­tu­itous. They get about as much recog­ni­tion in the book as they have here, in this gloss: A few sen­tences, and that’s it. In fact I think I’ve already writ­ten more about Tonks’s and Lupins’s deaths than Rowling did. And these were sig­nif­i­cant minor characters.

Harry? No, he doesn’t die. He can’t; he has to sur­vive long enough for the smok­ing hot four­some he, Hermione, Ron and Ginny share in the last chap­ter. I’m just fuck­ing with the ass­holes who are try­ing to read ahead with­out actu­ally putting in the time. Fuck y’all.

2. Shitty pacing

Probably Rowling could have spared a few pages to let her char­ac­ters — and their read­ers — really digest and make mean­ing of Fred’s death, except she blew off some­thing like sixty thou­sand words in the mid­dle of the story with Ron, Harry and Hermione camp­ing out in the woods.

I guess that’s why Hedwig got hosed in chap­ter 1. It would have been awful, dra­mat­i­cally, if Harry could have sent a dis­tress mes­sage by Owl Post or what­ever. Strangely miss­ing also, though, were Hermione’s and Ron’s famil­iars. Unfortunately, what we got stuck with was dra­matic dol­drum instead.

And you know I really mean it when I say they spend lit­er­ally two hun­dred pages hang­ing out in the fuck­ing for­est and get­ting mis­er­able. The entire set of chap­ters felt like they were writ­ten by Rowling around, say, book three, and hadn’t really been revised since then. It was Emo Angst in the Forest, and it was fuck­ing inter­minable. Just pitch a tent, get uncom­fort­able, move, pitch a tent, get uncom­fort­able, move, pitch a tent, get uncom­fort­able, move; it was like Nudist Gay Repressed Celibate Boy Scout Camp. For two hun­dred fuck­ing pages.

What was least believ­able, though, was we had three seventeen-​​year-​​olds camp­ing out for months together, and appar­ently no one ever jacked off, went on the rag or, god help us all, fucked.

I know this is a kids’ story. But Jesus. Come on. I don’t know why the right-​​wingers hate the HP series so much. It’s one of the best com­mer­cials for chastity ever produced.

3. Weak … weakness

Oh, wait, the Malfoys don’t have the col­lec­tive testes to side with Moldyfart after all? Gee! Redeemed!

And in the “cli­mac­tic bat­tle” Harry deflects Moldyfart’s avada kadav­era with a weak-​​assed stun spell, caus­ing his opponent’s curse to ric­o­chet like a wild blaster bolt against a lightsaber wielded by Luke Skywalker, caus­ing it to hit Moldy and kill him?


And as for the epi­logue. Jesus. Rowling does noth­ing but rein­force the myth that your One True Love from ninth grade is the one you’ll marry and end up liv­ing with forever.

Oh — Harry being a god­fa­ther? Nicely glossed over, Joanne. I espe­cially liked how he spent the next one point six or so decades ignor­ing that respon­si­bil­ity, just like any teen boy who was too quick with his wand. Very fuck­ing admirable and heroic. Maybe the next series of books can start with Harry Potter and the Narrowly-​​Dodged Responsibility. Followed with Harry Potter and Ginny’s Lost Period. And then Harry Potter and the Hope Hermione’s Brat Has Ron’s Hair At Least, Because We Don’t Remember Which One of Us Came Last in Her Pussy After That Kegger, And We All Hope to Shit It Wasn’t That Freak Grawp, But You Gotta Admit That Was an Amazing Fucking Thing to See.*

You know, I’ve really liked the HP series; I’ve liked the way the plot unfolded, I’ve liked the sto­ry­line; but the end­ing was pretty much pre­cisely what I expected, save the occa­sional bizarre, ran­dom and point­less death.

Rowling, when she is focused, is a very good writer. She’s got a great ear for lan­guage and a very good feel for pac­ing and plot over­all. But this book just wasn’t that sat­is­fy­ing. It has noth­ing to do with over­in­flated expec­ta­tions either; I’m not a rag­ing fan of Potter. I haven’t been wait­ing breath­lessly year after year for the next install­ment. She’s capa­ble of bril­liant writ­ing, like, say, Stephen King or George Lucas; but just like Lucas or King, she would ben­e­fit from strong, assertive editing.

I am sure that gen­er­a­tions of par­ents, myself pos­si­bly included in their num­ber even­tu­ally, will have one hell of a job before them explain­ing this last book to their kids.

It was a good damn begin­ning, an inter­est­ing mid­dle, but the end just did not sat­isfy me.

Here’s a palate cleanser, a mar­velously piquant sendup of the book, h/​t to the won­der­ful Amanda.


* You’re right. That prob­a­bly is one of the fun­ni­est god­damned things you’ve ever read.


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