My impression from reading my listserv and other blogs is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
discussions are so over. I, of course, just finished reading it two days ago and am just bursting with thoughts.
For instance, I was reading along in my borrowed copy when I got to page four hundred and something and a character who had not appeared at all in this book suddenly showed up to save our hero's sorry heinie. I had one of those flashes of unsupported insight that Harry often gets. You know, where he suddenly knows
something and thus the story can go on?
What happened was that I was reminded of the evening when I was watching one of the seasons of 24
and Tony Almeda
suddenly showed up to save Jack Bauer's sorry heinie. I jumped up and down on the couch and shouted, "Toooooneee! Tony's back!"
And at that point in my Deathly Hallows
reading it hit me. The reason I have trouble appreciating the uber-serial Harry Potter
, and all serials, is that I keep thinking of them as books. Really, they are far more like television series.
Each book is the equivalent of a television season with actors/characters moving in and out, which causes no problem because the audience expects
that sort of thing. That is how you watch television, and that is how you read these books. A character showing up halfway through a book, with no foreshadowing, no build-up, is a big flaw in a traditional novel. But it's not a flaw in these serials because the readers/audience are the book's fans and will recognize characters from earlier seasons/books. And if readers/audience members don't recognize a character, particularly a minor character? We figure it must be somebody from the last season/book and keep moving on.
A character is a whole lot better with magic than we remember? It must have happened in one of the other books. (With TV that kind of thing happens in other seasons while we were in the kitchen getting something to eat.) A lot of scenes drag on and on? Doesn't matter because we've been reading about Harry, Ron and Hermione for six books/seasons now, and we really don't care about the action, we care about them
. (Sort of the way the politics behind the Mafia business in The Sopranos
was always way over my head, but I didn't care because I was only watching for Tony and Carmella.) A major character we've barely seen this season/book dies and his story is told in a series of flashbacks afterwards? Okay. We're used to flashbacks. (They use them all the time on Lost
One of the things that kept freaking me out about serial novels was that writers were intentionally writing third or fourth or sixth or seventh books that a big chunk of the reading public couldn't possibly get much from. Why would a writer do such a thing? Why write a book so many readers won't be able to make heads or tales of? We're supposed to be communicating here, and these writers were setting up huge barriers to the communication process. Well, the writers of shows like The Sopranos
don't worry about attracting new viewers with seasons three, four, six, or seven, do they? They worry about writing for and keeping the fans they already have.
Besides, new viewers can always buy the DVDs and catch up that way, much as they can buy the earlier books in serials.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying, "Oh, woe. Television has influenced literature, and civilization is going to fall." I like TV. I can see what's attractive about these books to a reading population that has been watching TV for three generations. And we're only talking about one type of literature, here, after all. Serials can co-exist with other literary forms, much as wizards can co-exist with Muggles.
You just have to understand how to read them.
Labels: Harry Potter