Thursday, July 28, 2005
The Fight Against the Death Eaters
On my first night in the hospital this week, my doctor came around to talk medical stuff but got so excited by seeing me with the latest Harry Potter tome, which he had just finished himself the night before, that we really didn't talk much about illness but did go into our favorite characters.
"I've got 150 pages to go so NO SPOILERS!" I told him.
"Have you gotten to The Cave yet?" he asked in a voice filled with a trace of chilled awe.
"No, and don't say another word because I'm not reading it tonight. It feels too scary to be reading it at night in a hospital."
My physician is the same age as me, by the way, on the wise side of 50.
I'm feeling ridiculously grateful for all kinds of things right at the moment, including the fact that we have our own version of a Charles Dickens phenomenon, where people would wait on the docks in the 19th century on the East Coast waiting for the latest installment of his serialized novels. The emotional high point for me was the third book in the series, "The Prisoner of Azhkaban" where Harry finally found Sirius Black who loved him unreservedly like a good parent, after having been tortured by the Dursleys all his life. And like Dickens, Ms. Rowling didn't let that warmth and fuzziness last very long but plunged us back into some serious sadness.
The series is also funny and infinitely surprising. My favorite line in the latest book is "What do I care how he looks? I am good-looking enough for both of us, I theenk!" which is fabulously absurd but in context is quite an admirable remark.
What's also interesting is how connected the whole saga is to "current events." I'm not sure if it's intentional on Rowling's part, but her capturing of the zeitgeist of our "real" times is uncanny. I can't watch the Bush Administration, Berlusconi and Pope Benedict in Italy, Blair and his gang in England, without thinking "Death Eaters." They need to be fought in every way possible, and we can win, because as Dumbledore tells Harry, "You have a power that Voldemort has never had. You can love."
The subject of fighting for change, large and small, and unintended consequences is addressed in one of the most beautiful essays I've ever read by a San Francisco writer who I'd never heard of before, Rebecca Solnit. It's been reprinted on Tom Engelhardt's blog, and is called "The Great Gray Whale." Do check it out.