Su Lum: Harry Pottering
It was with some trepidation that I awaited the much-touted release of J.K. Rowling’s fifth book, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”
The book was a long time coming, suggesting writer’s block or possibly disinterest on the part of the author, now that Rowling is the hottest writer on the planet, so hot The New York Times, in its snottery, created a separate list of “children’s books” to prevent Harry Potter from dominating their precious bestseller list, so hot she was richer than the Queen.
And it was even longer than the fourth book, “HP and the Goblet of Fire,” which I thought was cumbersome compared to the first three, a possible indication that Rowling was so hot that no one dared edit her.
This trepidation did not deter me, a Harry Potter fan along with my daughters, my granddaughter
and my 96-year-old mother, from buying the book hot off the press.
I did not go to the Friday midnight Potter Party at Explore Booksellers, but I did go there the following morning to stand in line for it, even though I had long before ordered the CD version on Amazon.
Typical Aspen excess, I admit, but I figure what I save on fashion I can squander on books and CD’s.
Anyway, I tottered home with this 870-page Potter tome, and spent the past week immersed in what I think is Rowling’s best of the series. Midweek, the CD set arrived, I passed the book to my granddaughter, Riley, and switched from reading to listening.
My mother says, and I agree, that Jim Dale’s reading of Harry Potter is so good that all other books on tape suffer horribly by comparison, but we both have a problem of dozing off when being read to, so I try to listen during the day while puttering about the house doing soft chores, puttering and Pottering.
There has been some flap that Harry Potter books should be banned because the protagonists are involved in wizardry, witchery and magic, but that’s just the surface of a deeper message, one that I am glad that millions of children are reading and understanding: that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to stand back and do nothing.
You can read Naziism into it, the McCarthy days, the Cultural Revolution, corporate takeovers of independent companies, the Bush administration’s credo that “you’re with us or you’re a traitor,” “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” cliques and gangs, desegregation, developers vs. gardeners, any power struggle where you sometimes no longer know who your allies are.
The message is that if people think for themselves and are true to themselves, even if they’re children, they are not helpless. The dark forces insidiously take over Harry Potter’s school, systematically getting rid of the disruptive dissenters, but the kids aren’t buying it, they are fighting it.
It is amazing that millions of kids all over the world are reading the message, and I can only hope they are taking it to heart. I’d rather have a new generation of Harry Potterphiles running things than the “Leave it to Beaver” set.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who wouldn’t dream of revealing any surprises. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. ]
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Aspen School District is not the only district in the country facing teacher shortages as schools across the nation are struggling to find available staff to fill gaps in teacher positions, writes Teen Spotlight columnist Beau Toepfer. Still, the district has faced challenges with teacher retention and replacement this year.