We went to court again on the 20th, and so far it's going well. The judge asked me to take TheAlanRodgersExperience.blogspot.com down -- so I've done that, and we'll see what happens next.
This afternoon in the mail I got a letter from Amy Sterling Casil's lawyers warning me that material I'd posted from the dependency court decision could result in my being thrown in jail for 6 months and being fined $500. The blog's offline, and presumably Casil's next step is to try and get me thrown in jail ... can't think why the truth of her life being known to the world would be disturbing to her. Sweet dreams, lady. I'll be in touch.
I was sneering at the Kwik-E Mart crowd a week or two ago -- said that if they came back at 2 in the morning there'd be no line and as dumb as getting up at 2 in the morning to visit the Kwik-E Mart was, it would beat standing in line in the hot sun behind 30 other people ...
Last night my daughter stood in line for hours to be the first to get her hands on "Deathly Hallows" -- she spent the night at a friend's house, and after she got her book I met her and picked up my copy. On my way home, at 1:10 AM, the line at the Kwik-E Mart was 25 people. Don't know what to tell you -- apparently those people standing there at noon in the sun were the smart ones.
OK, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Finished the book about 20 minutes ago and, since plenty of people will still be reading it, I'm going to be a little general in my response --
Looking at the Potter series as a whole, nothing I can say about it's going to make a lick of difference -- it's a first-rate piece of work overall, though JK Rowling's as long-winded as Stephen King these days once she gets going. (OK ... not quite that long-winded, King's books are printed in smaller text.)
Some years back I read King's "Dark Tower" series, which strikes me as a very qualified sort of success -- moments of rare brilliance, a sense of otherworldliness which started with the very first short story and which the series as a whole never quite lost despite its lengthy digressions and King's utter inability to stay away from American pop culture references. The series as a whole is a terrible mishmash and King's insertion of himself as an actual character in the story didn't work. (No objection on principle, there -- all writers are narcissists and King has better cause than most. But it didn't work.)
At one point I had a stack of the Dark Tower by my bedside, and spent a really useless afternoon with a notepad doing a "Phantom Edit" of the series. (Years back some clever guy did an edited version of "The Phantom Menace" called "The Phantom Edit" -- took out most of the egregously stupid parts of that movie. I never saw the actual edit but I liked the idea. Sort of like William Goldman's retelling of S. Morgenstern's "The Princess Bride," with just the good parts retained ...)
I got through done with my notes and figured a reasonably good editor could have cut out better than a third of the word count, maybe half, from that 7-book series, and turned it into one really great trilogy ...
I don't think that approach would have worked with Rowling -- the structure of her story required 7 books for the 7 years at Hogwarts. But the individual books could and probably should have been shorter -- not "considering the audience," but "considering the story." The longer books have always felt drawn-out to me, without enough story to cover the pages. It really feels very much like Stephen King at work in some ways -- I don't know when the last time was that JK Rowling got edited, but it was probably before she got to be richer than the Queen of England. At a certain level of commercial success publishers don't do anything to upset the talent, and King and Rowling both passed that mark gaining speed ...
Fair's fair -- they're both extraordinarily talented storytellers. I wish both of them would waste less of my time, but I still read them both, and I read "Deathly Hallows" from 1:30 to 4:30 this morning, and again for a couple hours this afternoon. My oldest daughter finished it before I did -- took a break and slept for a few minutes this morning, but then got back up and finished it and has been unconscious ever since, sleeping it off. A "Potter Bender."
And now it's over ... where does it rank?
It's no Lord of the Rings. As long as people remain human they're going to keep reading Lord of the Rings. If I had to pick 3 representative works of Western culture, something some future civilization would come along and judge us by, it would be Hamlet, Huckleberry Finn, and Lord of the Rings. (The hero of which is Sam Gamgee, by the way.)
Potter doesn't rise into that rank (and never threatened to.)
Is it as good as The Chronicles of Narnia? It might be better ... but I think the Chronicles will last longer, because they're simpler stories, which is a real virtue: you can read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, a bigger and more epic story than Harry Potter, in about the time it would take you to wade through one of the longer Potter books.
The piece it most puts me in mind of, and (length aside) the piece I think it most compares to, is Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising. I've reread the entire Dark Is Rising sequence in the last couple of years -- it's a beautiful piece of work, for sheer impact falling somewhere in between Narnia and Lord of the Rings ... five novels about 3 English children, and Will Stanton, the last of the Old Ones, fighting against the Rising of the Dark (and ultimately, if this isn't too much a spoiler, winning.)
(A quick word about Patricia McKillip -- I haven't read the Riddle of Stars trilogy since it was published, but I recall being hugely impressed with it at the time. I've never seen a copy in a bookstore since.)
I can't say much about what happens in the last Potter book -- too many people are still reading it. But it doesn't provide any leaps in daring on Rowling's part, nothing you couldn't see coming from the earlier works -- it's a Harry Potter book, and the tone, the risks and the rewards, resemble those of the earlier Potter books, amped up a bit for the payoff, but nothing that will shock anyone who's been paying attention. (I admit ... I was hoping for something shocking, some really epic payoff ... and your mileage may vary on whether she provided one.)
If you have a kid who likes fantasy ... you might start them off on the Chronicles of Narnia, move on to The Dark Is Rising and then Harry Potter, and finish up with The Lord of the Rings. By then the kid will be in her early teens and able to pick her own way, going forward ...
I wish I could name a work of science fiction to include in that list, but I really can't. There are bright spots that come to mind -- Citizen of the Galaxy and Have Spacesuit Will Travel, by Heinlein; Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, and its sequels; John Chrisopher's Tripods and Prince in Waiting trilogies; Lester Del Rey wrote a couple I liked (The Runaway Robot still stood up when I re-read it as an adult); Alan Nourse did a couple books I liked (The Universe Between) -- though I haven't read those since I was a kid and don't know if they'd hold up. Throw in Van Vogt's Slan and we're done with what I can come up with off the top of my head.
Now, I love the writers listed above (more than they may deserve; getting caught young will do that to you.) Nourse and del Rey and van Vogt are ones I remember least well; Norton I remember quite well and very fondly; Heinlein left such a stamp on the field of SF it's almost not worth commenting on him for good or bad -- the short form is overwhelmingly good until the 60s, mixed results through Time Enough for Love, overwhelmingly bad thereafter ... John Christopher and Madelein L'Engle are still on the right side of the dirt (and from the last thing of L'Engle's I read, an interview about the "Wrinkle in Time" movie, showed she was still as sharp and sensible as ever.)
So I bring these writers up because I admired them and their work, not to speak badly of them -- but none of them wrote anything (for children) that compares well with the four works I listed above. L'Engle and Christopher come close -- Christopher wrote two trilogies with real scope, but they're both really downbeat, for kid's books. L'Engle's stuff has the happier endings kids want (and probably need) ... but it's not cohesive and doesn't hold together, novel by novel, despite its continuing characters, the way the YA fantasies do.
I don't know if this is cultural coincidence or if there's something in juvenile SF that's not conducive to epics -- certainly there are plenty of SF epics aimed at adults. But it appears to be true -- I wouldn't push any SF series I can think of on a young person until she'd worked her way through those fantasies. Better use of time and attention, all around.
I won't go with some kind of grade here -- you can grade burgers (and I'm going to, in my next post, I've got some new ones) ... but it's hard to grade literature. The books are very good, and great for the kids they're aimed at. If you've got a kid considering the series, buy or check out the books for them and turn off that poisonous, addictive screen in the living room.
Got the letter from QuietVision. The books are free and clear. I'll post them over the next few weeks -- I need to proof and .pdf them. The .pdf files I created for the Quietvision editions aren't useable for this.
Sometimes these posts end up longer than I intend.