Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Let's catch up on our reading, shall we?

Yes, I'm still working on the three biographies over on the left, but I've had to read some other things for work and felt moved to do some other kinds of pleasure reading besides. First the work:

I just read and wrote about two defenses of the Harry Potter books from a Christian perspective: Connie Neal's The Gospel According to Harry Potter. Neal has taken on a daunting task in this and her previous book - defending Harry Potter to evangelical Christians. She does quite well.

This book is not really a defense, though - that was the job of her first book. This one is more a book-by-book guide to moments which are useful for understanding Christian themes. So each little chapter starts with a scene from the book, continues with her explanation of the scene, and wraps it up with Christian material - So in the section on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Neal looks at the vanity of the poseur wizard-author Gilderoy Lockhart (played by Kenneth Branagh in the film) as an opportunity to reflect on arrogance, humility, and the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee. In the same section, the issue of “pure blood” wizards is examined in light of the New Testament proclamation of radical equality and the liberation of Dobby, the house-elf is a chance for Neal to reflect on the liberation from sin and death we are given through Christ.

You get the point. I suppose it's nice for people who like that sort of thing, but really, it's nothing that you or I couldn't do ourselves, given an afternoon and the specter of a youth group with Nothing To Do in our future.

The other was far more interesting, and a book I've mentioned here before - The Hidden Key to Harry Potter by John Granger, published by Zossima Press.

Neal looks at what the interested Christian reader "might" find. Granger goes a step further. He suggests that whatever Christian themes and imagery we find in the Harry Potter books have been put there completely on purpose by Joanne Rowling:

Joanne Rowling is a Christian novelist of the Inkling School [identified with the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and others] writing to ‘baptize the imagination’ and prepare our hearts and minds for the conscious pursuit of the greater life in Jesus Christ. Harry Potter is a Christian Hero.

He actually makes a pretty strong case, built on statements Rowling herself has made, as well as the content of the book. Granger brings an infectious enthusiasm to the material, one that made me actually want to go back and read the books again, if only to check out if what he's suggesting is plausible. I do think, quite honestly, that he overstates his case a bit - suggesting that the name "Harry Potter" might well have been chosen to suggest "Heir of the Potter" - the "potter" of course, being God - but then again, we can't get annoyed with Granger because he presents his hypothesis with such a sense of wonder, fun and conviction, and quite cheerfully invites the reader to call him to task when his predictions about the course of the series don't come true.

Over the weekend, I immersed myself in Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won the Pulitzer in 2000, and which I've never even been remotely tempted to read. But last week at the library, I thought of it for some reason, and decided to check it out. I'm glad I did.

Actually, I found the first 3/4 of it utterly captivating and gorgeously written. In case you don't know, the novel is the story of two young men who are involved in the Golden Age of Comic Books in the late 1930's. You can see what I was never tempted to read it. But what I found was something much different from what I expected - for one of the young men is a Czech refugee interested in magic and escapism, and his escape to America involves a Golem, and the character he and his cousin create is called The Escapist, which becomes a wonderful metaphor for what both of these characters were trying to do with their lives, and not in a bad way, either, as we might think at first.

So yes, I really enjoyed the book (except for the last 1/4, which I didn't hate, but which struck me as predictable and in need of an edit), and spent all day Sunday reading it to the sweet sounds of football. And the baby running laps around the coffee table.

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