Somewhat in honor of the fact that Friday/Saturday represent my last regularly-scheduled two-day weekend until June, I’ve spent most of the last two days on the computer, doing nothing. Or really, doing things that made me happy but did essentially nothing to better my lot in life in any way. And, since they made me happy, I thought I’d share!
First off, a quick plug for the totally awesome blog/ger Mark Reads. I first heard of him because someone on Twitter (I think cleolinda, who is awesome in her own right) linked to his current read-through, which is LOTR. If, like me, you are a nerdy nerd who cannot resist any read-through of Tolkien, then I highly recommend you give it a look. He’s only recently started The Fellowship of the Ring, so there’s not too much to catch up on. (I am pleased, though, that he has already read [SPOILERS AT LINK] The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, as that is probably one of my favorite chapters in all of literature.)
However, since there CLEARLY WAS NOT ENOUGH LOTR yet, but I was enjoying Mark’s reactions (in part because they’re so similar to mine, yeah yeah yeah narcissism GO BOIL YER HEADS) I decided to read pretty much his entire read-through of the whole Harry Potter series. That took me most of yesterday evening and all of today. (And no, I didn’t read every entry, but I definitely read the vast majority.) This ended up being a really interesting exercise, in part because Mark apparently started the HP read-through immediately after finishing one of the Twilight series, and his resulting hatred of all things everywhere is really apparent in his first few Sorcerer’s Stone reviews. (Don’t have links for the Twilight reviews, sorry, GO FIND YOUR OWN.) (Some of Mark’s exuberant writing style may have rubbed off on me, but I’m rolling with it. After all, spending all day reading CAPSLOCK PARTIES and omgomg KEYBOARD SMASHslskfhaoihakdklsd has got to have some sort of effect on a person.)
But as I was saying, it was interesting to watch Mark’s progression from “exaggerated kidzbook lol” to “HAGRID LOVE” and on through to “OMG WHY DO I CARE ABOUT THIS SO MUCH PLEASE BE OK PLEASE BE OK AUUUUGHHHH.” It really drove home the point that I’ve been increasingly embarrassed to defend: J.K. Rowling may have faults as a writer, but she writes a damn good story. Over the past few years, I’ve somehow stumbled into a portion of the internet that tolerates Harry Potter while at the same time feeling the need to point out that the world-building sucks and the writing sucks and the themes suck and I hope to god you grow out of this damn story because I can’t really stand its immaturity. Which has actually been really depressing. I mean, I’ve always known there were weaknesses in Rowling’s writing, particularly after Book 3. That Triwizard Tournament drags on and on and ON. Along about the time Harry’s trying to figure out the egg, I got really bored. And when he’s angsty in Order of the Phoenix, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled, though that may have been because I was still an angsty teenager myself at the time. And Half-Blood Prince is episodic and is basically just exposition for Deathly Hallows, which has long boring sections that are just camping (though I actually think the boredom of the camping sections is brilliant and necessary but that’s a separate rant which would probably lead me to spoilery discourses on LOTR as well). And as much as I hate Umbridge with white-hot hatred (well done, Rowling), I found her encounter with the centaurs to be problematic right from the get-go.
What I’m trying to say is that yes, there are problems, of course there are. The books could probably have used a bit more editing, though when you have a project with the incredible scope of this series, it’s not unusual for it to kind of get away from people. But the story, for all its flaws, is still powerful, it still tries to deal with hard, dark issues from a place of honesty and compassion, and when it’s at its best, it succeeds. And it was so wonderful, so incredibly affirming of everything that I love about reading and about fantasy and about Harry Potter, to watch Mark fall under Rowling’s spell. And, as a writer myself, it gave me hope that even when I fuck shit up and make people mad and write in subtext that I don’t mean but is there anyway and get overwhelmed with my project and struggle through anyway, I can still, somehow, create something that will do some people good.
And, as I stare down the barrel of a really, really unpleasant-looking next couple months (barring some change), a little hope that we can create things that will do each other good is not such a bad thing. Thank you, Mark Oshiro.