We’re going to have to talk about Harry Potter to set the scene, but this really isn’t about Harry. If you’re not a Potter fan, stick around anyway. Of course, if you’re not a Potter fan, you’re probably not the kind of person who would end up reading this blog, anyway.
I got caught at lunch without the Churchill biography I’m currently reading, so I had to find something on my iPad to read. I happened to have Dune from a Kindle sale a few months ago, so I thought I’d re-read it again since it’s probably been 10–15 years since I last did so.1
I ran across this in the first few pages:
A world is supported by four things:
the learning of the wise,
the justice of the great,
the prayers of the righteous,
and the valor of the brave.”
That was thought-provoking enough. But then it was closed with this:
But all of these are as nothing without a ruler who knows the art of ruling.
A couple of weeks ago, as we were leaving the church building, our pastor called me over and said, “Don’t you think that Harry Potter is essentially the same as LOTR, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones, just set in a sorcery and wizarding context?” As I stared at him blankly, he said, “Something to think about. Might make a good blog post.”
I was staring at him blankly because his question was the literary/movie equivalent of asking him, “Aren’t all religions essentially the same?” It’s not that the question is difficult, it’s that there are so many things racing through your mind it’s hard to know where to start.
I’m told I learned to read at three-and-a-half while sitting on my grandfather’s lap while he read the comics to me. I obviously don’t have any memories of that, but, like most of us, neither do I have any memories of not being able to read. Unlike many (most?) of us, however, I don’t have any memories of not wanting to read.
As an elementary child, I lived less than a mile away from a library. The library had a ten book at a time limit, which I discovered by trying to exceed it. I read just about anything I could lay my hands on; kid-sized biographies of two babes (Ruth and Didrikson) and countless others, all of the Nancy Drew’s that existed at the time (forget the Hardy Boys, I was far more interested in the 18-year old female detective), the random book on fractions,1 and book after book after book after book on World War II.
I don’t remember exactly when I first read The Great Gatsby, but I do remember that I didn’t think much of it. My memories of it consisted of “over-hyped, not very interesting, short, some girl gets run over.” I couldn’t have told you two things about the titular character, including his first name. I could tell you even less about Fitzgerald’s writing.
How is that possible? I didn’t read Gatsby in high school, when words pass through a brain still mostly mush (because of which I forgive myself for forgetting everything about another Fitzgerald book, Tender is the Night, on which I did my junior theme).
Tivo has a wonderful thing called a Season Pass. You can record every instance of a show without having to worry about what time it is, what night it’s on, etc. When you set up a season pass for a show, you can decide whether you want only first run shows, first runs and reruns, or all shows. I always choose the first option — who wants to watch reruns?
And yet, I will re-read a good book over and over. I’ve read Les Misérables a half-dozen times, Into Thin Air at least as many, and LOTR too many to count.