Tag Archives: Harry Potter

You read banned books, but by whom?

The Ginger Man, J P Donleavy; Howl, Allen Ginsberg; Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov; Ulysses, James Joyce; Lady Chatterley's Lover, D H Lawrence, Fanny Hill, John Cleland; The Arabian Nights, Richard Burton; Candide, Voltaire; Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman; Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe; The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio; The Canterbury Tales, Chancer; Lysistrata, AristophanesBy which I mean: BANNED by whom? Looking online for a definitive listing of most-often banned or censored books yields a panoply of titles not necessarily candidates for a pantheon. At right I’ve stacked the heavyweights most often resisted for being obscene, here a quality strangely inseparable from being subversive. Many of these titles have been intercepted through the ages by the US Post Office for being indecent under the Comstock Law, but how does that really inform readers of today?

These days the issue of censorship conjures images of Nazi bonfires, and petty bureaucrats like Sarah Palin calling her public library to inquire about pulling objectionable material from public circulation. The ACLU helps celebrate an annual Banned Books Week, and there’s even a t-shirt popular in elementary school circles which declaims “I read banned book.”

Sexual themes aside, isn’t good literature by definition subversive? “Banned books” of note show themselves by who’s trying to limit their circulation. Solzhenitsyn for example, was silenced by the USSR, not by authorities fretting over you. On the other hand, what the Nazis burned shared themes the US has sought to censor before and since, but the big whoop we make about banned books instead obsesses on lascivious or politically incorrect vocabulary. While literary publicists revel in the notoriety of inconsequential attacks on the ilk of Harry Potters, the digital and mass media age has meant sophisticated advancements in real book burning. I’d like to present an illustrated series about literary works which have threatened authoritarian rule in the past, your access to which is quietly receding.

The Jews killed Harry Potter, if we’re to believe the latest Israeli travel PR

Israeli girls pose around grave of 1939 victim of IrgunI’m mocking the mother of all anti-Semitisms, the original Christian dead horse, that Jews killed Jesus. So let’s be very clear, it was the Zionists who killed Harry Potter. And it wasn’t me how brought it up. Israeli tourism promoters have found another attraction to lure Western visitors, this time RK Rowling fans. Seriously, they’ve found a grave marked Harry Potter, albeit a namesake British soldier of the same age, who was killed in Hebron in 1939. APPARENTLY Potter fans are flocking to the military cemetery in Ramla regardless, if perhaps because the young soldier’s unsung death is tragedy enough. Press TV notes that another tombstone, for one William Shakespeare, is drawing less notice. Unmentioned is how Private Potter died. Charged with keeping the peace under the Palestinian Mandate, the British were fighting against the Irgun, the Zionist terrorist organization trying to drive Arabs from the land that was being claimed for Israel.

Staging Homer for Generation Simpson

Odyssey by Derek WalcottTHE ODYSSEY,
Greek myth would be no more complicated than JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, or GRG Lucas, but I suspect that to impress Homer unto modern audiences might have the disagreeable consequence of educating them.

This weekend Colorado College students staged Derek Walcott’s 1992 The Odyssey in the South Theater of the Cornerstone Arts Building. And performed it brilliantly. Every role, every effect, executed with vitality and aplomb.

Except for the Jamaican nursemaid and Aussie shepherd, the CC actors dropped Walcott’s New World islander accents, but their production honored his post imperialism critique.

My favorite sequence depicted Cyclops as an all-seeing 1984 distillation of mortal man’s inclination toward totalitarianism. The Circe episode is nagging me for further reflection, if I’m to imagine that Walcott would not succumb to the traditional Siren/Mermaid/Nymph misogyny.

If you can’t shake the admonition that rational man’s chief torment is woman, you need look for no literary antecedent before Homer.

Obviously, not all that is Greek is instructional, but wouldn’t it serve our education nicely if, instead of the insipid nuances of fictional worlds imagined by scribes steeped in the decay of Western Civilization, our children could commit to their memories the literary plots –no less compelling– which form the building blocks to a greater appreciation of all art?

We told the kids that the Odyssey was Western Civilization’s first sequel. Of course, the Iliad was a lot to have to recap. Not surprisingly, their experience was “the most random ever.” But while I lamented my missed advance opportunity to have brought them up to speed on the gods and heroes of antiquity, our eleven year old noted, of the lines spoken by the mysterious personages: “Everything they said was always about something else!”


Creolizing Homer for the stage: Walcott’s The Odyssey, by Robert D. Hamner, Twentieth Century Literature, Fall, 2001

Playing With Europe: Derek Walcott’s Retelling of Homer’s Odyssey, by Irene Martyniuk, Callaloo 28.1, 2005

Harry Potter meets Laura Bush

The role she was born to play.I wanted to hate Harry Potter’s latest movie but for one happy surprise: the villainous Dolores Umbridge, played not as a malignant Mimi Bobeck, but instead a spot-on incarnation of First Librarian/Educator guess who?! The First Lady played herself, a smiling headmistress pulling a no-child-left-behind clear-skies-initiative at Hogwarts to subvert the education process lest new skilled wizards graduate to jeopardize the duplicitous aims of the state ministry. With a saccharin plastic grimace and trademark twinkle in her eye, Ms Bush thwarted the young wizards’ magic lessons and exacted Kafka’s Penal Colony punishment on her unresisting subjects.

The unflinching First Lady caricature lent this Potter adventure a semblance of social commentary, but betrayed us thereafter, offering nothing else resembling Muggle/human nature or societal fabric to give a viewer insight into their own lives. Except maybe the ugly scarves at Christmas for comic relief. Otherwise Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was pure entertainment at the cost of two hours of your imagination on idle, but I’ve read no more than a page of Potter, so what do I know?

I also really don’t know enough about Dungeons & Dragons or Tolkien to be able to judge the genre. Is it enough to appreciate J.K. Rowling’s fanciful parallel world like an elaborate puzzle or computer fractal marvel? It’s not my resistance to trivial minutia, it’s that all the clever pieces form an intricate lattice holding up nothing. This is my usual rant against videogame storytelling, always swimming upstream against currents of obstacles, pocketing clues. It’s myth-telling void of any wisdom, natural or historical, unless you count history as keeping a bread crumb trail of Harry’s info quests.

The forces of darkness and light in Harry Potter’s Tatooine lack for every dimension except on/off amplitude, even there without shades of grey. The characters’ actions are driven by neither sociobiology nor mortality. Only at the film’s close does our young Jedi/Chosen One offer an afterthought about team spirit to buoy his friends as they contemplate the battle with evil coming in the next installment: “Unlike Voldemort, we have something to fight for.”

Really? To my mind, anticipating that great evil fights for no reason misjudges its relentless zeal. The misdirection echoes the New World Order fear-mongering against Moslem Evildoers, terrorists apparently who act “because they hate us.”

Surely this underestimates the selfishness or desperation that makes the real world go ’round, motives neatly incomprehensible to young altruist minds. Real evil is an infinitely more ruthless force which preys already on the Harry Potter generation outside the theater doors. That evil is systemic, its motive is greed, and it perpetrates dehumanization. Also like the movie’s corporate makers, it employs misdirection just like Dolores Umbridge Bush to neutralize Harry and his friends.

That said, Imelda Staunton’s flawless turn as our Cretin-in-Chief’s cretinous better half was gloriously, fearlessly in-somebody’s-face.