Not to sound impolite or anything, but Harold Bloom and every other Harry Potter naysayer can go take a long walk off a short pier. Having squired the kids to the local Potter party for the midnight unveiling of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I spent the weekend devouring the novel because (a) I wanted to read it before some dipstick spoiled the plot twists for me, and (b) I genuinely like the series and wanted to see how everything would turn out.
I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to spoilers: when reviews of the new book started cropping up at Salon and the New York Times, I had to forcibly restrain myself from clicking the mouse and scanning the articles, like Dr. Strangelove fighting to keep from being strangled by his own leather-gloved hand. But the fight paid off, and I got to see how everything turned out.
So, how did it turn out? Very well indeed. I won’t indulge in any plot talk just yet. Suffice to say that despite the overwriting and creaky plot devices that are as much a part of the Potter series as brooms and magic wands, it is now clear that J.K. Rowling has been fully in control of her material right from the start, and that all the little details sown through the previous six books were there for a reason. In Deathly Hallows, Rowling pulls them all together, throws in some new characters and conflicts for good measure, yanks several rugs out from under her readers’ expectations and brings everything to a deeply satisfying conclusion. She has also presented the film production team adapting her books with nearly insurmountable storytelling problems, and tough luck for them. Some of the Potter films are better than others, but not one has equalled or improved on Rowling’s work, and in Deathly Hallows she guns her engine in their faces and leaves them eating dust.
There are some blowout set pieces here, but the real magic is in the culmination of the themes that give the series its toughness and heft — particularly the theme of how our choices (including our friendships) shape us and guide us. There are some bitterly gloomy passages in this story, but there is also a spirit of generosity that extends even to formulaic characters like the Dursleys while giving the most evil ones their moments of pathos and grandeur. There are also some very obvious references to The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books, particularly The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but they come across as Rowling tipping her hat to the greats as she prepares to take her place among them.
That’s why I was happy to be up at midnight with The Divine Miss T and Dances With Mermaids, watching them dressed up as house-elves and shooting magic wands at each other, knowing full well that there would be a weekend of readjustment and crankiness from disrupted sleeping schedules. I never dreamed that in my lifetime I would get to see a phenomenon in which a book — a book! — excited kids so much that they would gladly stand in line to get their hands on a copy, and I don’t know if we’ll see its like again anytime soon. But I’m glad I was there for it, and doubly glad that J.K. Rowling delivered so fully on the expectations she created.