Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K.Rowling (1998)

I tell people I've read  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at least seven times (one of those was an audio listen).  Every time a new book came out, I re-read up to that point.  That mean's I've read Book 7 only once - except I vaguely remember finishing it then re-reading it again.  Maybe.

I'm simultaneously listening to this book; I finished reading it a few days ago, but the listening takes longer.

This is our book club book - actually all seven - for January 2016, so I'm getting a head start.

I can drone on about how uneven Sorcerer's Stone is after the 8th read; how the characters aren't yet fully developed; how her world building skills seem piecemeal (she adds things when she needs them; the Whomping Willow is one example; you'd think Harry and Co. would find out about the Whomping Willow that very first year; but she needed it later).  Blog-wise, I will stop complaining (book club-wise, I may complain).  They are obviously special, magical, meaningful books; they a reading touchstone for so many, many adults of all ages at this point.  For better or for worse, this series changed children's literature.  Without Harry Potter, no Twilight, no Hunger Games, no Divergent.  After almost 20 years, still going strong.

What  I especially noticed this time was Rowling's disdain for government, power, laws, and rules.  This becomes even more clear in later books, but even in Sorcerer's Stone there is at the very least some contempt.  Harry and Ron break rule after rule, and as Hermione points out, are rewarded for it.  Hermione soon joins them, going so far as to set Snape on fire at the Quidditch match.  I distinctly remember in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when Harry attacks Snape, Hermione  says, incredulously and a bit fearfully, that he's attacked a teacher.  Has she forgotten so quickly that she herself did so just two years before?  The libertarian bent becomes more of a theme much later, when Harry and the Ministry of Magic are at odds.  I think in each book, I can probably name at least one or two characters who represent the rotten-ness of government.  There is also the theme of the corruptibility of power.  In Sorcerer's Stone, it's petty bureaucracy and the power it wields, in the form of one character in particular, Filch.  Filch has no real power in the school, but with his henchman (woman, cat) Mrs. Norris, he uses what little power he possesses sometimes as a bully pulpit, and always as a bullying informer, the petty arm of the law.  Percy Weasley becomes this as well, but I think that's in later books; you sense that he's unlikable and a showboater, strutting around like the peacock of prefects, loudly pushing and telling off and just using power in petty ways.  If Rowling is good at anything, it's creating narrow-minded busybodies who oppress for the sake of feeling superior.  There are many more of these types of characters to come in the series.  And isn't Voldemort ultimately their king?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I'm typing this, there are over 2 million reviews of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on Goodreads. I'm not sure I can add anything new to this discussion. It's a beloved classic, and probably always will be; even after almost 20 years, the whole series is still chugging along. Sorcerer's Stone is a bit uneven and takes much longer to gather steam than I remember (we spend far too long with the Dursleys). But that's quibble. What Rowling does particularly well, I think (besides continually express a disdain for government, laws, rules and petty bureaucracy and bureaucrats) is characters who do EXACTLY those things. I mean, we all love Harry and Co. - but we REALLY love to HATE the Filches and Percy Weasley's that she lovingly crafts. They are what makes Harry Potter books so much fun - the many narrow-minded busybodies who oppress for the sake of feeling superior that she writes into her novels, and how Harry and Co. thwart them and make them look foolish every single time. It's Rowling being her most radical, and secretly that may be why we all love these book so very much.

View all my reviews


As I'm listening to this as well, I may think of some other things.

Here is one:  Hagrid is sort of an asshole.  So is Ron.  Perhaps as big an asshole as Malfoy.

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