Monday, July 25, 2005

Harry for your water cooler

So you need an opinion on the new Harry Potter book, you say? 600+ pages not quite as intimidating as the 900+ pages of Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, but you still feel behind all your co-workers who stayed up all night to be the first person to finish the book? Not to worry. Here, for your convenience from your friends at Wordwright, is your opinion of Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince.

WARNING: Serious spoilers ahead!

1. Ms. Rowling's sixth book is very entertaining, but oddly Baby-Sitters' Club-ish. There's really not much but hormones going on in the first 400 pages or so. Still, Ron and Hermione's orbits seem to finally intersect ('bout damn time!), and there's a great deal of satisfaction when Harry lays one on Ginny Weasley. (Good for you Harry. No Luke Skywalker monkish celibacy for you.)

2. Which reminds me, whatever happened to Cho Chang? Not that I really liked her, but a whole lot of minor characters who played big roles in the last two books all but disappear in this one. And we spend a lot of time with the Weasleys, but what about Hermione's parents? They seemed cool when mentioned in books 1 and 2. Let's see a little bit of them, eh?

3. Yeah, Dumbledore dies, and I even teared up a little, but we all saw it coming. (In fact, one of my co-workers at Schuler Books in Lansing was predicting that Dumbledore would be the casualty in book 5 before it came out.) If Dumbledore is around, he'll try to put himself between Harry and Valdemort, so in order to set up the final showdown, he had to go.

4. You know, the revelation of the identity of the Half-Blood Prince seemed kind of anticlimactic, especially compared to all the other surprises that Ms. Rowling has layered through her other books. Snape earns his place in the title, but the fact that he was the "Half-Blood Prince" doesn't really seem to matter to anything.

5. So is Snape really a bad guy after all? I think yes and no. Killing Dumbledore is a really big thing, but there is at least a possible (twisted) altrustic motivation--to save Draco's life. (Valdemort would have killed Draco if he failed to kill Dumbledore, and Snape saved Draco from having to do it when it really looked like he wouldn't.) Look for Snape to stick it to Valdemort by the end of book 7, and I bet that Draco will perform a good deed or two as well.

That's my opinion, anyway. Feel free to appropriate it as necessary. Impress your friends and coworkers, without any all-nighters.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Three down, 18 to go. . .

I finished The Alienist--good read, somewhat disappointing ending. Which means that I've read three books so far this year. In a broad sense, that's not bad, but it's quite a bit off my general pace of 20 books a year. (The new Harry Potter should help me catch up a bit, though.)

I am excited about the next title in my queue: an advance copy of the new Rick Moody novel! (It's so nice that Schuler Books still loves me.)

Rick Moody! Rick Moody! As always, I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm damn well going to finish it before the hardcover comes out in September.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I don't know anyone who lives in London. I don't and I have never lived in London. I spent eight weeks there in the summer of 1999. I took a writing class. I saw a lot of plays. I spent a lot of time at the National Gallery. I traveled everywhere on the Underground.

I am not a news blog. I don't need to tell anyone what happened today, and I don't have any real insight to offer.

My study abroad program was housed at the University College London on Marchmont St. Russell Square was my home Tube station. The point of the study abroad program was to make the world a smaller place. I don't know anyone who lives in London, but today someone set of a bomb in my back yard.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Celebrating Independence Day

I did something a bit out of the norm for me, broke free, if you will, and declared my independence. I put down a book that I wasn't enjoying. I've certainly abandoned books before, but this was one that I had been looking forward to, one that I felt that I should read in order to have a complete opinion on something.

I put down (and I say this quietly for fear of sounding like an ignoramus) the new Jonathan Safran Foer novel. I didn't make it very far, maybe 10-20 pages. Part of me feels guilty for putting down a book before getting far enough to really form an opinion on it.

When it came down to it, I couldn't take the narrator. I've never read much Salinger, so I don't feel I can make the big "overly precocious New York kid narrator" complaint, but I decided I couldn't spend 300 more pages with this kid, especially since it just took me four months to read the 200 pages of Gilead, by Marianne Robinson, which was a slow read, but not a four-month slow read.

My reading time has become ridiculously precious. I read forty books over the past two years. This year, I've read two.

So I picked up The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Theodore Roosevelt chasing serial killers. Very cool, and, perhaps more importantly, moving right along. I'll let you know how it goes.