When Elvis Was Hot
Harry Potter and the Mostly Disappointing Ending
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! (I know that everybody who wants to read the book has already read the book, but, still…)
There were some things I liked in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I liked that Snape turned out to be a good guy—perhaps the best guy—and it was nice that Neville got to be a hero. And, yes, there were some really gripping bits, foremost among them the battle for Hogwarts. I would have been better pleased, though, if that battle was a long siege—one in which all the series’ best characters would truly be tested and given a chance to shine—and if Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s extreme camping expedition was condensed into one cold, soggy long weekend. The King’s Cross chapter made me angry: in part because it was all telling and no showing, and in part because it was emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually cheap. The complex and long-winded explanation of the connection between Voldemort and Harry just gave me a headache. And the epilogue seemed like nothing more than a treacly advertisement for Hogwarts: The Next Generation!
Now that the series is complete, I can say that, on the whole, I enjoyed it, but I don’t find it to be a fantasy masterpiece, and the last book was rather overwhelmed by the weaknesses that Rowling has demonstrated throughout. Sam Anderson sums things up nicely, I think, in the New York Magazine review in which he writes
[D]espite the charm and immersive power of Rowling’s magical world, despite her solid instinct for broad, mythic narrative strokes, she’s always had trouble with the basic mechanics of plot. Even by pulp standards, her storytelling is ridiculous. Exposition happens almost exclusively via overheard conversations. Narrative logic falls apart at crucial moments. Every book ends in an orgy of coincidence and revelations and arbitrary switcheroos. (As George Orwell once wrote about Dickens: “rotten architecture, but wonderful gargoyles.”) Since Deathly Hallows was the series-capping megaclimax, I expected to find it ponderous, overactive, dangerously clotted with characters, and confusing. This was pretty much exactly right.
So, there it is. I think I can safely say that the most memorable part of the whole Harry Potter experience is being at the supermarket on July 17, and noticing that just about everybody had a big, fat doorstopper of a book tucked in amongst their frozen pizzas and cat food. That, in and of itself, was kind of magical.