Even though I suspect many people have already found these links, I wanted to post them here not only for my own personal future reference, but also for others.
- Here's the book review on Slate.com that discusses book 7
- JK Rowling's gives her thoughts on what happens after the epilogue (the entire Today Show interview is here)
- Webchat with JKR, who answers a few questions (more succinct summary here)
- Very funny Potter Puppet Pals video: The Mysterious Ticking Noise. (Thanks to Inkling for sending me this link)
Also two of my fellow bloggers have discussions going (WARNING: SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING LINKS): Raehan and Jen. On Raehan's book blog I left a comment that includes a quote from Megan, who emailed me some of her impressions of the book and had the most fabulous insight into one of Snape's lines. It was brilliant.
(No Book 7 spoilers in the following paragraphs, but spoilers for earlier books...)
Whatever you may think about the Harry Potter books, there is no denying the gift JK Rowling has for storytelling. I know that some more conservative readers have had issues with the magical element of Rowling's books, but I suspect those that have the strongest moral qualms against the book haven't actually read them. I vividly recall a professor of mine announcing in horrified tones that local schools were assigning HP books as classroom reading; I remember the books being banned at a school where I taught; I have read sermons from ministers who warn parents against the dangers of Harry Potter. I think it's all nonsense, really. Anyone who has read through the books can tell you that Rowling's intent is not to glorify the occult or convince children to become witches and wizards. Rather, the fantasy element is all part of the joy of the books, part of the adventures, and--pardon the pun--part of the magic of the books. (And if there were any lingering doubts about Rowling's motives, I should think that the miracle that happens in the chapter entitled "King's Cross" might serve as a fitting rebuttal.)
Hopefully people will see that the series as a whole isn't about darkness and evil. The magical element merely puts the themes in an imaginative context that is both clever and interesting. These aren't dark books, ready to corrupt young minds. Certainly, they aren't for very young children. A bit too scary, I think, a bit too much loss for a child to understand and handle emotionally. But for older kids, I hardly think there is a better example of friendship than what we see between Harry, Ron and Hermione. Above all else, these books are about love. They are about good prevailing, about bravery, sacrifice and friendship. They hold wisdom and loyalty in high regard, and those who treat others (whether person or elf) with disdain will, in the end, reap what they sow. Obviously, the bad guys lose, but even some of the good guys lose too. Sirius, one of my most favorite characters, meets his end partially because of how he treats Kreacher. Peter Pettigrew betrays his friend James perhaps because he always felt the sting of being the uncool kid hanging out with the cool crowd. Conversely, Neville (who also was the uncool kid in the cool crowd) remains loyal to Harry, Ron, and Hermione because they are kinder, more encouraging friends. He learns from their example and becomes a better person because of his friendship with them.
I'm looking forward to the day that I get to introduce my girls to Harry Potter. It's a long ways off, I know, but it'll still be exciting. And lucky (and also unlucky) for them, they won't have to wait for the next book to come out. I do hope, but rather doubt, that another great literary hero emerges in their reading lifetime, just so they can experience the thrill of receiving a book after waiting for it. Experience the joy at waiting with crowds of other people for a book, not a movie or a video game or a fancy phone. Experience the spark of community in seeing so many others reading and talking about a book.
There will, however, never be another character like Harry Potter. In creating The Boy Who Lived, Rowling also breathed life into others. For a brief moment the headlines were about crowds of people at bookstores and parties of children celebrating the joys of reading. Those of us interested in the world of Harry Potter were part of a community, distracted however momentarily from the other very real dark forces that do exist in our world. Through her books, Rowling taught us how to live as well -- with friends, with bravery, courage, and love. In the end, good wins.
Many thanks, Ms. Rowling. Bravo.
PS: And a very happy 27th birthday to Harry Potter :)
PPS: Addendum link that disagrees with some of what I've written (and which by some fluke chance managed to link me at the bottom of the article)