Mr. Bitter

>> Sunday, August 26, 2007

That is my new name for Christopher Hitchens after reading his review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I don't know what he does for enjoyment, but can he really be so mystified by others' fun time?

In March 1940, in the "midnight of the century" that marked the depth of the Hitler-Stalin pact (or in other words, at a time when civilization was menaced by an alliance between two Voldemorts or "You-Know-Whos"), George Orwell took the time to examine the state of the affairs in fantasy fiction for young people. And what he found (in an essay called "Boys' Weeklies") was an extraordinary level of addiction to the form of story that was set in English boarding schools. Every week, boys (and girls) from the poorer quarters of industrial towns and from the outer edges of the English-speaking Empire would invest some part of their pocket-money to keep up with the adventurers of Billy Bunter, Harry Wharton, Bob Cherry, Jack Blake and the other blazer-wearing denizens of Greyfriars and St. Jim's. As he wrote"

"It is quite clear that there are tens and scores of thousands of people to whom every detail of life at a 'posh' public school is wildly thrilling and romantic. They happen to be outside that mystic world of quadrangles and house-colors, but they can yearn after it, daydream about it, live mentally in it for hours at a stretch. The question is, Who are these people?"

Mr. Hitchens begins his review by quoting George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984. I've never read Animal Farm, but I did read 1984 my senior year in high school. I had the unfortunate experience of reading the book within the book portion at a swim meet in between events. It was such a psyche killer to read that section before a race. A bumper sticker saying, "Life sucks then you die," would have been more uplifting. But this is how Mr. Bitter begins his review to the last Harry Potter book, by being too stuck in his own articulateness to have a sense of fun and whimsy. He continues with the "What Would Orwell Think?" conundrum.

Of the 2,000 or so people in the forecourt, perhaps one-third had taken the trouble to wear prefect gowns and Hogwarts and other Hogwarts or quidditch impedimenta. Many wore a lightning-flash on their foreheads: Orwell would have recoiled at seeing the symbol of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists on otherwise unblemished brows, even if the emblem was tamed by its new white-magic associations.

Is he fucking serious?

He picks up his copy of HP7 in Stanford, California, and he's thinking of George Orwell and the British Union of Fascists? Christopher Hitchens clearly needs a vacation from his own mind. (Does Flash Gordon get a free pass on the lightning bolt connection?)

The only thing I learned from his review is that Mr. Bitter has no imagination. Stephen King, however, has an imagination and an excellent summation of the final Harry Potter book (as published in Entertainment Weekly).


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