The Library Basement
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Tag J.K Rowling

Readings for September 2016

In which I read a stage play.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorn, and John Tiffany

There seems to have been a bit of marketing confusion for this book which must be cleared up right away - this is a script for a stage play. It contains stage directions and dialogue. Many people I spoke to thought this was a novel. It is indeed "the eighth Harry Potter" story, but it is a play. I have not seen the play, only read the script.

The verdict is: it's not bad. I worried that after the magic of the initial Harry Potter sequence nothing will measure up. See the Star Wars prequels for an example of this. Luckily the story starts with a very compelling premise: it is rumored that Voldemort left behind a child, and the paranoia introduced by this produces some great drama.

Somewhat unfortunately, a lot of the plot is driven by time travel. That was used with decent effect in the third Harry Potter novel. But as so often happens with time travel, the plot gets burdened with the weight of its pure plottiness, and many, many distractions are introduced to the reader in the form of continuity questions. These didn't ruin it for me, but it did cause me to question whether the conclusions of the story really ring true.

One thing I can say is I really would like to see this production live one day. The stage craft implied by the stage directions is really amazing, and I'd love to see how they pull everything off. I am sure it will go on tour someday, but it may be a decade before it comes to Portland.

If you are a Potter maniac I'll recommend it. Though if that is the case you've likely already read it.

Periodicals

  • Harper's August 2016
  • Harper's September 2016
  • Harper's October 2016

Whew, all caught up!

Readings for March 2014

While I try to stay sharp with "literary" fiction, I cannot layoff the popcorn fare. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this. Sometimes the literature smarties need to relax and read a page-turner.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Here ends the Harry Potter series as well as my re-read. I had actually forgotten a lot of details from the final book in the series - likely due to the film abridging much in service of the film format. What I rediscovered I liked, particularly the narrative of how Dumbledore's youthful pursuit of power shipwrecked his family life.

The series as a whole is of course recommended. It has become an important part of our culture, and it is good reading.

Middle C by William Gass

Gass tells us the story of Joseph Skizzen, the very average man. Skizzen's upbringing was the product of his father's deceptions and ultimate abandonment. Joseph, along with his mother and sister, end up in America, where they must learn their own ways to navigate the American life. In spite of being undocumented and uneducated, Joseph becomes Professor Skizzen, on the music department faculty of a small midwestern university. There he begins cultivation of his private "Inhumanity Museum" and his attempt to express an idea, a single sentence, in its perfect form.

I can honestly say this is the best novel I have read in quite some time. The character Skizzen and his neighbors are a delight to read. Recommended.

Periodicals

  • Harper's March 2014
  • Scientific American September 2013 - I learned a lot from this food-centric issue. One of the most interesting factoids was that humans really need to cook food in order to survive.

Readings for February 2014

This month: pops!

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

I completed the fourth of umpteen novels in the Wheel of Time series. This installment was a bit longer than the preceding, but hopefully the length will not continue to increase on a linear scale. Jordan does a decent job presenting some core conflicts in this novel which give some immediacy to the conflict I know will not be ultimately resolved for ten more subsequent installments. I do not feel weary on the journey thus far, so I will continue reading these one every few months. Recommended.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

I started a re-read of the Harry Potter novels in September of 2008. Let's just say that it has been a fairly slow burn. But having completed the sixth installment, I rush right on to the ultimate, as you, dear reader, will see in my subsequent readings post.

These novels are really enjoyable. In this read-through I am particular enjoying the themes of Harry Potter. Rowling wrote some novels which are interesting to adults not just in a popcorn fashion, but because they appeal to some complex emotions. Which is good! Also: Snape kills Dumbledore. I figure after all this time, I should not need to give a spoiler warning for that. Recommended.

Periodicals

  • Scientific American August 2013 - This issue covers several angles of MOOCs - massively open online courses. I took one on natural language processing through Coursera and liked it quite a bit. The numbers are not great in terms of students completing the course, but even the few who progress all the way represent a large group learning from a single course.

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