Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it, and while it may not be the Battle Of Hastings I do remember Howard The Duck. From 1980 to 1983 I worshipped George Lucas as a sort of combination of Sage and Mage. He was all wonderment and infallible prophet of mythopoetry. Many an allowance of my ten-to-thirteen year old self was spent on magazines and photocopies of articles at the Library. I read The Making Of Raiders cover to cover at least five dozen times and actually had the library police come to our house to demand the return of the long loooong overdue copy of Skywalking: The Life And Films Of George Lucas. So when he came out with a movie after Star Wars [temporarily] done it was like being told that St. Paul had written another epistle.
That movie was Howard The Duck. A few other false starts later, Lucas retreated into the world of Star Wars, which he now pimps out the way any old dirty man lives off the whoring of the stale beauty of his badly-aging, overly-made-up daughter. (My opinions are not being softened by the recent arrival of a Star Wars Pumpkin Carving Set.)
Today my pre-ordered copy of
Howard The Duck The Casual Vacancy showed up in my Kindle and I set to reading it, as any true fan of JK Rowling would. Well, any true fan who didn’t have a job to go to or kids to feed or that sort of adult obligation. I made it through the first “day”, which is actually the book’s prologue, until the tiny print and overall frustration led me to return the book. I may get it from the library some day, but I seriously doubt it.
The Epilogue of Harry Potter is “Nineteen Years Later”, and the Casual Vacancy opens with the death of a man on his nineteenth anniversary. I don’t think this is coincidence. I think Rowling is telling us that this death ballad–and Harry Potter is among the greatest of death ballads–was going to be different. It’s going to be adult in the grimmer way. Barry–the dead fellow (“Barry=Big Harry?”) lies dead in a pool of his own vomit. Mary, his widow, crouches disheveled and weeping over the corpse. I’m given to understand that a story ensues. I don’t know. The print of the book on my kindle was so tiny that even at the largest setting I felt that sooner or later it would tell me why this LivingSocial offer was not valid for the time I chose to show up at the restaurant.
If I have one “talent”–and yes, I’ve been reading too much Fantasy–it’s that I can tell an author’s mindframe from reading her work. This book, the little I read of it, felt like the Dementors that blossomed out of Harry’s end were gnawing on Rowling’s soul. I love her work and I love what she brought to the world. But I can’t go down the cobwebbed corridors of her depression without the chocolate she enrobed Potter with.
I hope Rowling doesn’t go the way of Lucas, selling bits of Harry. But I also hope she realises that Harry is better than Star Wars and not a bad legacy to curate. Of course she is welcome to write anything she wants. I just can’t drink the bitter dregs out of some loyalty to her, and I truly am sorry. I feel like I owe her a tremendous debt, because as I’ve grown up I’ve realised that the wonderfulness of Star Wars was owing to a lot of people. But Harry….Harry is all her. I feel bad that her life will be chasing that ghost of her past and that her subsequent work will struggle against it. She’s already written ten wonderful books. I’m going to have to let the eleventh slide.