Saturday, January 9, 2010

Harry Potter's Bookshelf

I asked for only one book for Christmas, and my daughter gave it to me Christmas morning: John Granger's Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures. With my love for literature and for the Harry Potter books, in addition to my appreciation of John Granger's books about the Potter phenomena, it was an easy choice.

(I'm typing this post while watching Prisoner of Azkaban on television -- ironic, eh?)

I have only had time to read the introduction and the first chapter thus far, but I am already thoroughly entranced by Granger's examination of the literary precursors to the Potter books.

Looking for God in Harry Potter was my introduction to John Granger's writings in which he traced the Christian imagery, characters, and themes in the Potter books. Granger is a homeschooling dad of seven children who insisted on reading the Potter books before his kids did to prove why he wasn't going to allow them to read the series. He stayed up all night reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone and then ran to Barnes and Noble the next morning to purchase the next three books so he could keep reading Harry's adventures. Granger was hooked on the imagery, symbolism, characters, and the Christian threads running through the first book, and found himself becoming more entranced with each book in the series.

My experience with the Potter books was almost identical. At age 12 Elizabeth wanted to read them, so Keith and I allowed her to purchase the first two books with the caveat that I would read them first and let her know if she would be permitted to read them herself. I was taken with them immediately as well. Not only did we buy Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows the day they were released, but we also stood in line at the midnight release of the last book, bought the movies, and wore out the library copies of the books on tape and CD. The Christian imagery of the books is extremely obvious to me, and John Granger's book on the Christian elements illustrated further symbols, especially in characters' names, and the element of alchemy in the series.

Anyway, back to Harry Potter's Bookshelf...

The first chapter discusses the narrative drive of the Potter books. The reason we keep turning the pages of the Potter series is the fact that, on one level, these books are mysteries--detective stories, to be precise. Granger links Harry to Lord Peter in the Dorothy Sayers mysteries (I adore Lord Peter and have read all the novels and stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey) along with stories by Poe, Chandler, Wilkie Collins (another favorite writer of mine), Agatha Christie, and G.K. Chesterton (yes, another fave). Granger also views Harry as the classic Dickensian orphan -- something I noticed immediately when I read the books.

I look forward greatly to having time to read more of this book, but I'll give you a preview of the remainder of the book by mentioning the chapter titles:

Chapter 2: Pride and Prejudice with Wands: How Jane Austen Haunts the Heart and Soul of Rowling's Artistry

Chapter 3: Setting: The Familiar Stage and Scenery Props of the Drama: Harry Potter as a Boarding School Story in the Tradition of Tom Brown's Schooldays

Chapter 4: Gothic Romance: The Spooky Atmosphere Formula from Transylvania: Harry Potter as an Echo of the Bronte Sisters, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula

Chapter 5: Harry Potter as Postmodern Epic: Preaching the Gospel of Tolerance and Inclusiveness--and Choosing the Metanarrative of Love

Chapter 6: The Satirical Harry Potter: The Allegorical Journey Harry Takes with Gulliver into Plato's Cave in Order to Make a Point in Mockery About Government and News Media

Chapter 7: Harry Potter as an Everyman Allegory: Harry, Hogwarts, and Company as Medieval Types for Reader Reflection and Edification

Chapter 8: The Magical Center of the Circle: The Mythic Meaning of Harry's Hero's Journeys from Privet Drive to King's Cross

Chapter 9: Harry Potter as Alchemical Reading Magic: Shakespeare, Dickens, and the Artistry Changing Readers' Hearts from Lead to Gold

Chapter 10: The Secret of the Mirror and the Seeing Eye: Ms. Rowling's Debt to the Subversive Fantasy Writers of the English Tradition
Sprinkled throughout the ten chapters (a deliberate choice on Granger's behalf) are allusions to Christian imagery and themes; the final chapter discusses Harry and the first chapter of Saint John's Gospel, one among many instances of how Rowling drew on Scripture in creating her series. For me, the Christian themes are the strongest in the final book in which Harry "dies" and is resurrected, and the light and dark imagery is very evident.

If you are both a fan of Harry Potter and of great literature, then this book is definitely one I recommend ... even if I have only read the first chapter so far.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin