Reading diary, 8/5/05: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It’s fine. It’s, you know, a Harry Potter book. Either you’re into them or you aren’t. If you are, you’re going to read it no matter what; if you aren’t, you probably aren’t going to start with the sixth book in the series.

Let’s see. I did like this one rather better than the last couple: it’s a lot tighter, and it’s less relentlessly grim (except for the ending, which is, like, totally a bummer — seriously, I was more upset about it than I’d expected to be). It does still have many of the weaknesses of the rest of the series: overheard conversations, talking killers, awkward expositions, a general need for an editor with a firmer hand. It also has a certain amount of deus ex machina, especially in the romantic relationships, some of which seem to come out of left field.

But so what.

To call it a page-turner would be a gross understatement; by the end of the book, I was reading it almost frantically, to find out what would happen next. It’s just a really good, compelling story, despite its flaws, and it’s a really rich, dense, complicated fantasy world, despite its inconsistencies. It’s also one of the few pieces of children’s literature I can think of that explores moral complexity in a serious way. (If anyone can think of counter-examples. please speak up.) And I love, love, love the political digs, especially in the last few books.

I think the Harry Potter books are very, very good children’s literature (overall, I give the series a B+). Whether it’s great children’s literature, I’m not so sure. I kind of think we have to wait 100 years and see if people are still reading it to find out.

Books I’m currently still in the middle of:

“Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond
“The Forbidden Zone” by Michael Lesy
“Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” by Studs Terkel
“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius
“The Onion Ad Nauseum: Complete Archives Volume 14” by the staff of The Onion
“Zounds! A Browser’s Dictionary of Interjections” by Mark Dunn
“Essays” by Michel de Montaigne
“Seeing Through Tears: Crying and Attachment” by Judith Kay Nelson

Reading diary, 8/5/05: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
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