August 12, 2007

"He sounds almost annoyed that there's no religious statement for him to argue against."

Metafilter shreds the Christopher Hitchens review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."


Christy said...

Hitchens taught me a new word: apotropaic. Now if I can just work it into conversation.

While there are no religious statements in the book, it remains that Harry Potter is a retelling of the Christ story. The religious overtones are just too obvious to ignore. Rowling has even admitted as much in her interview with 20/20. The "abysmally long period during which the threesome of Harry, Hermione and Ron are flung together" are our hero's days in The Wasteland. Hagrid, who nurtures our trio and every monster he can find is Mary. Rowling began the first book with a final image in mind of Hagrid carrying a dead Harry out of the woods. Clearly a pieta. Moments of doubt and the questioning of faith are integral to the final book. A story can be religious without preaching.

And what's up with a review a month after almost everyone has read the book?

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't fault the NYT for not running the Hitchens review almost a month after the book was published. Due to work, I was unable to finish it until mid last week. And if you will remember, right after the book came out, everyone was tip toeing around giving away what happened. "Spoiler Alert" was commonly seen, even though none of those postings and articles really gave away the ending.

Hitchens has a lot of interesting stuff in that article. I enjoyed the article and then traded to get someone who had grown up with the books to read the article so we could debate it.

I think that it would take a Brit like Hitchens to point out that there are few last names as muggle or mud blood as Potter. Clearly the name of an occupation, versus a place name, and thus indicating origins in the conquered, and not conquering class (back 941 years ago). Plus, what do potters work with?

So many of the names in the books seemed to almost come straight out of the time of Beowulf. Again, back to their Angle/Saxon roots.

I guess I didn't read the article as bemoaning not having religion to attack, but rather, a fairly eclectic view of the series, and in particular, the last book.

I enjoyed both the book and the article, and don't see any conflict in that.

deb said...

Christianists don't quite get the idea that religion is broader than belief in a god or gods. Even a "moment of silence" is religious, involving, as it does, some magical, ritual, liturgical practice.

That's why we atheists generally, and Dawkins especially, struggle with use of the term "atheist" to describe us. There must be a better word, maybe not "bright," to describe us scientists, secular humanists, and agnostics who oppose all forms of superstition and meaningless ritual, whether involving a god or not, that tend to interfere with rational thinking.

I can't fault Hitchens' review except to note that, in spite of his impressive command of English, he abuses the subjunctive mood in:

"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."

Does he mean "even though the emblem was tamed" or "even if the emblem had been tamed"?

Joan said...

I liked this comment: If he panned the book, it's because most people like it. He'd write articles about how kittens, ice cream and your grandmother are actually horrible if someone would publish them.

I don't think it's true, but it's funny.

Joe said...

It appears that many of the commenters piling on Hitchens didn't even bother reading the article.

downtownlad said...

"All is well."

B said...


How 'bout you don't call me "Christianist" - the correct historical term is "Christian" - and I'll call you whichever term you prefer.