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Michiko Kakutani, “An Epic Showdown as Harry Potter Is Initiated Into Adulthood,” The New York Times, July 19, 2007:
While Ms. Rowling’s astonishingly limber voice still moves effortlessly between Ron’s adolescent sarcasm and Harry’s growing solemnity, from youthful exuberance to more philosophical gravity, “Deathly Hallows” is, for the most part, a somber book that marks Harry’s final initiation into the complexities and sadnesses of adulthood.
Harper’s Index, December 2000:
Rank of the Pope, J. K. Rowling, and God among the “most important people in the world today,” according to U.S. schoolchildren, respectively: 2, 13, 19
Tom Brown’s Schooldays is the archetype of what might be called the novel of assimilation, though I prefer to think of it as the “new kid” story. Everyone will recognize the plot, which can be set just as successfully in a large hospital (Sue Barton, Student Nurse) as in the army (Private Benjamin). A new recruit–young, green, ignorant–is introduced to an old institution. He encounters customs that are strange to him, precious to the inmates. He is bullied by crusty supervisors and loutish peers; he is usually the victim of some injustice; he waits on the fringe of this alien society, and in the fullness of time he redeems himself by some valorous act that initiates him into membership. Respected by his elders, he finds true friendship with the most honorable of his peers. He becomes the vessel of the culture that once seemed so strange . . .
Eight years later, the manly Tom has “fought his way fairly up the School” and is the captain of the cricket eleven. He has achieved his best victories, however, over Satan and his works. The ending of this cautionary novel explicitly reveals the school’s purpose: “[A]ll young and brave souls … must win their way through hero-worship, to the worship of Him who is the King and Lord of heroes.” Tom Brown’s Schooldays became the ancestor of a long line of school novels written for children. At worst, they are little more than manuals of instruction that ease the child’s entry into adult society. At best, these books provide escape into an orderly world whose customs have their own eccentric glamour: merry pranks, saucy nicknames, obligatory “pashes” or “crushes,” midnight feasts. The pleasure is in the feeling of belonging: along with the hero, the reader is accepted into this demanding society. Gratifying these novels may be; works of art they are not.
Harper’s Index, April 2005:
Estimated number of visitors each week to the grave of Harry Potter, a Briton buried in Israel in 1939 : 45
Lewis H. Lapham, “Time Travel,” May 2007:
Why take the trouble to remember what happened yesterday on channels 5 through 9 when tomorrow is available on channels 12 through 24? The national shortage of adult minds suits the purposes of a government that defines its task as a form of child-rearing and guarantees the profits of the consumer markets selling promises of instant relief from the pain of thought, loneliness, doubt, experience, envy, and old age. A country so favored by fortune is one in which no childhood gets left behind. A self-regarding electorate asks of its rulers what the rich ask of their servants: “Comfort us.” “Tell us what to do.” The wish to be cared for replaces the will to act, and in the event of bankruptcy or rain, travelers stranded on the roads from here to there can send an owl with a message to Harry Potter.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
Mentions — July 16, 2014, 7:00 pm
Watch Jessica Bruder on MSNBC’s The Cycle
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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