Strakon Lights Up, No. 59

A Muggle strikes back


When the latest installment of the Harry Potter series came out a couple weeks ago, the media treated us to scene after scene of eager little readers toting the massive tome up to bookstore counters, both in America and Britain. And they fed us interview after interview with delirious little Potterites. The hype machine stipulated that hundreds of thousands of adults were Harry Potter fans, too, but we were never supposed to forget that "the kids are the main thing." We were supposed to envision hundreds of thousands of pint-size soccer players sitting down somewhere and actually reading  a really big book.

I felt as though I'd tuned into a news program and heard the happyface newsreader chirp, "And now for an update on the Jupiterians. They've completed the second ring on their giant space station, and NASA expects them to mount an expedition to Earth within the year." What! I didn't even know the Jupiterians existed!  How did I miss the three hundred previous stories that would have had to precede the space-station story?

Which is to say, the stories about the Harry Potter "phenomenon" are not only a lie, they're a whopper. They flatly contradict everything we know about the current culture and its state of collapse — specifically, the collapse of literacy.

It's not the sales figures I'm challenging, of course, but something else entirely. Do you realize how long  the latest Potter book is? The American edition runs more than 700 pages! When I was a kid, I was notorious for being a fanatic reader, but I can tell you that whenever I made the mistake of attempting a book of 500 pages or more, I didn't get too far into it. Kids can hardly lift a 700-page book, and that's not all. It takes cultural as well as physical strength to handle a tome like that.

Literacy at the level demanded here is more than the ability to read the sentence, "Dick and Jane turned Spot into a frog." Tackling a 700-page book and staying with it demands a strong cultural morale that exists quite independently of the book's contents. It demands not only the ability to envision finishing the thing one day but also the ability to keep the narrative in one's mental grasp throughout. And it demands the habit of exercising one's imagination to create an entire mental world out of nothing but words on a page and keep it humming, while all the time one is surrounded by a physical world crammed with attractive distractions banging and clanging directly upon one's senses.

As long as Harry Potter's magic doesn't exist in the real world, hordes of kids aren't going to come by those resources overnight. Not in a postliterate age, they're not. If they could, many of our troubles would be over. Adults may be reading Harry Potter in droves, and they may even be reading Harry Potter to their children, but to the extent that it's up to today's Nintendites to read the books, they're gathering dust on the shelf.

The next thing I expect to hear is that anchovy pizzas have suddenly become wildly popular with normal people. "No, no, you don't understand," the explanation will go. "They're really good  anchovies!"

They'd still smell pretty darn fishy to me.


So why the hype? Why any hype having to do with books, of all things? They're obsolete! Well, surely I'm not the only Westerner who is starting to panic as our civilization winks out. Rebuilding actual cultural morale is not in the cards — in fact, it's about the last thing our masters would ever want. But propagating an artificial sort of morale may help quench some of the panic. It's the difference between enjoying a real state of happiness and stumbling about under the influence of a drug that makes one feel happy. It's easier to keep happily drugged people on the reservation than undrugged people who are unhappily skeptical.

My interpretation might come off as more paranoid if it weren't for all the previous media campaigns. Take all the stories the Clinton regime and its media servants have churned out, over the past few years, about Our Historic Triumph over Crime. Realistic fears about intractable crime prompt people to buy those objects whose evil is second only to cigarettes — namely, guns — and may even prompt them to entertain heretical doubts about our multicultural socialist utopia. A good slug of Victory Gin, courtesy of Minitrue, has surely helped douse those fears.

I'm afraid that what all the Harry Potter hype comes down to, comrades, is just another "glorious victory on the Malabar Front." Let's all raise our gin-brimming cups in a toast to the telescreen.

July 19, 2000

© 2000 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

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