January 04, 2007

Old News and Bad News

I am peeved. After months of attentive awareness interspersed with periodic active searching, the title of the 7th Harry Potter is finally announced, and I miss it for 2 solid weeks. And I don't even know how it happened. Something is dreadfully wrong with that.

Anyway, the title is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This is by far the most mysterious and intriguing title to date as it uses a word which is neither immediately familiar (as with "goblet" or "chamber" or "prince" or "stone") in addition to making reference to something within the book which is not already familiar to a reader of the series (as with "Azkaban" or "Order of the Phoenix"). As a result, speculation about the meaning of the title is apt to be a bit more varied than with a previous volume. This is also a very dark, somber title. It suggests a certain adult seriousness not really found in the other titles.

Of course, the very first thing the title suggests when broken down is a vague concept of holiness through death, which would certainly line up with John Granger's theory that each title is a reference to Christ. Granger himself flirts with this possibility in his own clumsy way over on his website (I have rarely known anyone to make such brilliant connections in such stupid ways).

But speaking of brilliant connections, this essay makes, I would say, the true case for the meaning of the title. In a nutshell, it discusses the significance of "hallow" as a reference to the grail relics of Chretien de Troyes, which opens up a rich, deep field of symbolism and significance (as fellow students from Dr. Watson's Grail Quest course will know all too well). How appropriate that this brilliant series, already so filled with canny bits of Western mythology and lore, should turn at last to draw from the quest for the Holy Grail in its final chapter. It's all speculation, of course, but I would say that this theory is right in line with everything we know about the way Rowling writes fantasy. It just feels right.

Anyway, in the realm (while I'm discussing books) of the not-so-exciting, I ran across this a few moments ago. Do you remember when libraries were repositories for the preservation of cultural history and heritage rather than a cultural outhouse doubling as the local Blockbuster where the unwashed masses can wallow in paperback romance trash, best-selling excrement, and the latest top-grossing redneck flick without having to shell out? They're throwing out Faulkner, Hemingway, Henry Adams, and Harper Lee! Can you imagine?!

Happily, this sort of thing runs contrary to our library's ideas of how things work, and we are in no danger of running out of shelf space in the forseeable future. Why shouldn't libraries shape the cultural tastes of their communities at least as much as they are shaped by them? That's public service for you.

Posted by Jared at January 4, 2007 05:53 PM | TrackBack