Dear Dan and Polly,
Ah, yes: the epilogue. Time for more gripes.
I understand that Rowling—who has had two children in the last four years—is all about the tiny rug rats these days. But to reduce this epic series, full of chaos and destiny and choices made in an instant that affect future generations, to a family sitcom—According to Harry? <shudder>—seems like a monumental waste. I was less bothered by the absence of some supporting characters than I was by the vanillafication of the characters we've come to love and respect. I mean no offense to suburban parents when I say this, but: Did we really go through all this just to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione take up residence on a cul-de-sac?
Rowling could have taken a number of more interesting directions, but let's start with the one you suggest, Dan: What does everybody do for a living? Would Harry be an Auror or a professor or just some washed-up celebrity who hawks used brooms? (Think of him like a retired athlete, to the wizard world what John Elway is to Denver.) I've always thought Hermione would make a fascinating minister of magic; here she seems like a Quidditch mom. It doesn't feel like Rowling elected not to answer these questions; it feels like she didn't even think to ask them. The general message of the epilogue seems to be: Your skills as a warrior against the Dark Lord are best used in escorting your children to school.
Which reminds me of another sad omission: Some of my favorite sections in earlier books described how the wizard world occasionally seeps into the Muggle world. Remember when the Tony Blair-esque British prime minister was visited by a mysterious wizard who warned of magical threats to humans? (That was during the stretch when Rowling dabbled in political commentary.) In this book, Kingsley Shacklebolt briefly consults with another Muggle prime minister. But on the whole, the humans are left out of the fun. (I did enjoy the brief warm moment for Dudley Dursley, who reminds me of about half the guys I went to high school with.) I always wished Rowling would work more human-wizard interaction into the series; surely, some half-blood Hogwarts student's parents would have leaked Hogwarts' existence to a Rupert Murdoch rag.
MAGIC KID SEZ: "THEY TURNED ME INTO A TOAD!"
You can't tell me Rita Skeeter wouldn't be hired in a second. She would have done wonders with Princess Di.
Anyway, the epilogue really did depress me a bit, and not just because it seems to slam the door on a sequel (unless, of course, that sequel chronicles 19 years of upwardly mobile wizards gentrifying Hogsmeade). It's one thing to read "And They All Lived Happily Ever After." It's another to see it in such bland detail. Apparently, living happily ever after means nothing exciting happening for 19 years. Surely, some sort of crisis occurred. It couldn't have just been two decades of suburban bliss, right? Otherwise, I suppose we should be pleased we missed Volume 8, Harry Potter and the Soggy Bloomin' Onion.
Yours in urban decay,