Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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New books dissected over email.
July 24 2007 6:19 PM

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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Illustration by Charlie Powell. Click image to expand.

Will, you're not alone in your distaste for endings that focus on cozy domesticity. "Fray" poster jack_cerf points out Orwell's comment on Dickens' happy endings: "This is the type of the Victorian happy ending—a vision of a huge, loving family of three or four generations, all crammed together in the same house and constantly multiplying, like a bed of oysters. What is striking about it is the utterly soft, sheltered, effortless life that it implies."

And Frayster AaronD echoes other posters by arguing—fairly convincingly, I think—that in the long run what matters about this book is not our opinions but the opinions of children who read the book: "There are a bunch of logical, well-reasoned arguments on this site for why the book may be a disappointment. Not a single one of these arguments stands up to the rebuttal: Imagine being 12 and reading this book." I freely admit that 12-year-old me would have thought this was about the greatest book ever written.

Does that disqualify us from treating the book as an object of criticism somewhat above its age bracket? Not at all! But it does remind me that my hours reading the book—spent mostly sitting on a blanket in a sun-dappled park in my neighborhood—were delightful ones completely free of any of the criticism that the book inspired after the fact. Despite all my griping, I'm grateful to J.K. Rowling for writing a book that's so spellbinding for so jaded a reader.

Polly, you say you hope that J.K. Rowling's next project will be short, funny, and in the spirit of the earliest books in the series. I must confess that Deathly Hallows' epilogue didn't feel like the definitive end point that so many others see it as, and that Rowling by her own admission hoped it would be. Perhaps it's blasphemy to even suggest it, but didn't the epilogue read to you as a perfect seven-page treatment for the pilot of Hogwarts: The Next Generation, airing at 5:30 weekdays on The N? Think of it! Short, silly half-hour stories, set among students preoccupied not by the specter of unthinkable evil but by the more daunting prospects of homework, cliques, and navigating their way through adolescence. Harry and Ron and Hermione could show up only for Very Special Episodes, as their kids have the happy, peaceable childhoods Voldemort denied them. I know I'd watch!

We're welcoming to our discussion novelist and comics writer Brad Meltzer, who in his career has had to tackle the daunting prospect of writing stories—and endings—for such beloved characters as Superman, Batman, and the whole DC comics universe. He's soon to tackle a character that feels (to me, anyway) at least as canonical as Harry Potter: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as he writes for Dark Horse's new Buffy: Season Eight comic books.  Brad, how scary is it to write characters who have become so well-known as to have a life of their own? How hard is it to kill off characters in whom fans have become deeply invested? And has fan response ever convinced you that a decision you made about a well-loved character was the wrong one?

Dan

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

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