Pottermania!

Pottermania!

Pottermania!

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
July 18 2005 5:24 PM

Pottermania!

Today, bloggers rush to judgment on the new Harry Potter novel. They also weigh in on a domestic squabble between a journalist and her blog-happy nanny and continue to discuss the Valerie Plame scandal.

Pottermania!:J.K. Rowling's latest, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sold an estimated 8.9 million copies within 24 hours of its release on Friday.

"Rarely has a piece of popular culture so perfectly reflected the situation of our larger society – and rarely has it done so with such a powerful message," praises Darren Cahr, an intellectual property lawyer, at Master of My Domain. * "While only a 'children's book,' Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince is, in many ways, a call to arms—Book 4's comment that we must all make the choice between 'what is right and what is easy' is truly brought to life here, with tragic consequences." Cahr, like many readers, senses an allegorical touch in the narrative of "a terror campaign that disrupts the lives of ordinary people and results in the deaths of innocents."

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Gatorchick of FloridaBlues sees a concrete parallel at the beginning of the book, when the Prime Minister describes the president of a "distant country" as a "wretched man." Law professor Stephen Bainbridge examines the current affairs angle and wonders "whether J. K. Rowling is as anti-American as the evidence seems to suggest."

Others focus on the book's more fantastical elements. "The best comparison I can make…was that the first 5 Potter books were like the New Hope, while this book is Empire Strikes Back," assesses Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog. Journalist Darren Waters, live-blogging his weekend with Harry for the BBC, agrees. "In many ways this book has been a mere staging ground for Rowling's final narrative to come," he says. "But with just one book left in the series, does JK Rowling have anything left up her sleeves?"

Writing at A Small Victory, Michele Catalano thinks "the quality of writing has seriously diminished…[a]nd the Young Wizards in Love sublot is dreadful. Some of the passages read like Degrassi Junior High, with wands." At Blogcritics.org, Leoniceno disagrees. There are some stylistic shortcomings, he admits, "but in this novel [Rowling] shows that she has capacities that we had previously only glimpsed at." And on her Live Journal, Garland Graves has a very thorough speculative analysis for Potterphiles. *

Read more about Harry Potter.

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Whither privacy?: "The New Nanny Diaries Are Online," declares the headline of a New York Times essay by Helaine Olen about firing her nanny over the contents of her personal blog. The nanny fought back on her blog: "I am not a pill popping alcoholic who has promiscuous sex and cares nothing for the children for whom she works with."

Plenty of bloggers say the saga highlights the employer's insecurities. "In the end, of course, Olen's essay really isn't about Tessa; it's about Olen," explains a liberal academic at Bitch. Ph.D. "She wanted her nanny to take care of her children, but it seems she also expected her nanny to take care of her—not only by waiting on her when she was sick, but by maintaining the necessary fictions of her self-image as a married woman and mother, the edifice of respectable domestic life." Steven Taylor, a political scientist writing at PoliBlog, points to the hypocrisy of Olen using the New York Times to attack someone for publishing a small-time blog.

Others think the nanny got what's coming to her for telling her employer about her diary. "[H]ere's the deal," says prolific news blogger Steve Gilliard, "if she had kept the blog to herself, there would have been no story. … She has every right to post on her life. … But what none of these comments deals with is the simple fact that the central mistake was that the blogger let the employer into her life."

Read more about the Times essay and the blog response.

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MacGuffins and more:On Sunday, omnivorous New York Times critic Frank Rich calls the Valerie Plame scandal's speculative attacks and counter-attacks a bunch of red herrings. "This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons," he writes.

Veteran blogger Jerry Pournelle argues that the scandal-mongering is motivated by political opportunism on the left. Liberal Ezra Klein thinks Republican counter-strikes reveal partisan desperation as both sides prepare for the upcoming battle of the Supreme Court nomination. At the Washington Monthly, guest blogger Amy Sullivan notes the evasive response of President Bush to questions addressing the involvement of advisor Karl Rove. "There's a word for that," she says. "Flippety Flop."

Whatever the motivation, Instapundit's stalwart libertarian Glenn Reynolds believes the investigation will produce some real insight. "When all is said and done, I think the CIA will turn out to be the big loser here, because there's just no way to parse these facts that makes the Agency look good – just varying shades of incompetent, or politically motivated and dishonest," he writes.

Read more about the Rich column and more about PlameGate.

Have a question, comment, or suggestion for Today's Blogs? Email todaysblogs@slate.com.

* Correction, July 18, 2005: This article originally described Darren Cahr as a property lawyer. He is an intellectual property lawyer. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.

* Correction, July 19, 2005: This article originally identified Garland Graves as a man. She is a woman. Click here to return to the corrected sentence.