11.25.2013

Harry Potter and War and Peace

This being Thanksgiving week, blogging is going to be a bit of a mashup. Christie hasn't posted for the H.P.B.C., and I suspect we'd all like the holiday week off, so I suggest we take it. Also, I mean to make some serious progress with my fairy tale today, so this will be short.

Harry Potter


Masha did post. Feel free to check it out and join me in the combox, wondering how Harry ever manages to develop any sense of ethics at all. From Masha:
causing physical harm to another (even repairable harm, unintentionally caused) is not something to ignore, in any situation, and I'm not surprised Harry never really ends up learning to control himself, with the unbalanced jump from neglect and abuse in the one society to catering and over-excusing  in the other.
Considering that Harry's examples of ethics include the Dursleys, who punish him for existing, the Ministry of Magic, which only punishes him when he's innocent, and the Hogwarts teachers, who only sometimes bother punishing him even when they actually catch him doing something wrong, which they don't half the time, it's pretty remarkable that he has a sense of right and wrong at all. It would've been a different story if he hadn't. (Fan fiction. Go.)

War and Peace


Current status:
Those who tried to understand the general course of events and to take part in it by self-sacrifice and heroism were the most useless members of society, they saw everything upside down, and all they did for the common good turned out to be useless and foolish... Even those, fond of intellectual talk and of expressing their feelings, who discussed Russia's position at the time involuntarily introduced into their conversation either a shade of pretense and falsehood or useless condemnation and anger directed against people accused of actions no one could possibly be guilty of. In historic events the rule forbidding us to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is specially applicable. Only unconscious action bears fruit, and he who plays a part in an historic event never understands its significance. If he tries to realize it his efforts are fruitless.
Such cynicism, Tolstoy.

Also: damn it, but there's a reason I put off reading books like War and Peace. It's fear of having to re-experience the reason I hated Jurassic Park and never, ever should have read The Hunger Games*. I find it very difficult to sit through a scene where a human being is brutalized and/or murdered. Yes, this is a staple of fiction at every level, and yes, I'm fulfilling female stereotypes, and yes, many of my favorite books contain such scenes, but Tolstoy's account of an arrogant policeman's sacrifice of a prisoner to the mob, upon which the mob did what mobs do despite the young man's cry for mercy, was absolutely horrifying and heartbreaking to read.

It shook me pretty badly. Possibly the sidecar I was drinking at the time did not help. But I'm not sure when I'd have gotten up from the corner of the couch, where I'd lodged in protest against the awfulness of the world, if Lou hadn't lured me out with lit candles and a back rub and a patient reminder that fiction doesn't reflect reality in proportion.

Tolstoy has some serious making up to do right about now. He made me want to ditch the whole story and go re-read Twilight. Fortunately for him, I'm much too fond of Pierre and Natasha and Prince Andrei to give up on them. It's also quite possible, of course, that when I get to the end of the book, all will be forgiven.**

I still might re-read Twilight, though. Brace yourselves.

* Oddly enough, I read the sequels to both. You'd think I'd learn.
** The chances are good, actually, since Maria (of commenting days of yore) recommends this book with enthusiasm. Maria despises cruel endings of the Tess of the D'Urbervilles variety as furiously as I do.

13 comments:

  1. ..It being Thanksgiving week, I'm going to have WAY more access to 'online' than usual, dang it..but oh well, I'm already half ready for later discussion..and if you re-read Twilight..be prepared to get about a billion vampire-note-napkins tossed your way..with love & kindness...and lots of snark. ;)

    The scene you mentioned is..ugh!!! Sob-inducing, I block it out everytime..and forget so completely that it took me a while to remember..now I'm all over in uncomfortable sadness..Tolstoy is nothing if not..umm..challenging. You will love him again..soon! I promise!

    And your right, Harry's sens of right and wrong (often unchecked wrath aside) is a great triumph of his, and I bless him for it! He's so spoiled on one hand, and oppressed on the other that it's amazing his basic decency is at all intact by the end...I want to talk about Dementors though!!! How long 'til we get SPOILER-free access to Them??? :)

    Happy Pre-Thanksgiving!!!!

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    1. ;) Yeah, I thought you might have online time in the course of the holiday week... sorry! I won't unless I get good and sick, which I had much rather not do....

      I'll take your word on Tolstoy! And if I get to Twilight, I will look forward to those vampire note napkins. :D

      Dementors start in the NEXT CHAPTER. We're so close. And Trelawney shouldn't be too far behind.

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  2. Well. . . you might not forgive EVERYTHING. . . :-/ WE'LL SEE.

    Jenna, I feel your pain, though about the mob scene. There are some things I just really don't want to watch or read about. I don't think it's stereotypical girliness so much as people just have different NO THANK YOU thresholds and levels of engagement in media. C. is more visibly affected by Nazgul aerial attacks in Lord of the Rings than by cops beating up suspects in Law and Order; for me it's the other way around; I don't mind the former but really dislike the latter. I enjoy watching a TV show about humans being horrible to one another in space, but couldn't stick around for humans being horrible to one another in Baltimore. The space genocide scenario was arguably grimmer, but Baltimore hit closer to home.

    Right now I'm working out whether I want to see 12 Years A Slave. I'm a history dork and I've been wanting someone to make a really good slave narrative movie for years. I'm glad that this one was made and I want to support the filmmakers, BUT. . . either it's going to be glib enough to make me angry and depressed or (more likely according to reviews) it's going to be good, which because of the subject matter means it will be really, really hard to watch and process and move on from.

    I think it's good that we have art that does these things; I admire and appreciate the people who make it. I just don't usually feel up to experiencing it.

    Actually, I think one of the benefits of scifi/fantasy/speculative fiction is it gives people a space to deal with Serious Business Topics without the real-life immediacy that makes so many of us want to curl up into an angry ball of sadness and pull the covers over our heads. Which is a long way of saying if you want to go on a Twilight tangent (or one full of DEMENTORS), I'm with you. :)

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    1. <3

      Yeah, I probably won't forgive EVERYTHING. But I'm usually glad I read a book, even if it had a difficult scene. (Except for Jurassic Park. I thought I would never stop thinking about velociraptors!) There's even a tiny part of me that is glad I read The Hunger Games.

      I know exactly what you mean about the space show vs. the Baltimore one... and how hard the slave one would be to watch. WWII movies are like that for me, too. Painful things with a sense of current presence about them are so much harder to deal with than something removed by place or time or both. And I strongly agree about fantasy/sci-fi/spec fic having the power to address difficult issues at a bearable distance.

      I apparently just can't do carnivorous dinosaurs. The Nazgul didn't affect me nearly so badly, and they were rather worse objectively.

      Yay, potential Twilight tangent! We'll see if I'm still in the mood when I finish W&P. I'm feeling good about it so far. :D

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  3. Oh my, I'm terribly sorry about that, dear Jenna! I apparently blocked that scene from my memory because I would have warned you to skip it otherwise. I have no memory of it at all. I'm still faithfully lurking, as you can see. I thoroughly enjoy your writing and your insights, your wit, your celebrations and victories, and your honesty about your sorrows. I always go away richer. Your readers' comments are always insightful in their own right, or hilarious, or both, and that's a bonus too :-) Regarding Tolstoy, please soldier on. I absolve you of reading the ten pages of philosophy at the end (though I found it interesting, I believe you could skip it and not go away from the novel with anything less. Others may disagree. ) Also I am reminded of a hilarious quote from The Importance of Being Earnest: "The good ended well, and the bad, badly. That is what 'fiction' means, my dear girl." Not everything comes out sunshine and roses -- I don't know how far you are -- but Tolstoy can be trusted on that point.

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    1. Ha, no need to apologize! I don't expect to be warned about every possible upsetting scene in every book recommended to me. That one is such a small part of the story that I'd be surprised if anyone thought of it as warning-worthy, especially considering the number of other war and death scenes.

      There are only ten pages of philosophy at the end? Heck, I can handle that. I was expecting five times that, something more along Victor Hugo's line. The history and philosophy in this book HAVE been interesting so far, though every now and then I'm like, "O-KAY, you think the war historians are all idiots, I've got it, MOVE ON already..." but on the whole I think Tolstoy's portrayal of Napoleon has been more interesting to me than Hugo's was, and I'm learning a lot in general, and that's all to the good.

      HAHAHA--love the quote from The Importance of Being Earnest. I love that play.

      I'm so glad you're still around and reading! <3

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  4. Right now I'm working out whether I want to see 12 Years A Slave. I'm a history dork and I've been wanting someone to make a really good slave narrative movie for years. I'm glad that this one was made and I want to support the filmmakers, BUT. . . either it's going to be glib enough to make me angry and depressed or (more likely according to reviews) it's going to be good, which because of the subject matter means it will be really, really hard to watch and process and move on from.

    I think it's good that we have art that does these things; I admire and appreciate the people who make it. I just don't usually feel up to experiencing it.


    Spot on, Laura.

    Yes to Twilight! I'd like a good discussion that, rather than a clinical Granger-esque assembling of puzzle pieces, goes at the heart, both emotional and spiritual, of the book(s), including thoughtful commentary from others.

    Deborah

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    1. I agree, too!!

      I'd like a good discussion that, rather than a clinical Granger-esque assembling of puzzle pieces, goes at the heart, both emotional and spiritual, of the book(s), including thoughtful commentary from others.

      Sweet! I'd definitely like to focus on the heart of the books. Maybe a short read-through by way of Wednesdays through the holidays. We'll see what I can do. :)

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    2. Oooh..You're going to get me so distracted if you do!!!!! I'll try to be so very kind though..and then I'll worry that I wasn't actually kind, and I'll imagine Jenna sad & mad at me and then I won't be able to sleep..and then I'll say something worse in the hazy of the Christmas rush-distracted sleepless worry...this could be wonderful! Or horrifying..or both. I can give Granger a run for his money any day though, when it comes to being WAY TOO harsh..ask Laura, she knows! (that's really not necessary, btw..she knows way too much about me ;) )

      I've never actually read all the philosophy at the end, either...my book was used. It was missing at least two pages..and now it's missing all the philosophy and is starting in on story..:( The part I read was interesting, but not enough to hunt down a complete copy..

      "I, I, I, I...me, me, mine, me.." That's pretty much the whole content of this comment..eh. Oh well! :)

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    3. Ha, you sound every bit as neurotic as I am. ;) Chances are very good I won't get mad at you! Also, I'm pretty sure I outdo you in the grand old sport of narcissism, so your comment doesn't look at all 'I, I, me, mine' to me. :P

      Right now I'm in the middle of the philosophy section, at 99 percent, and while I'm interested to know how Tolstoy resolves the final question of who really has all the power and controls all the history, I can't say I'm so desperately curious that it'll prevent me working on this week's blog posts first. ;)

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    4. yeah..and I realized I was so 'me, me..' that I read 'O'brien' instead of 'Granger' .. I could never be as unresisting as Granger..but I can out-judge O'brien with my eyes closed!

      Let me know how it ends..I feel sort of lacking for not having read it!

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  5. Hurrah! I can't wait! I've been waiting for you to review War & Peace for about two years now. I love reading your book reviews, even the ones I'm probably never going to read myself. By the way, did you review The Hunger Games? I would like to read your review since I am taking your advice about not reading it (at least at this stage in my life).

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    1. :D

      I did review The Hunger Games. Also, Catching Fire and Mockingjay (together), which gets more to the point of some of my discomfort with the story. They're not very thorough reviews. I doubt whether I can talk much about those books yet without shaking and tears. They were by far my most devastating reading experience.

      'Course, I say all this, and yet my sister loved them. :) So you may want to get more than just my review before making a hard decision about whether or not to read those books...

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