Monday, June 23, 2003
When Harry Met His Dark Places
Like millions of Americans, I lined up at my local bookseller Friday night to welcome the midnight arrival of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The 896-page tome is supposedly a darker look into the world of the young wizard's years at Hogwarts as Harry approaches the cusp of manhood.
Three years ago, giddy from the record-breaking sales of the series' fourth installment, JK Rowling had contacted me for suggestions on how she could achieve this more melancholy, adult tone -- after all, she'd only written four children's books before this one. She wanted to make sure that she wouldn't be pigeonholed as an edgeless kiddie writer once she concluded the series. I immediately messengered suggestions to her, but was dismayed to discover that JK decided to do things her (read: "the PG-13, Warner Brothers") way. She's really been impossible since getting within spitting distance of the Queen on England's women-with-money list.
Here are excerpts from my criminally ignored memo for a darker (and dare I say sexier) Potter:
--Hermione develops a severe cutting habit to draw Harry's attention and drown the pain of her unrequited crush on the pubescent wizard;
--Harry finally tires of his abuse and neglect at the hands of the Dursleys. his adoptive family, incinerating them with a firestarter spell when they refuse to celebrate his birthday, screaming "Don't you know who I am?"
--Professor Dumbledore sends Groundskeeper Hagrid on forced sabbatical from Hogwarts when it's discovered that he was holding "private wand lessons" in his cabin for Ron Weasley; Ron is awarded a full scholarship and a new Nimbus 3000 broom as a hush settlement;
--Professor McGonagall is faced with an ethical dilemma when she stumbled upon Harry rectally injecting performance enhancing drugs on the eve of the big Quidditch match against Slytherin house;
--Professor Snape becomes obsessed with devising a potion that to make him forget that his mother made him wear sundresses and saddle shoes until the age of 12;
--Bertie Bott introduces new "black tar heroin" and "Foxy" Every Flavor Beans;
-- Hopelessly underachieving wizard-in-training Neville Longbottom intentionally botches "Chokum Ejaculatorum," the autoerotic asphyxiation spell, after a clumsy pass at Hermione is rejected, leaving a note saying "Harry will never love you like I do." His body is discovered two weeks later by Nearly Headless Nick;
--Harry is thrown into a spiral of existential angst when he discovers that his parents were not slaughtered by evil Lord Voldemort. His mother passed slowly from early-onset Alzheimer's, becoming an unrecognizable shell of her former self. His father was stabbed in the neck while trying to break up a fight in line at the local McDonald's.