(This is a simultaneous book review of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Grapes of Wrath. I have no idea what inspired me to read these two books in tandem.)
So there they were, staring me in the face at work – a full collection of the Harry Potter books. A student had donated them. One of my coworkers was also a fan. So there they were, on the bookshelf, unread – a challenge of the fun, slightly-retro, popular culture kind.
I show off my growing knowledge of the book to my self-described Harry Potter-loving coworker. "A muggle is a person who doesn't use magic."
I smile. I pretend I care.
I think my coworker cares, but actually, it occurs to me at this moment that she might be faking it as well. This leads to an interesting question – How many Harry Potter fans have been faking it all this time?
I care more now that I've entered the Great Depression.
I need to escape the world of The Grapes of Wrath, at least for a little bit. The world of 1930s itinerant farmers from Oklahoma is weighing me down. It's a bitter hardscrabble world of the poor and soon to be destitute. If Tom Joad isn't doing so well finding work in California, maybe Harry and his friends are doing better in Hogwarts.
Do they have plenty of food to eat? Check.
Do they own shoes? Check.
No threats of getting beaten to death with a shovel? Check.
What is a simple rivalry with Malfoy compared to a rivalry with hunger? Oh, and there is a flying car, an owl, and a bunch of new words to learn so I don't have to feel like a muggle.
Harry Potter is the kind of book you read to get away from bitter grapes.
Harry: Pa told me I had to sell my wand. Said if I didn't get no 2 dollars for it the yougins gonna go hungry.
For all the magic elements, Hogwarts is a school. It feels safe. It feels like the people there are members of a community. It feels like the world has coherence – Malfoy, the Dursleys – these are just background shades of black that help the reader appreciate the beauty and wonder of Hogwarts.
Hog. Warts. Hogwarts. A mashup of two ugly things. But there is nothing ugly about Hogwarts. It might as well be Neverland for all the beauty and color it has. Sure, the writer might convince us it is drab and foreboding. Sure, the California of Steinbeck might look on the surface like a paradise. But in Hogwarts no one has to worry about work.
Hermoine: Last night I done boiled down my books and et dem. I got to et dem. Or I gots to et dirt.
How good is this book for curing a bout of the Great Depressions? Well, I forgot almost the entire plot of The Grapes of Wrath while trying to understand the rules of Quiddich. Girlfriend just broke up with you? Try understanding the rules of Quiddich and then see if you even remember her name. Got angry with your boss about something? Try calling your best friend and explaining to him or her what is going on in a Quiddich game.
I wonder if I can do this again. I wonder if I can read one book to escape another. Not necessarily Harry Potter, but something like Harry Potter. Basically, the fun blonde of books to help me even out the highs and lows of my brainy, manic-depressive brunette of books. (This paragraph seems unnecessarily crude – yet I can't get myself to delete it.)
It occurs to me now that Dobby and the house elves are the closest thing the book has to "Okies" in The Grapes of Wrath. Someday, mark my word, there will be a book about the starving and hungry house elves from Harry Potter.
Magical Broths of Wrath
YOU ARE READING
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