Sunday, July 15, 2007


All my adult life I have loved children’s fiction, possibly because when I was a child I leaned more toward adult books. My mother, whose nose was never out of a book during my entire childhood, had a library which was always open to me: I remember staying home from school at about age ten to finish reading Jane Eyre; Rebecca had me up all weekend at the same age, cowering under the blankets. My parents’ books were right in front of me, so I read them. My mother never censored what I read (though she didn’t explain anything if it was too sophisticated – I missed all the real fun of James Bond the first time around!), so I read any and every thing that came along. For the most part I liked big thick novels and histories, and kid’s books couldn’t compete. I had read and loved the Anne of Green Gables books and Alice of course, but the books my friends were reading, like Nancy Drew and other lightweight girls’ serials, left me cold. Kids are weird.

So I really came to kid lit like I came to most of the stuff I read – I fell into it. I think it all started in high school or college with The Phantom Tollbooth, which I had picked up off a friend’s bathroom counter. I think her little sister had been reading it. At any rate, I now read anything for children that sounds good... Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss, Roald Dahl, Cornelia Funke, Diana Wynne Jones, Eoin Colfer, Phillip Pullman, C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien… I read it all.

I first heard of Harry Potter shortly after the first book was published. I was on the test-writing team for our English department, and Jane, the testing supervisor, had a recording of a BBC talk show we intended to use as a text in the exam. In it a group was discussing this new book that had all the kids – even boys — reading. It was basically a school story (ooh! like Stalky & Co!) about a boy wizard (Matilda!) and his friends fighting evil. Simple, classic themes. Bubble gum for the brain. Sounded good to me.

And it was. Yes, the characters are often stereotypes, the language can be a bit contrived, and Harry needs a good slap every now and then, but they’ve all been a great day’s read (well, perhaps not Book VI). And here I am, years later, like so many sad anoraks, eagerly awaiting the final installment of the story. So I’ve decided that since all the childless adults in my circle have been sitting over our Starbucks speculating as to the outcome of the saga, I’d put it on the line and publish my predictions for The End of the Story. You can laugh at me next weekend (and probably will) when I prove disastrously wrong, but here goes. You people with real lives can stop reading now.

The Deaths: JK Rowling has stated that two of the main characters will die. At least. Voldemort buys it for sure, but the question is, how and by whom does he get his? In some ways it makes perfect sense for Harry and Voldemort to kill each other in one big bang, but JKR has already shown us what happens when two brother-wands duel; Voldemort isn’t stupid enough to fall into that trap again anyway. Besides, we’re all expecting that. On the other hand, if JKR really doesn’t want to write any sequels, killing off Harry is a sure way to go. Although ‘justice’ would dictate that Harry gets to kill Voldemort, the world is not just, and JKR’s last couple of books have clearly demonstrated that she’s not for the rosy-sunshiney plot lines. Voldemort has to either die or go back into that half-death he’s just come out of because having him win in the end would be just too, too bleak. If he goes, the other Death Eaters will stick around. JKR wouldn’t get rid of all the evil in the world – that would be too sweet. Of course, Voldemort could live and his entire support group get wiped out instead. One way or the other, the Evil has to be dealt a death blow at the end of Book VII.

I would wager that Voldemort will waste Draco Malfoy – cavalierly, with a flick of the wand — but I don’t think Lucius would kill Voldemort over Draco. He might try and then get himself avada kedavra’d, but I don’t think he has such father-feeling. We shall see. Narcissa isn’t a major enough character to kill Voldemort but she would try and she would fail. If my Dumbledore theory is correct (see next section), it’ll be Snape who kills He Who Must Not Be Named.

One of the Three has got to go. If Harry lives, it will be either Hermione or Ron who goes; one will die defending the other. If JKR is ever considering a sequel, she really can’t kill Hermione, who is the most interesting of the three main characters. So it’ll be Ron if it's either. Hagrid could well fall in the crossfire, as could Prof. McGonagle – both will be out there in the front ranks at the last battle. Same with any of the Order of the Phoenix, really. (I’ll cry if she kills off Molly or McGonagle, though.) I think Neville could be instrumental in bringing down Voldemort: he’s my number two pick for final executioner. Harry can’t live while Voldemort does, but the prophecy doesn’t directly say Harry has to kill him himself. Neville will come out of this a hero, but he may have to go down fighting. Ginny, however, won’t die —she’s already been nearly killed off. So has her dad., so there's no fun killing either of them now. So looking at the scoreboard: Voldemort is a yes and so is Draco (on a hunch) and (possibly) one of his parents. Ron or Hermione are possibilities, but not both -- and neither if Harry dies. Neville’s death is a strong possibility, but it will be heroic if it happens. The professors could easily die in the last battle, since the goodies and baddies are so nearly matched magically. Which brings us back to Harry. I confess I wouldn’t miss him, but it seems too pat to have him vaporized in a final duel with Voldemort. He will live, but be destroyed — either in spirit or in mind, like the Longbottoms. He will not come out unscathed, but death? Hmm.

Dumbledore: Sorry, JKR, but I do not buy the idea that Dumbledore was taken in by Severus Snape. Albus Dumbledore was the premier wizard of his day, and he trusted Snape implicitly. It’s nothing to do with justice: I have faith in Dumbledore’s brains. There is a reason he died, even if he never told us what. Snape killing Dumbledore – even if he was obliged to protect Draco through the Unbreakable Vow — just sits wrong. Unless, of course, Dumbledore sacrificed himself for the greater good of getting rid of Voldemort once and for all. By killing Dumbledore, Snape "proves" his loyalty to HWMNBN and so solidifies his own position within the Death Eaters; he can then get at Voldemort from the inside. And that’s where my money is. Snape is able to kill Voldemort because Dumbledore sacrificed himself. It was pre-ordained. Which would have been so like him (I love Albus).

Though how Snape is going to keep the Order from zapping him before he gets to HWMNBN is beyond me. They won’t believe it was a set up. Perhaps Harry finally resolves his relationship with Snape and helps him escape the wrath of the Order? Until Snape killed Dumbledore, I had always thought that he and Harry would call a truce eventually. Snape is too intelligent to hold a grudge against Harry just because he's a snotty kid who had an arrogant father. Not that Snape could be 'redeemed' or made in any way likeable, but I think the "Obsessively Hate Harry" thing has been part of the bigger plan all along. Maybe they kill Voldemort together, and Snape dies in the fight saving Harry. That way Harry lives, Dumbledore's trust is justified, and Snape isn't around anymore so we're not obliged to like him now. Now there's a twist.

Horcruxes: These are interesting. There are seven holding the sundered soul of Voldemort, but where and what they are is beyond me. I’m flummoxed, I confess. We know about the diary, the ring, and the false locket Horcrux that Dumbledore and Harry found in the cave. I think the person who took the real locket Horcrux was Sirius’s little brother Regulus Black, and the locket is among the trash that was cleared out and is now in Kreecher’s nest in the back of the kitchen. I wonder if Regulus is really dead, or if he will show up in Book VII. I’d like that. He could be a major force in Book VII, and if Harry is going to have a happy ending, it should come through Sirius' brother. It has been suggested to me that Harry’s scar or Harry himself might be a Horcrux ( I told you we talk about this over coffee… sad, innit?) but I don’t think so. I think Voldemort would have hidden all seven pieces long before going on his Order-killing rampage. And killing Harry would be a dicey proposition, just in case Harry’s bit was the only piece of soul left. What if he couldn't recapture the piece? So there are four Horcruxes out there. They all will be something symbolic to Voldemort, and they all have to be absolutely secure. Hmmm. Nagini the snake is probably one of them -- it would make sense for one to be a living creature, because the scene where it gets killed and Voldemort watches that bit of his soul float away would be such fun to write. I think Bellatrix LeStrange must have one, since she’s such a delightfully evil character that she needs a bigger part in Book VII. But otherwise –I think at least one is hiding in plain sight, so to speak, and at least one is at Hogwarts. The Horcruxes, clearly, will be a major part of the plot of the Book VII.

So there are my predictions. At 3:01 a.m. this Friday night, I’ll be at the Potter Party at the Mall of the Emirates, buying my copy. I’ve got Saturday off and I’ve arranged not to have any papers to grade, so I shall see how far wrong I am. As will the rest of the world. If indeed I am. So laugh at me all you like, but please – while you’re ridiculing my predictions, please don’t put any spoilers on my comments! I hate to know the ending of a book before I’ve read it myself.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


The Goat and I have decided that it is about time we got married. We had been kind of thinking about it for a while and even talking about it a bit now and then, but the catalyst was, I think, a combination of my abandoning him for a long dive trip (absence making the heart grow fonder and all that) and the sudden exodus of a large portion of my university’s population, leaving several villas halfway between his office and mine empty and in need of tenants. Funny how those necessary nudges in life often come from the oddest places.

We were given our choice of three villas. We were nearly seduced by the practically brand new one with a swimming pool next door, but when the previous tenant told me the rental contract was up in January I dismissed it instantly, knowing full well that the landlord would want to jack up the rent astronomically. The other villa also had a pool, but while we were looking it over a plane headed toward the runway got so close we could have lassoed it from the garden, so we opted out of that one too. That left Villa 46a. It’s spacious (good), run down (bad) and out of the flight path altogether (excellent).

Apart from the fact that it had had a family of about ten living in it for the past nine years – and a landlord who did absolutely no maintenance – Villa 46a wasn’t bad. Filthy and down-at-heels, with crumbling, cracked plaster, chipped and warped doors, scribbled walls, a dust bowl garden, subsiding foundations and pigeons living in the light well, it’s nevertheless a house with possibilities.

Except for the kitchen. Someone, probably as a result of a bad acid trip, had decided to cover the entire place – floors, walls, cupboards – in white tile. Now, I’m very fond of white tile on floors where it belongs, but this looks like an operating room at a cheap hospital. The tile I can deal with. But the rest? The Goat and I fumigated the place last weekend just in case (there were no critters, thank goodness). The upper cabinets are too narrow to put dinner plates in (Ikea will sell us new ones), and the damp has rotted away the ugly brown cabinet doors below (now ripped out and chucked). The cleaning crew and I between us managed to scrape all the stickers off the walls and the overflowed caulking from the leaking windows. However, the pièce de horreur is the oven, which is a built-in mess that hasn’t worked in months. No question but that it needed to come out and be replaced by the Goat’s own very nice cooker.

There are great benefits in marrying an engineer. He sized up the problem, came up with a plan, and got that manky stove out without too much grief. Then, braving the 9+ years of accumulated grease on the white tiles behind the oven, he measured the opening. Eighty-nine centimeters. 89 cm? What kind of a moron leaves an 89 cm gap in a counter? Like most ranges, the Goat’s well-beloved Aga is 90 cm wide. After swearing for a few minutes, he decided we should go shopping for something that would fit. After all, it was likely that the ranges sold as 90 cm were actually not that big, even though his was (yes, he had thought to measure it in advance– aren’t engineers great?). There was a chance we'd get lucky if we looked.

We looked at what felt like a million stoves and discovered that, indeed, the standard 90 cm stoves are not necessarily that wide. But none were as narrow as 89 cm, either. We considered the one 85 cm stove we found, but it wasn't ‘full safety’, so we didn’t buy it (Even though it may deserve it, we don’t want to blow up the house). And then he got the idea that if we chiseled off the tiles, we could gain that extra centimeter and his existing cooker would fit. Brilliant.

It is a very good thing that he went to do this without me. I would have stopped him. I saw him several hours after he’d started the job, fingers bound in band aids. From the look of the damage done by the slipped chisel and the amount of blood on the floor, he should have had stitches. Being male, however, he pooh-poohed that idea. Had I known it was going to be so difficult, I’d have suggested we just leave the gaping hole in the counter and cook over an open fire in the backyard.

He finished the chiseling yesterday while the crew cleaned and I took apart cupboard doors, and then I helped him put the sealant over the now-exposed concrete (OK, he sealed; I cleaned up the mess). And lo and behold – the gap is now 90.3 cm.

We go shopping for the new upper cupboards and cupboard doors tonight. We think the standard doors will fit. God help us if they don't.
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