Sunday, 3 April 2011

And if the waves should wash away...

I was going to post up a picture of The Mothers of Invention today, but then I remembered that I did that last year, so I cannot be too far gone.

Here in the land of the BBC, if you own a digital radio, you can listen to old programs via a channel which -until a few days ago - was called Radio 7, but is now called RADIO 4 Extra. I think it was called Radio 7 because it only took 7 people to run it - in total. It has been very popular, so has had a revamp.

This morning, I listened to a re-run of Desert Island Discs (I hope you don't need me to explain that, but if MBJ needs to be told what a 'Golliwog' is/was, then you may need to Google it too) which featured J.K. Rowling choosing her 8 discs for posterity.

Can it really be 12 or more years ago since I sat in a darkened cinema one Christmas with the snow outside, reliving a childhood which I never had? I still remember the thrill when hearing the first few, tinkling notes of the theme tune to Harry Potter, and - like an addict - I have been trying to recapture the experience ever since, but - just like childhood - it can never be recaptured, only sniffed in fleeting glimpses in the darkness of dreams.

Having said that, the most striking thing about the fantasy of Potter is that much of it takes place in broad daylight in the most banal of situations, so conjuring up the old magic is as easy as falling into a daydream whilst waiting for a bus.

I was in London a couple of years ago, sitting at a pavement cafe and waiting for my lot to come up in the nearby auction house. I became so bored with everything, that I allowed myself to drift into that space which is normally only occupied by children who, for some inexplicable reason, seem to spend 80% of their time being bored with the whole world, despite the fact that they have not been in it long enough that they should actually become bored.

The good thing about Potter, and the reason his appeal is so great, is that J.K. realised one vital thing about human psychology in general and child psychology in particular - that during moments of escape from reality, we need to continue to confront our fears and disappointments just as we are forced to in dreams. You cannot have highs without lows, and you cannot have parties all day, every day. For that reason alone, she deserves all the success she has achieved.

I have known one or two extremely successful people, and they have one major thing in common - they seem to be universally despised for it by about 80% of the population of the UK. I cannot speak for any other country. The 'politics of resentment' are rife here in Britain, and result is that their less successful counterparts take every opportunity they can to bad-mouth them in public. This must be hurtful to someone who has worked so hard all their lives, and has not necessarily set out to make the huge quantities of money that their success has brought them, and from the joy they have brought others.

I have never read a single word of any of the Harry Potter books - all I know about them comes from films, but I do know that, given the choice between Salman Rushdie and J.K. Rowling when choosing a book to take to my Desert Island, I would choose Rowling any time.


  1. I read a quote the other day and I think it was Einstein, but it said something like, intelligence only leads us so far, but creativity can go on forever. Rowling not only gave herself the license to create a whole world, but she had to fight the real world to have it accepted. I guess it took a while to get published, many re-writes, etc. Like you said, she created a world that is so comparable to ours, but so fantastically different. We can grasp it fully even though we know it isn't real. That's a gift.

  2. I like that music too. Tom, second childhood is so much better, I should know!

  3. I've not read or seen any of the Potter stuff. So would have prefered the 'Mothers' alternative. 2 of Zappa's kids were Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. If that isn't enough to breed resentment; I dunno what is!


  4. Glad you splanned the "Desert Island Disc" thing Tom.....duhhhh.
    Can you believe there are people who think the Harry Potter series is dangerous for kids and want the books off the shelves? Whackos!!!!!

  5. It's called the Tall Poppy syndrome in Oz - anyone who is brilliant or enigmatic enough to poke their head above the rabble will get it lopped sooner or later. It is supposed to be part of the egalitarian ethos that emerged from a society of f* you convicts and their working class overseerers.
    That said, HP is bloody awful to read out loud. I've read all Harry Potters and all of the Narnia chronicles out loud to my kids at bedtime over the years (part of their statesmanship training), and C.S. Lewis shits all over Rowling when it comes to beautifully crafted prose.

  6. That universal despising is often jealousy I think. People who work hard to achieve something are often ridiculed by people who have no idea about hard work.
    Have not read any JK Rowling - have tried and failed with Salman Eushdie - but I do agree with you that we all need a little magic in our lives.

  7. I love the Harry Potter series. But then I'm just a kid at heart. Wish I'd gone to Hogwarts. (I think the books are better than the films.)

  8. The Harry Potter books were bought for my two eldest children, after having read the first one I was hooked! I would say they would be perfect desert island reading - if you're young at heart, and love a bit of enchantment.

  9. the best children's book I ever read was WATERSHIP down..... I also loved the WILLARD PRICE adventure books , featuring Hal and Roger Hunt ( teenage animal trappers)
    thought you could play around with their surname thomas!


    "C.S. Lewis shits all over Rowling when it comes to beautifully crafted prose."