Belated happy new year to my blogger friends! Finally managed to sneak out again from the miserable real world to the blogosphere. It had been a great year and hope you had a great one too. For me, the year moved at a break neck speed and The Book Haven was left stranded while its captain was a stranger in a strange land.
The major bookish achievement this year was to finish the Harry Potter Series (yeah, the movies too). Alright, it’s not retro and doesn’t belong to this blog. Also, I admit I was hopelessly prejudiced against the Potter boy and Rowling before taking up Philosopher’s Stone reluctantly. It was one of my friends who argued that it was a rubbish attitude to make fun of sometime without reading it. I couldn’t answer and decided to make a point by reading the book.
So I finished the first book. And had to eat my own words.
Blimey! Why on earth I kept pushing it away for so long? The Philosopher’s Stone was as original as Tolkien’s LoTR. Of course, it lacked the depth of a classic and was not a work of art created by a professor of Anglo-Saxon, but there’s no denying that it was way ahead of most books in the genre.
Movie: 3.5 / 5 (pretty descent stuff)
Chamber of Secrets is possibly the best book in the series in terms of plot. Basilisk and Tom Riddle’s diary were freaking awesome. And who could forget the flying car over Muggle London? God, the series was getting better and better.
Movie: 4/ 5 (Quite quite good)
The Prisoner of Azkaban felt like a letdown though. Sirius Black and Lupin were great characters; the dementors were creepy, but overall the plot seemed weak.
Movie: 2.5/ 5 (Meh! Cool special effects though)
With The Goblet of Fire, Rowling was back in form. The Triwizard tournament was outright genius. I believe, it was from this novel that the series started to take a dark turn. The book had a really eerie beginning and introduced Nagini, Voldemort’s infernal pet.
Movie: 3/ 5 (Not bad)
The Order of the Phoenix had some outstanding moments. Battle of the Ministry is perhaps the best thing about it. Bellatrix murdered Sirius Black – dang, that was a shock (thought he and James were both better than Bellatrix).
I believe it is virtually impossible to invent a character more annoying that Dolores Umbridge. Cool job by Rowling! However, the plot seemed loose and without purpose. Rowling seemed to describe the daily life at Hogwarts without any intention of going further and things fell in line again only towards the end.
Movie: 3/ 5 (Nothing very special here)
Sectumsempra! Aren’t you bleeding yet from the curse invented by the Half-blood price? Fantastic plot, great speed, dark magic, perilous missions, shocking betrayals, and tragic end. Wow! Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince deserves to be one of your favourite novels in the series. If not for anything else, you can remember it simply because of the ghastly concept of Horcrux.
Movie: 3.5/ 5 (Lives up to the expectations)
The epic conclusion. The Deathly Hollows is my favourite book in the series. This one is truly tragic in tone from the beginning till the end. Incredible action, unforeseen twists, meticulously crafted characters and dialogues make the concluding episode an unforgettable journey. The battle of Hogwarts is nothing short of epic. What a finish. Avada Kedavra!
Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part I: 4/ 5 (Great job)
Movie – The Deathly Hollows Part 2: 4.5/ 5 (Best in the series)
I would rate Harry Potter series at par with Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It’s not The Lord of the Rings or The Game of Thrones but then it doesn’t need to be. Harry Potter is best the way it is.
The movies could have been better. They were cartoonish to begin with and gradually improved but none of them were like The Two Towers. What a pity!
What do you think of the Harry Potter series?
Rowena Morrill is a SF and fantasy artist who has some really great vintage pulp covers to her credit. The above illustration is from the horror novel Isobel by Jane Parkhurst. Even by the high standard of vintage pulp covers, this one stands out as an outstanding example of compelling horror artwork, which has altogether vanished due to some incomprehensible reason. Can you feel the evocation of the dark? Does it give you the creeps?
In his blog Too much horror fiction, Will mentions that this was Morrill’s first cover art. Too good a debut even for someone too talented!
Here is the front cover of the paperback:
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” — Oscar Wilde
Of course, B Schools can’t teach you to be Steve Jobs or Bill gates. And a doctorate in literature can’t make you Harper Lee. There’s no denying the fact that no investment pays like education, but some people are just too good and lack of formal education can’t stop them from being famous. Here are five legendary writers who showed us they don’t need a degree in literature to write timeless classics.
The well loved author of The Pickwick Papers permanently dropped out of school when he was 15 and started working as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. Financial difficulties ruined his chances of completing education. ”Although I am not an educated man, I am able, I am thankful to say, to have an intelligent interest in most things.” Who dare question the talent of Charles John Huffam Dickens?
The first non-European to win Nobel Prize in literature never attended school. Widely considered as one of the most creative artists of the modern era, Tagore wrote novels, poems, plays and was also famous for his paintings. He is the only person who wrote national anthems for two countries — India and Bangladesh. Tagore had a great circle of friends, which included Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Romain Rolland among others.
Who can earth could twist English language better than good old Mark Twain? The author of the great American novels — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn — dropped out of school when he was just twelve and became a printer’s apprentice. Considered as one of the greatest American humorists of all time and regarded as the father of American literature by Faulkner, Mark Twain proved that you can earn respect as well as fortune without education.
Faulkner started off pretty well as a student, lost it somewhere in the middle and never graduated from high school. The struggling student eventually became a Nobel Prize laureate and wrote classics like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom, Absalom that are considered among the best English language novels of the 20th century.
George Bernard Shaw
“Schools and schoolmasters, as we have them today, are not popular as places of education and teachers, but rather prisons and turnkeys in which children are kept to prevent them disturbing and chaperoning their parents.”
Shaw is possibly the most perfect example of a self educated artist and was an outspoken critic of school education. He was a voracious reader, and a dedicated student of art, literature and history. However, he had little faith in formal education and dropped out of school when he was fourteen. Remember Pygmalion? You can make a person erudite and sophisticated without imposing the burden of school education, can’t you?
Too creative. Too good. Here’s the link to the original set on Flickr: Video Game Classics