Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Without special effects it is bread without salt and a summer day without sunshine


I can’t resist and I will start with the new triad J-K (Rowling), John/Jack (Tiffany) and Jack (Thorne) like an echo of another trinity Jesus-James-John, the master/teacher/rabbi, the brother and the youngest apostle hence the son, presented as such by Jesus to his mother Mary from his cross. I will not follow that line with this new volume but it is constantly present, especially with the two boys Albus and Scorpius who are always running after a third one like Cedric twice and then Delphi both the predator and the prey of the two boys trying to deal with another triad, herself, her father Voldemort and his arch enemy Harry Potter and to move away from the ill-fated triad James Potter Sr., Lily Potter and Harry Potter. It could only lead to a catastrophe since then Voldemort would be building a quartet with the three Potters.

First of all it is a strange book indeed since it is a play and not a novel. So we get no descriptions, or hardly any since stage directions are not as good as prose. It is essentially a dialogue between or among two characters or more, cut up in rather short scenes. You have to rebuild everything in your mind’s eye, if you have a mind and if you have an eye in that mind and thirdly if you can, because it is hard to know the precise intonations intended in these dialogues and at times the meaning depends on these intonations. In other words you, Harry Potter addicts, are going to be frustrated and maladjusted in this dry scenario.

The second remark I will make is that what we read implies a tremendous level of special effects. That is easy in a film or TV series but on a stage…? So you will never get the real thing if you can’t see it on stage and if they do not propose a capture of the play on DVD, a real capture with no re-mastered special effects. Some of them are not very creative. Shape-shifting and shape shifters have become very banal and common place after “Supernatural” (How many season already?), “The X Files” (quite a few seasons too, and they stopped though they are speaking of starting again and they may even have) and “Fringe” (and they have come to an end or the end) or some copy cats of these. And that is of course in the line of vampires who could turn into bats or werewolves who could turn into wolves precisely.

The third element is that this play is un-understandable if you do not know the whole saga. First there are many allusions to event of the previous volumes, the old volumes, and you have an obligation to remember, a duty of memory. But what’s more, the author uses a time-turner to make us go back to old events that are revived that way.  You better know what she is speaking of and in some scenes, the very same way as in Back to the Future you may have two, or why not three though the author avoids that potential possibility, different identities and ages of the same characters. And what’s more  modern identities are crossed with and by contradictory feelings towards the other characters, feelings coming from the past, like how the Potter side reacts to that poor Draco Malfoy. You better review and revise your summaries.

The next remark has to do with some political science fiction resulting from travelling in time and changing history, the famous butterfly effect. We are thus able to visit what the modern world would be if the dark forces were to win, if Voldemort were able to win, like Trump, le Pen or Brexit. If they do, the only solution is to push them around, filibuster them if we can and neutralize them if possible. Can you control a tempest coming from all the frustrations of people in front of the establishment: frustrated in their minds by gross lies and promises that were not held; frustrated in their feelings by the insecurity they feel in front of the changing world they do not understand; and frustrated in their deeper impulses and desires by a world in which genders are multiplied from two to more than a dozen and in which gender orientation is a multiple choice challenge with more than one answer to every stage: the gay feel besieged and become aggressive; the straight feel menaced and become uncertain; and all other colors and options feel queer, bizarre, strange and kind of disoriented.  And Pride is by far not enough to make the world change smoothly.

But political science fiction comes basically, I think, from deranged and corrugated minds: Albus and Scorpius are out of their minds when they want to change the past.  No one can remake history, not even by remembering it which is anyway a reconstruction to make it palatable, digestible and if possible haunting. But it is funny to find out the best intentions in the mental world of two teenagers may lead to the worst nightmares in the life of everybody, the same way as Brexit leads to a chasm of chaos to the point of pushing it back two years and then now three years and in a month or two to four years and after some rounds of negotiations it will be recognized as the perfectly good bad idea. Imagine Voldemort and his Death Eaters and all his dung beetles ready to do the worst crimes for a pellet of cow pie.

The fifth element is that the story is funny and very sentimental if not sentimentalese. That will be the last remark of that type I will make. And this remark leads to the main content of the book as I see it.

The central question is the conflict between the deficient father Harry Potter and his second son? The author does not insist or harp on the first son, a certain James Potter Jr., and thus does not really capture the problem of the younger son. Being a younger son is a real – I mean R.E.A.L., real – curse in itself. Think of Abel when God decided not to favor the first born Cain. At the end there is an allusion to that James Jr. seen as at peace with the father of the two sons, Harry Potter, by Albus Potter, and Harry Potter’s response is then that in fact there is no real relation between him and his elder son. But at the end, that’s too late and it requires a lot more exploration.

But the author, with her two male sidekicks, is a woman, probably a mother and she probably believes she knows what it is to be a parent, forgetting that being a mother has little to do with being a father and she has no direct experience of this father status and men generally cannot really speak of it because they are like afraid of being misunderstood when they start telling you they love their sons, they want to hug them and cuddle them as long as they can and they have to break that desired relation, both mental and physical, by far too early for them, but most of the time too late for the son: in other words they do not know how to shift from the relation of a loving father who expresses his love with physical and mental closeness to the relation of a loving father who expresses his love with concern, support, encouragement to get out in the world and sow their wild mental and physical oats in all social fields. And sure enough Albus Potter and Harry Potter are both incompetent and how they come to some kind of understanding is superficial and purely verbose.

She misses many things and particularly that whether there is a conflict or not, the son will end up either doing some of the things the father did, or not doing some of the things the father did, or doing some of the things the father did not do, or not doing some of the things the father did not do. And most of the time some of each of the four options. That is called transference, positive or negative transference of positive or negative elements. It works both ways from the father who tries to transfer things onto the son, and from the son who tries to be free to choose what he accepts and what he refuses.

The author even goes further and brings together two sons of two fathers, the two sons living a conflict with their respective fathers and the two fathers inheriting an old conflict between them they try to project (transference again) onto their respective sons. She very wisely makes the two boys best friends at first sight. She systematically calls that friendship and calls them friends, but they are best friends and that is love, but I guess in her mind love has to do with desire and impulse and signifies sex, marriage and children. That’s how she deals with Ron and Hermione for example. The girl is a potential mother with all it means. For Albus and Scorpius there cannot be any kind of turning the other into a mother. More about that in a moment. To end up on the transference from Harry to Albus it is simple. Harry declares his fright in front of pigeons, and Albus declares at once they are innocent – go tell that to the guardians of the cathedral in Wells who have invested on falcons to purge the site of its pigeons, or to the managers of airports who also use falcons to clear up the zone of the airport of its pigeons – and as a negative transference he will be a pigeon race manager. That kind of final solution of the conflict is rather trite, and Scorpius does not deserve the same treatment since we do not know his ending, showing that the relation between the two boys is insignificant for the author and she tries to cast it into a block of heterosexual concrete.

We have to understand their dialogue in 2016 when the relations between males, two males or several males, or actually between females too, two females or more, are just the crucial social question of the moment after for example the decision of the US Supreme Court on the subject. I will only take some examples from the end of the book, but it is present all along.

Page 265 Scorpius says: “So we hide in a hole?” Albus answers: “As pleasurable as it will be to hide in a hole with you for the next forty years . . .” Then Scorpius retorts: “If I had to choose a companion to be at the return of eternal darkness with, I’d choose you.” In the situation they are in, either this is serious and then the words have a clear meaning: it is a declaration of love on both sides, or it is humor but due to the situation it is really very dark if not black humor. Let’s say, serious or humorous it is nevertheless homoerotic.

Page 300-301 Scorpius says: “I asked out Rose Granger-Weasley.” Albus responds: “And she said no.” Scorpius retorts: “But I asked her. I planted the acorn. The acorn that will grow into our eventual marriage.” That is erotic indeed and, on the side of a dating failure, it is rather male-dominant, maybe even slightly phallocratic. But later on Albus says: “I honestly thought I’d be the first of us to get a girlfriend.” And Scorpius responds: “Oh, you will, undoubtedly, probably that new smoky-eyed Potions professor – she’s old enough for you, right?” Albus reacts: “I don’t have a thing about older women!” And Scorpius can add: “And you’ve got time – a lot of time – to seduce her. Because Rose is going to take years to persuade.” Albus can have the last word: “I admire your confidence.” In this passage they set their orientation as being heterosexual, though Scorpius is rejected – but is he really – by his first “date” who says no of course, and Albus does not seem to be in a rush to get one. In other the two boys have closet undetermined sexual orientation and follow in public some kind of heterosexual game that does not seem to be urgent or really serious. The author is exploiting neither side of the coin that has to do with gender orientation.

I can assure you at 14 they are obsessed by it. And they are indeed.

Page 302 we have this little scene:

“Scorpius reaches in and hugs Albus.
Albus: What’s this? I thought we decided we don’t hug.
Scorpius: I wasn’t sure. Whether we should. In this new version of us – I had in my head.”

It is obvious the heterosexual version of the two boys is the “new version” of them. Then the old version, or the previous version was rather gay, and now they still hug and the play makes it longer than a casual hug between two brothers or cousins. At least Scorpius wants it and takes the initiative, and Albus does not refuse it and takes part in it, accepts it. Is that going to be an orientation, or a gender? We definitely need to get more on those two pubescent teenagers.

After saying all that let me conclude. This play will both exhilarate AND frustrate you. But that’s too bad. Let’s hope we SOON get a DVD capture of the stage production.


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