December 10, 2010


I’ve been reading the professional critiques on the new Harry Potter movie, “Deathly Hollows, based on the book by J. K. Rowling. Most of the comments are friendly. A few are not. One point they all make and agree upon is that a person dropping into the film with no knowledge of the previous six will be confused. 

Unlike a sequel, a series has a friendlier format. One can read any Agatha Christie mystery featuring Miss Marple and each time the cast of characters will be reintroduced and their relationships defined. There’s no need to know what happened to the protagonist in some earlier adventure to enjoy the current plot. The challenge is for the writer to regurgitate vital information without boring devoted fans as he welcomes new ones.

Nevertheless, I try to read even a series in sequence, though it’s not always possible. Inevitably, one of the books is unavailable or out of print. I like the way Alexander McCall Smith adds a number to each volume in his series, “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. That way there’s no guessing about which came first…second, etc.

It’s often said that art imitates life, but of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, for each there is a beginning, middle and end. But the governing principle in the universe is entropy, that tendency for order to fall into disarray.  Literature brings resolution to chaos even if that resolution is an unhappy one. The reader or theatergoer may be left with a question at the end of his experience, but that will have been the artist’s intention, not the result of things falling apart.  Art is the antithesis of entropy even in Jackson Pollack’s painterly world… even in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.

Working against entropy makes the artist a rebel, which Plato understood and was why he barred artists from his utopian Republic. The pious mind is accepting; the rational one curious but the artist’s mind burns with a desire for change. Omar Khayyam said it best at the closing of “The Rubaiyat:

                “Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire

                To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

                Would not we shatter it to bits – and then

                Re-mould it nearer to Heart’s Desire!”