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"In fact, you will not be saved."

That's a line from Stephen Vincent Benet's poem "Nightmare, With Angels." I first read it long ago, but I'm not sure when or where. I had thought it was freshman English, in the Sound and Sense textbook/anthology. But I've just looked, and it's not there. Could it have been in high school? That seems unlikely, but it's possible. Anyway, it made an impression on me, and I think of it from time to time. Here is a link to it.

It's been on my mind especially in recent weeks and months, as the American republic seems to be having some kind of breakdown. So is the Catholic Church, at least large segments of it. A few days ago, in a Facebook group devoted to the renewal of the Church, someone posted a list of proposed responses, basically theological, to a recent survey indicating a serious decline in the number of American Christians (of any and all denominations). It included things like reviving a genuinely Christian philosophy, getting rid of hyper-political partisanship within the community, and so forth. It was all perfectly sound, but very unlikely to have any discernible effect anytime soon--and by "soon" I mean within the next several decades. I guess I was feeling grumpy that day, because I responded with the Benet poem, among other helpful observations:

Fine, good things in response to bad errors. But as far as Western Formerly Christian civilization is concerned, Stephen Vincent Benet had the general idea right: "In fact you will not be saved." This train is not going to be stopped until it goes off a cliff or, best case, runs out of fuel. Either way it looks to be a long time.

Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. And I'm sorry if I sounded like a jerk. But I don't see how any any theological adjustment can possibly turn things around, or even slow them down. [This program] is a good thing but a project for generations, maybe centuries.

I mean--pardon my crudeness, but: we live in a society which has decreed that as a matter of law and custom there is no ontological or teleological difference between a vagina and a rectum. How do you even converse with that? Unless we're in the final apostasy of the end times, which is certainly a possibility but not one to which I've ever committed myself, the Church will be renewed, and a new culture will arise around it. But I can't see a turnaround in our present trajectory. I think we'll have to hit a wall of some kind.

This may sound like despair, but it really isn't. The ship of the Church will eventually right itself, at least to the degree that it is ever really righted. The ship of state is a different story; perhaps it will be righted, but perhaps it will slowly turn into something else, something that may or may not preserve the form but definitely does not preserve the substance of the constitutional order.

It's a rejection of the belief, so beloved of those of us who spend a great deal of our time thinking and writing and talking, that if we can only formulate and propagate the correct set of ideas things will be put right. It's a recognition that we are riding extremely powerful waves generated by the uncontrollable movement of great masses far below the surface of the sea. It's true that ideas have consequences. But this doesn't mean, as those who traffic in ideas are tempted to think, that ideas determine events. 

I find that I've lost interest almost entirely in that kind of talk, especially talk that involves proposals for the reform of society, sometimes the construction of societies in the air, according to distributist, or Christian democrat, or Christian liberal, or integralist, or whatever, principles. It's a sort of hobby for which I've lost my taste. 

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Addendum: in putting forth the Benet poem, I don't mean to be saying that we in the U.S.A. and Europe are headed for cataclysmic violence. I don't in fact think we are. The poem was written in the 1930s, when the fact that war was coming was pretty clear to perceptive people. I think we are, rather, in a decline the outcome of which I don't claim to foresee. But the first angel's lament for all the unfulfilled hopes and promises of history is poignant, and the second angel's brutal crushing of such hopes applicable enough in general.  


A Few Remarks from Newman

Today everyone in the Ordinariates is rejoicing in the canonization of our hero, Saint John Henry Newman. Well, okay, "everyone" is probably an exaggeration. But "hero" is not. 

I'm referring to the ecclesiastical structures created by Pope Benedict's Anglicanorum coetibus, by which Christians from the Anglican tradition can come into the Catholic Church bringing with them many elements of their worship and spirituality.  "Structures," because there are three, for the UK, Australia, and the Americas. The obvious natural thing to call them is "the Anglican Ordinariates." But we have actually been told not to use that term, or to refer to them in any way that includes the word "Anglican," apparently out of concern that it will appear that we are still Anglican. It's frustrating, as I've found whenever I mention it to what I can't help calling "regular Catholics." If I use the word "Anglican," they think I've left the Church. If I say "the Ordinariate" they just look blank, quite understandably. In general they really just don't get it at all. Which is disappointing. 

But anyway: Newman is our great model, a sort of patron saint long before he was canonized. And of course he's an important writer and thinker by any standard. I have a book called A Newman Treasury, a selection from his prose works which appeared in 1943. It includes a section called "Aphoristic Selections," which has some brief gems. Relatively brief--I don't think I'd call an excerpt which occupies a full page and contains a dozen sentences "aphoristic."

(Attributions: Essays Critical and Historical; The Idea of a University; Oxford University Sermons; Grammar of Assent; Difficulties of Anglicans.)

Man is born to obey quite as much as to command. Remove the true objects, and you do not get rid of a natural propensity: he will make idols instead; remove heaven, and he will put up with earth, rather than honour nothing at all. The principle of respect is as much a part of us as the principle of religion. (ECH)

This is similar to what I was getting at a week or two ago about Downton Abbey.

If literature is to be made a study of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Literature. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man. (IU)

Of course he's not using the term "Christian Literature" in the sense that we would use it of, say, Flannery O'Connor. But his point gets at the problem with a lot of art produced by Christians.

In morals, as in physics, the stream cannot rise higher than its source. Christianity releases men from earth, for it comes from heaven, but human morality creeps, struts, or frets upon the earth's level, without wings to rise. (DA)

Nothing is more common in an age like this, when books abound, than to fancy that the gratification of a love of reading is real study. (IU)

This stings a bit. I did realize it for myself but not until I was well along in life. I'm always bothered by those people who want children to read as if it that alone were good in itself. It isn't. It may even be a bad thing, if they only or mostly read books that communicate bad things.

When men understand each other's meaning, they see, for the most part, that controversy is either superfluous or hopeless. (OUS)

The current state of our politics.

Whence comes evil? why are we created without our consent? how can the Supreme Being have no beginning? how can he need skill, if He is omnipotent? if He is omnipotent, why does He permit suffering? If He permits suffering, how is He all-loving? if He is all-loving, how can He be just? if He is infinite, what has he to do with the finite? how can the temporary be decisive of the eternal?--these, and a host of like questions, must arise in every thoughtful mind, and, after the best use of reason, must be deliberately put aside, as beyond reason, as (so to speak) no-thoroughfares which, having no outlet themselves, have no ligitimate [sic] power to divert us from the King's highway. (GA)

I take "no-thoroughfare" as meaning the same thing as "dead end." I've known more than one person, as we probably all have, whose impulses toward faith were killed by their inability to answer or move beyond these questions.

One thing, except by an almost miraculous interposition, cannot be; and that is, a return to the universal religious sentiment, the public opinion, of the medieval times. The Pope himself calls those centuries "the ages of faith." Such endemic faith may certainly be decreed for some future time; but, as far as we have the means of judging at present, centuries must run out first. (DA)

Those who seem to think we are on the brink of some widespread return to the faith may be right, but I doubt it. And they are definitely defying the clear tendency of things.

Reason can but ascertain the profound difficulties of our condition, it cannot remove them. (OUS)

A really philosophical mind, if unhappily it has ruined its own religious perceptions, will be silent; it will understand that Religion does not lie in its way: it may disbelieve its truths, it may account belief in them a weakness, or, on the other hand, a happy dream, a delightful error, which it cannot itself enjoy;--any how, it will not usurp. (OUS)

Unbelievers call themselves rational; not because they decide by evidence, but because, after they have made their decision, they merely occupy themselves in sifting it. (OUS)

It is only necessary for Reason to ask many questions; and, while the other party is investigating the real answer to each in detail, to claim the victory, which spectators will not be slow to award, fancying (as is the manner of men) that clear and ready speech is the test of Truth. (OUS)

These last three made me think of the Dawkins-style superficial atheists. They do not have the "really philosophical mind."

The aspect under which Almighty God is presented to us be Nature, is (to use a figure) of One who is angry with us, and threatens evil. Hence its effect is to burden and sadden the religious mind. (GA)

I like this as a counter to our tendency to sentimentalize nature, now that we have gone so far in being able to control it. For most of history man's relationship to nature has been in great part the struggle to stay alive against it.

All men have a reason, but not all men can give a reason. (OUS)

That complements the earlier one about "clear and ready speech." A long time ago I wrote something against the idea that mere intellectual and verbal facility are the determinants of victory in a controversy. I said this was no different from the belief that physical strength should serve that purpose. 

This has been the course of lawless pride and lust:...to lead us, first, to exult in our uncontrollable liberty of will and conduct; then, when we have ruined ourselves, to plead that we are the slaves of necessity. (O.U.S.)

The instance cannot be found in the history of mankind, in which an anti-Christian power could long abstain from persecuting. (O.U.S.)

In spite of my basic pessimism, both temperamental and, as I think, objectively justified with regard to the prospects for Christianity in the West, I think this is in many ways a good time to be a Christian: so much is being clarified. And we have all the wonderful minds and souls like Newman who have penetrated the fog of the times for us. But I have to qualify that. It's a good time to be an old Christian who knows what he believes and is firm in it and no longer has much responsibility--everyday temporal responsibility, I mean--for other people. It is not at all a good time to be a Christian trying to raise Christian children. I should spend more time praying for those who are.

It seems that David Mills, writing at The Stream, had the same notion that I did, to post a number of aphoristic quotations from Newman. There's a bit of overlap with my list, more with the book I was working from.

800px-John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_Millais _1st_Bt


The Turn of the Screw, Again

(Note: this is at least somewhat spoilerish. Also, it's a follow-up to this post from last month.)

I keep on being bothered by the question of whether the governess is mad and the ghosts objectively nonexistent, or the governess is quite sane and the ghosts both real and malevolent. The secondary questions--are the children malicious? did James intend any ambiguity?--don't matter much if the primary is undecided.

I grant that one can make a reasonable argument for what I will call the all-in-her-head view. Or, if you prefer, for the intentional-ambiguity. What puzzles me is the question of why anyone came up with the AIHH view in the first place. As I said when writing about it before, it never occurred to me when I read the story. If that simply marks me as being a little thick, well, that's all right; I grant that, too; subtlety has never been a strength of mine, neither the acting of it or the recognition of it.

In pursuit of the question, I read another James ghost story, which I happened to have at hand in a collection called The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (recommended!). The story is "The Friends of the Friends," and it's a good story. As a ghost story it suffers from the same problem (if you want to call it that) as "Turn of the Screw": it's not actually very scary, in part because James is not exactly a master of suspense, much less action, though it does deliver a chill. 

And I'm wondering why it should not be subject to the same doubt as the novella ("The Friends" is of standard short-story length). This story is also narrated by a woman whose testimony is the only account of the (purported) events, and who is to say that she is not unreliable? The ghostliness of the story rests mainly on two events. The narrator's account of the first of these is directly contradicted by another person, and involves something that could be ascribed to coincidence. The second is even more easily dismissible as coincidence, and in fact seems to be regarded as such by the narrator's friends. So I don't see why, if one is going to doubt the governess in "Turn of the Screw," one should not also doubt the narrator of "The Friends of the Friends." Well, perhaps people do, I don't know.

So then, a few days later, while looking for something else in the DVD collection at the local library, I ran across a 1999 BBC/Masterpiece Theater adaptation of "The Turn of the Screw" and checked it out. (I guess it was BBC--British, anyway.) I had a curious experience with it--no, not a ghostly one, just a curious one.

By the time I was five minutes or so into it I was thinking that I wasn't going to like it. I didn't like the way the governess was portrayed--breathless and palpitating from the first moment. I thought the score was intrusive, and the whole thing rather overdone; I'm a bit tired of that high-gloss BBC period drama style. So it went on, with me thinking I don't like this, I don't like that. And it looked for a bit as if they were going to veer off from the story into something (I didn't know what) that the director thought would be an improvement on James.

But then, rather abruptly it seemed, it was over, and suddenly I was saying in surprise "Well, damn, that was actually pretty good." What happened, in part, was that it totally dashed my expectation that it was going to be unfaithful to the story. It is in fact quite faithful. I might quarrel with the way various things were done, but they were in substance true to the story. 

And another curious thing happened: suddenly I understood why one would doubt the validity of the governess's story. I can't really account for that. I just sort of saw it, the way one sees an optical illusion one way and then, as if a switch has been flipped, in another quite different way. (Well, actually, there was one very important detail that is not in the story but is in the film, and which definitely tips the balance toward "She's crazy.")

I went looking for some discussion of the film, and found a very interesting blog post: Top 8 Film Adaptations of "The Turn of the Screw". (The link is worth clicking on just to see the painting that serves as background for the site.)

"Top 8" implies that there are more, which is surprising. And also somewhat to my surprise I found the 1999 one at Number 2 on the list, second only to The Innocents, a 1961 film which seems to be pretty highly regarded, and which is now near the top of my Netflix DVD list (the only place I could find it). 

I also learned from that site that those (of whom I still count myself one) who believe the governess was seeing real ghosts have a label: we are called "apparitionists." 


Henry James: The Turn of the Screw

I'm not sure why I picked up the collection containing this novella a few days ago and began to read it. It's an old paperback that I think I got from a library discard shelf not long ago. I noticed it in a pile and suddenly felt that I not only would enjoy reading Henry James, but that a Henry James ghost story seemed just the thing I wanted to read at that moment (notwithstanding the couple of other books in progress). I've had reading James in mind for several years now, but his major novels are a bigger commitment of reading time and effort than I've wanted to make. I'm not sure I've read anything by him since college, and at any rate not for a great many years.

I'm sorry to say that The Turn of the Screw has rather weakened that impulse. I'm a little puzzled by those who find it genuinely frightening as a ghost story. The events it portrays certainly ought to be frightening, and the first of them did have for me a definite menace. But as the story went on the events were buried too deeply in James's fastidious and elaborate detailing of extremely subtle psychological movements to be effective. If the phrase "wildly fastidious" is not nonsense, it applies to James's prose. Sometimes I feel like it's gotten a bit out of control, that he can't stop himself from refining his words in pursuit of some very, very sharp and subtle shade of consciousness which, after many cycles of refinement, has been reduced to a very small quantity of fine powder.

I had left her meanwhile in little doubt of my small hope of representing with success even to her actual sympathy my sense of the real splendor of the little inspiration with which, after I had got him into the house, the boy met my final articulate challenge.

If that's excessively and unnecessarily convoluted, and I think it is, and if it could be straightened out a bit without losing its elegance, it would certainly be much the worse without "real splendor of the little inspiration." But the virtues of this prose are not ones conducive to suspense, which is so crucial to a ghost story. 

The main characters are a governess and two children. The governess's articulation of her own reactions, motives, and decisions in dealing with the supernatural events facing her sometimes seems implausibly complex and delicate--we are supposedly hearing the story as written down by herself--and the corresponding accounts of the children's speech and her appraisals of their reasoning sometimes slip on over into the unbelievable. Which also works against the overall effect.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it; I did, apart from the occasional sentence which I found myself unable to render into any very definite meaning. (Some of it I read late at night, and maybe the problem was that I was sleepy.) But as a ghost story it doesn't rank in power with some others I can think of: "The Judge's House," by Bram Stoker, for instance, or "The Monkey's Paw," by W.W. Jacobs. And I don't think I'm up to tackling, say, the 600-plus pages of The Portrait of a Lady.

Addendum: Apparently there are some critics who believe that the ghosts are not real, existing only in the imagination of one of the characters. I guess that's possible, but don't see any reason to think so.


Sohrab Ahmari: Through Fire By Water

I'm really trying not to say "Here's yet another conversion story." Every soul is unique, every soul's relationship with God is unique, every conversion story is unique (as is every story of a soul who doesn't have to be converted, in the sense of adopting a new religion). Yet there is also a certain degree of similarity in all these stories, and it's probably a good idea not to read too many of them in quick succession. 

Here's what is unusual about Sohrab Ahmari's story: he was born in Iran, to a not-particularly-observant Muslim family, after the Islamic revolution had, to the distress of his family, taken power.  He and his mother came to the U.S., and not just to urban or typical suburban U.S., but to Mormon Utah. There he had a very American adolescence which involved rejection of the mainstream (as it existed there), subsequent atheism, nihilism, communism, and other forms of modern Western alienation. As happens fairly often, actual experience led him away from cultural and political leftism in general toward the kind of conservatism that respects religion--which in this country means above all respecting Christianity--without believing in it or practicing it. a species of conservatism. That "actual experience" provides some of the most interesting moments in the book, including his covertly joining a group of young men attempting to emigrate from the Middle East to Europe.

I think I will leave the rest of the story for you to read. It is worth reading.

Ahmari-FromFireByWater

Okay, I know that sounds like faint praise, and I guess it is. I enjoyed the book but I don't expect to return to it, and my relative lack of enthusiasm is similar to what I felt about Hillbilly Elegy: while the matter is certainly interesting, the quality of the writing is not high enough to make me value it for that reason.

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Ahmari has of course been in the news, at least in certain circles, because of his call, in First Things, for a more aggressive Christian tactic in the current religious conflict. Ahmari criticizes a different approach, to which he appropriated the name of one of its practitioners, calling it "David-French-ism." I don't feel obliged to take a side in this argument, or even inclined to.  As I said in a comment just this morning, the fact that the liberal democratic tradition has a fatal philosophical flaw does not mean that it must actually die very soon, and I see no reason why I myself need to take any definite view on whether I think the case is hopeless or not. At any rate I think French has a very good point, on display in this piece about a difficult but successful religious liberty lawsuit, that too many Christians and conservatives are much too quick to give up the fight even on the terms required by the liberal tradition itself. To that extent, then, my view differs from Ahmari's, that the "...the overall balance of forces has tilted inexorably away from us." 

I don't think anyone has ever accused me of optimism, and if anyone did he was mistaken or taking some anomaly for the norm. But I don't quite accept "inexorably." 


Johnny Tremain

I thought we had discussed this book here once, although I have not read it, but I can't find any mention of it. Anyway, here is an interesting discussion of it by Francesca Murphy at Public Discourse. She says it is

a liminal secular-religious book. It is on the border between the two, broad enough on both sides to pose a challenge in either direction. It challenges its secular readers to have a deep enough conception of the secular to encompass dying for the sake of freedom. It challenges its religious readers to deepen their pieties sufficiently to encompass the aspiration for freedom that is written in the human frame.

Well, I don't know about that, obviously, since I haven't read it. But apart from the identity of the author, this strikes me as an interesting indirect comment on the argument that's been going on among conservatives for a while now: is the liberal (and effectively secular) tradition a good thing or a bad thing, especially as it relates to religion? And in either case what are its prospects? 


J. D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy

Donald Trump probably deserves a bit of the credit for this book's popularity. It was published in 2016 when the Great Trump Freakout was well under way, and was often described as providing an explanation for some of Trump's support. There's this New York Times review, for instance: "In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump." Or this one from The Guardian: "Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance review – does this memoir really explain Trump’s victory?" These were among the top results from a Google search on the book's title.

If you aren't aware of the book, either of those reviews will give you a fairly good idea of what it's about, in spite of their emphasis on explaining Trump. On the other hand, this review in The New Republic borders on the bizarre. First the reviewer distorts, to say the least, or falsifies, to say more, what Vance says; then she goes off on a long campaign speech for the Democrats. It's something of a textbook case of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Or I suppose I should just say Political Obsession Syndrome: the actual book under consideration aside, she seems to see most of life, good or bad, as being an effect of which government is the cause. 

This focus on Trump and on politics is odd and misleading because the book is not about politics, and only glances occasionally in that direction. It deals with a subculture, which in the deeper South and some other parts of the country is called redneck, but in the hills of Kentucky is...hillbilly. At any rate it's the proud and truculent subculture of the Scots-Irish, the poorer members of which are not doing very well these days.

The subtitle is perfectly accurate, and should perhaps have been more attended to by some of these reviewers: A Memoir of a Family and Culture In Crisis. The book is about a specific family with serious problems, the extent to which those problems are characteristic of their culture, and the author's own fairly narrow escape from them. The focus is, you might say, internal: it's especially on the self-inflicted wounds of alcoholism and drug addiction, and the damage that ripples out from them. Vance recognizes the difficulty of the historical, economic, and social situation in which these people find themselves, but he doesn't view them as helpless victims. No one is forcing them to drink or take pills or shoot heroin, and no one can force them to stop. 

When he steps out from his narrative into a broader view, it is to consider the ways in which the culture which he calls "hillbilly" does and does not--mostly does not--prepare and encourage its members to thrive in the society which, for better or worse, is the one that currently exists. His concern is to tell the particular story, not to explain it in general historical and political terms. The tendency of reviewers to turn it into a mostly political document may have boosted its sales, but it fostered a certain misreading.

Anyway, I have to say that although I enjoyed the book I was a little disappointed in it. I guess I was expecting a more literary work, a more artistically pleasing and interesting one. From that point of view, it's somewhat flat, straightforward but not especially vivid or rich. Still, I'd recommend it fairly enthusiastically if you're interested in the subject at all, especially if you know people like this. Or if you're one of them, in which case you may have a quarrel with Vance: if you're truly one of them, you don't take criticism of your people very well. That's not a putdown, as it's somewhat true of me. I'm not of the hillbilly/redneck class, but I guess I'm genetically pretty close, though with a large admixture of English. And although I am a timid person and don't actually respond with violence to criticism of my people, I'd sort of like to. 

Hillbilly_Elegy(By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51957321)

And by the way, J.D. Vance became Catholic this past weekend. (The link is to Rod Dreher's account of the event--Dreher is a friend of Vance.) That's good news. There isn't much about religion in the book, but the glimpses that do appear are of an extremely individualist and probably ahistorical Protestantism. 

Sometime before too long I think I'm going to read James Webb's book about the history and influence of the Scots-Irish, Born Fighting.


Chesterton's Non-Canonization

I suppose anyone who's interested has heard that the cause for G.K. Chesterton's canonization has been shut down, at least for now. Here's a brief notice about it in the Catholic Herald UK. Sounds somewhat disgruntled, or at any rate gives significant space to a disgruntled voice. 

I must say that I'm more in agreement than otherwise with this decision. I count myself as an admirer of the man and his work, but with a good many reservations. Like a lot of people I was wildly enthusiastic about his writing when I first encountered it, but I soon, or fairly soon, developed a more mixed opinion. At his best, he's great, astonishingly wise and perceptive. "Astonishing" is really not an exaggeration of the initial effect on me of some of his writings, that gift he has of pointing out things both obvious and unnoticed.

For me he's at his best in his essays. I often find his style tiresome at greater length, and don't care much for the fiction, except maybe for the Father Brown stories. And he wrote so very much that it sometimes seems that he is on a sort of GKC auto-pilot, maintaining the style but not so much of the substance.

But even if his writing were uniformly brilliant it would not justify calling him a saint. That hardly needs to be pointed out. I admit that I don't know all that much about his personal life, but though he seems to have been a good man I've never seen evidence of heroic virtue. 

Be that as it may, there's another reason why it's best that this effort not be pursued, and that's the fact that he can be fairly accused of anti-Semitism. 

I say "fairly accused." I've heard the argument made both for and against him on this point. But it does seem to be justified to at least some extent. The most generous thing you can say about some of his views in that line is that they are bizarre and rather creepy. I'm thinking in particular of that passage--I have no idea where to find it--in which he advocates some sort of special dress for English Jews, something by which they could always be identified.

That was pre-Holocaust and it wouldn't have had the same resonance at the time that it does post-Holocaust. And I don't for a moment think he would have had anything but hatred for the Nazi program of extermination. I think he's on record as being anti-Hitler. Nevertheless, that one notion makes the idea of canonizing him here and now a bad one. The Church has had, over the centuries and in some circles still, enough of a problem with anti-Semitism, and is enough of a pariah in the eyes of much of our civilization, that we don't need to do something unnecessary to make that situation worse. I think the British football term for that is "own goal." Nor do we need to suggest to actual anti-Semites within the Church that their animosity is acceptable.

His importance as writer and thinker won't be any the the worse for his absence from the official list of saints. I think the whole process is being misused these days, actually, with popes being canonized, it seems, in almost a pro-forma way. "All have won, and all must have medals" seems like a bad approach.


Who Would Dumbledore Vote For?

I don't care. But apparently a lot of people do. Apparently J.K. Rowling is "a major voice in world affairs". I've missed that development. The piece I linked to there is from 2017, and maybe she is not speaking out as much as she was then. I looked at her Twitter account and there is very little there from recent months.

But the fact that she would reduce her characters to political puppets in this way is to me of a piece with the general quality of the Harry Potter books. And, I'm sorry to say, of the general cast of Rowling's mind:

She has revealed Dumbledore was gay and that Hogwarts would have been a ‘safe place’ for LGBT students.

Oh, come on.

I really tried to like the books because one of my children was of exactly the age to be an enthusiast. I succeeded to some degree, and mostly enjoyed them, though the last couple seemed so diffuse and convoluted that the resolution they offered didn't have the impact that I think they were meant to. The books never truly engaged or moved me, not like the work of Tolkien and Lewis did. I don't think it's just me, either; I think my view of them is more or less objectively correct. I don't think they will be much read fifty years or so from now, or a hundred, whereas I think the others will move a great many people as long as the language remains accessible to the average person.