Monday, February 05, 2007

He that troubleth his own house Shall
"Inherit the Wind
by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

In college, I took a "Law and Literature" class that assigned this book as one of the reading choices. We were assigned six books over the semester, and allowed to skip one of them. I chose The Brothers Karamazov over this one, and opted to weigh myself down with a dense and hard to finish novel over a simple play. I never finished that heavy novel (though I intend to one day re-attempt it, when I have the time), but I did recently plop myself on a chair for a couple hours and breeze through Inherit the Wind.

This play is quite famous, and its subject matter still topic for heated debate. Creation versus Evolution. What is right, what is wrong, and what is worth teaching in the classroom. Sadly enough, the main battle in this play, the debate over whether children should be taught evolution as well as creation, still plagues our classrooms today. Teachers cannot speak of God for fear of reprimand, yet they cannot fairly present Darwin or his ideas either. And who loses?

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind." That quote begins this play, and provides the thread along which events unfold. The back flap touts this play as the tense battle between two courtroom titans, drama for the ages. There are some great ideas in this play. Ignorance is exposed in its ugly glory, while the playwrights opt for a bittersweet victory in which no one really wins, and the battle, justifiably so, continues past the last page.

I enjoyed most the stance that creation and evolution can live in harmony, the idea of the creation story as a metaphor for evolution rather than literally, that science doesn't always have to disprove faith. And while I personally subscribe to evolution, I sure do enjoy fitting the beauty of seven days into a billion years, where one day holds the big bang, another the dinosaurs, and our lives just a sliver of a second in the time of the universe.

Bloody Awesome!
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
by J.K. Rowling

I'm hoping I can say something new, something other than "I loved it" or "it was awesome" about this book, but I'm not sure I can. The Half-Blood Prince, Rowling's sixth installment in the series of seven about wizards and Hogwarts and, of course, Harry Potter, not only ups the ante, but does so with style, grace, and a whole heap of pitsweat and tears.

This installment follows Harry as he delves into the past of Voldemort, an ex-student at Hogwarts then known as Tom Riddle. Harry comes into his own as a confident, sarcastic, and very brave young man who is getting a handle on the magical history he is a part of, as well as the responsibility it comes with. Also a treat in this book is the amount of time we get to spend with Dumbledore.

Most refreshing is the sense of growth in the characters (and, incidentally, the author's style) as Harry's years at Hogwarts pass. Not only are we witness to a contemporary coming-of-age story, but the solidity of confidence and absolute mastery of storytelling by Rowling.

And yet, Rowling knows when to pull up the reins. The story moves along swiftly, like a bird in full flight, towards that ultimate and inevitable dive back to Earth. The Harry Potter story is not finished, and although I foresee re-reading all seven novels in a few years I, for one, cannot wait for the seventh to hit the shelves.