Opinion | Harry Potter and the Poorly-Read Exorcists – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

CreditCreditDaniel Becerril/Reuters

“NASHVILLE — When the Rev. Dan Reehil, a Catholic priest, ordered the removal of all Harry Potter books from the parish school’s library, the St. Edward community demanded an explanation. Father Reehil responded by email, noting that he had “consulted several exorcists, both in the United States and in Rome,” and had been assured that the “curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

I read all seven Harry Potter books aloud to all three of my children, one at a time, as they became old enough to understand the books’ complicated plots, so I understand why Father Reehil’s explanation assuaged no parental concerns. Exorcists? Real spells? No wonder the story became international news almost as soon as The Tennessean broke it. Articles about the incident have appeared in outlets as diverse as The Washington PostCBS NewsEntertainment WeeklyThe Independent in Britain, and Forbes, among many others.

Before I heard this story, I would not have thought it necessary to point out that Harry Potter is a fictional character and that these books are not spellbooks. They are novels, tales J.K. Rowling made up out of her prodigious imagination.

Harry Potter and his friends don’t exist in real life, but they wrestle with real-life challenges: bullies, rejection, loneliness, fear, grief — and, yes, with clueless adults whose behavior is patently ludicrous. Nashville’s St. Edward School might as well be Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, for the story of Father Rehill sounds very much like the story of Delores Umbridge, a Ministry of Magic bureaucrat-turned-school-inquisitor.”

Outing Death – born of Bhutanese folklore – The New York Times

WeCroak, Mr. Bergwall said, was born of Bhutanese folklore saying that to be happy, one ought to contemplate death five times a day. For the more than 9,000 users of WeCroak, most in their 20s and 30s, he said, there is no time like the moment to get a grip on life by embracing mortality. Hovering near the top of the App Store’s paid health and fitness chart, the app, which I first read about in The Atlantic, is an exhortation to mindfulness. “Meditation urges you to focus on your breath,” Mr. Bergwall sai

Source: Outing Death – The New York Times

How Mao Molded Communism to Create a New China – by Roderick MacFarquhar – NYT

“Toward the end of his life, dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Mao Zedong claimed two achievements: leading the Communist revolution to victory and starting the Cultural Revolution. By pinpointing these episodes, he had underlined the lifelong contradiction in his attitudes toward revolution and state power. Mao molded Communism to fit his two personas. To use Chinese parlance, he was both a tiger and a monkey king. For the Chinese, the tiger is the king of the jungle. Translated into human terms, a tiger

Source: How Mao Molded Communism to Create a New China – The New York Times

 

David Lindsay

Hamden, CT

Very interesting piece and comments. I tend to agree with the Chinese gentleman, who dislikes the use of the Monkey King to describe the political purges of Mao, but not entirely. I recently studied the Monkey King, or Monkey, because it is considered one of the four great novels of Chinese literature. I was delighted by the book, which is full of farce, comedy, slapstick and political satire. The Monkey King is a folk hero from stories of old China. He has super powers, and is more like a Marvel or DC superhero, a very naughty one, than any kind of political genius.

Professor Roderick MacFarquhar points out that Mao himself wrote that he was inspired by Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. That the story seems to be an entertainment for children, doesn’t change the fact that the book has many levels of meaning, especially in its covert attack on the Emperor of China, and stuck up officials of all stripes. Out of reverence for this amazing story, I crafted a synopsis of the book into one of the chapters of my first book The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteen-Century Vietnam.