Geriatric Harry

Now really. That’s just silly. And yes I know he’s being jokey, but I bet he also means it, and he ought not to.

Would we even remember Little Nell if she hadn’t died in such spectacularly mawkish fashion? Would we prefer that Emma Bovary didn’t swallow the poison and instead became a clochard, cadging francs at the agricultural fair? And do we really want to contemplate Harry, now bald and grizzled, the lightning-shaped scar faded into an age spot, retired from magic and, pint in hand, prattling on about old quidditch matches? Surely it makes more sense to employ the other kind of magic, and go back to Volume 1 and start over.

Little Nell is welcome to die in childhood, I’m with dear Oscar when it comes to Nell, and with Emma B it’s fifty-fifty. The whole novel heads for her clumsy futile death, but on the other hand, it’s not self-evident that she would have been a duller character at fifty or seventy. But what I really take issue with is the look at Harry’s future. Why is that how he would end up? Bald and grizzled, fine, because that’s how it goes, but why would he be retired, and above all why would he be a pub bore prattling on about his childhood? Eh? Eh? Whence the dreary view of old age, eh? Why couldn’t and wouldn’t Harry go on doing magic all his life, why wouldn’t he become more interesting and wise as he got older? Some people do after all. Not everyone turns into a prattling bore in old age. Some people are prattling bores in old age, to be sure; I know some people like that myself; but they were prattling bores before they got old. Some people go on being interesting and curious and mentally active and thoughtful, even into old age. Imagine that! Charles McGrath might be one of those people himself.

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