The end is never easy, is it? When it comes to the July 20 midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the last book in a series of seven that has taken author J.K. Rowling a decade to parcel out to her utterly whipped readership — the end is absolute agony.
Because, for some, the final period isn’t simply a punctuation mark, it’s the head of the final nail on the coffin — or the crucifix. Because Harry Potter isn’t simply Harry Potter. He’s also Odysseus, Don Quijote, Huck Finn, Peter Pan, Elvis, Luke Skywalker, Michael Jordan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Jesus Christ rolled into one. With a scarf and a British accent.
And Harry’s classic boy-versus-baddies monomyth, cliché as it may be, so resonates with some — from the white-hot fan-core to the farthest fringes of the Pottermonium — that, when the last page is turned and the book is placed, reverentially, in its hermetically sealed humidor, it will mean so much more than just the end of the series: it will be the end of a way of life. Seriously.
There are no mere readers of these books anymore: only heretics and disciples. And, for whatever reason, many of those most prominent wizard followers live in and around Boston. Now that he’s gone, what are they going to do next?
Harry’s blue helmets
The unfortunate victims of the Darfur conflict have been ignored by President Bush, the United Nations, and, aside from a few well-meaning celebrities and local activists, the rest of the world, too.
But now Harry Potter is on the case.
Potter disciple Andrew Slack of Somerville wants to channel the forces of good, as identified in the Potter universe, toward north central Africa (among other places) to stop the killing in Sudan. Slack, 27, created the HP Alliance, the real-life equivalent of the Order of the Phoenix, which, for those not versed in the Gospel of Harry, is a squadron of good wizards created by Albus Dumbledore to fight the dark powers of Lord Voldemort.
“It was up to Harry and the young people in Dumbledore’s Army to wake people up to the fact that Voldemort returned,” says Slack, a sketch comedian and occasional substitute teacher at Somerville High School, who conceived of the idea two years ago. “[Now] it’s up to Harry Potter fans, those who wish to learn from Harry and learn from Dumbledore and really be like them . . . to start a real Dumbledore’s Army and wake the world up to something that it’s not doing enough about.”
Slack talks fast and with a purposeful assurance, explaining how he first came to be involved in social activism at Brandeis and missed the advocacy atmosphere of the university when he graduated in 2002. After reading most of the Potter series during a bout with mono, Slack was struck by the socio-political and psychological themes in the books that paralleled those in our own society. He wanted to mobilize Harry Potter fans, and teach them how to apply those parallels in real-world situations — everything from social justice to self-esteem to matters of international concern.
As he re-read the series, Slack saw parallels everywhere: in the pervasive prejudice against non-pureblood wizards, Voldemort’s use of terrorism to rule the wizarding population, and Hermione’s quest to free house elves from slavery. Currently, Alliance’s stated primary goal is to end the genocide in Darfur.