E=mc2, A Biography ... And Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

So, there's this kid (I can never remember his name) who lives on my super block. A super block, for those of you who don't live in our little cooperative community, is the same thing as a block, only, you know, mushed together like a tenement. I suppose that it must be some sort of remnant of '30s advertising: Tired of city life? Been around the block one too many times? Come live in our new, improved super blocks!

At any rate, this kid -- I think his name starts with an H? -- he and his friends have a book group. Oh, it's the cutest thing: six wee tykes sitting around a table at Beijing restaurant on a Saturday afternoon. Their little feet don't even touch the floor, but they probably feel all grown up at an adult restaurant.

"The only problem is," my neighbor tells me, "that the proprietors of this particular Greenbelt Chinese eatery would prefer we arrive with adult supervision. And although I do not believe we should kowtow to such paternalist attitudes --"

"There was that incident with the fish tank," I point out helpfully.

"That was you!" Henry points out right back.

"Oh, right."

"Anyway, none of our parents is available this afternoon and seeing as it is raining and none of us can drive --"

"You want me to join your book group again?" I fill in. I am so proud. I don't think any of you will be surprised to learn that I'm something of a mentor, maybe even an idol, to these young citizens, and I do enjoy providing a sense of stability and direction to their little lives.

"Well, we were kinda hoping your wife would be in, to be honest," Hal says.

"Right-o," I say. "She's over with her niece today. I'm glad you stopped by, because I just finished a book I'll bet you are all talking about."

"There's no need--" Hank starts, but I am already up and down the steps with my book tucked in my rucksack before he can finish. He looks down at his feet and sighs, then we walk down the pathways to Roosevelt Center.

Hap's little friends are clustered around the door when we arrive. The twins, Cindy and Mindy, are whispering to each other behind their hands. Little Sam is staring at the reflections in the restaurant window and twirling his hair around a finger. Or is it 'her' hair? Dang, I meant to ask before we got down here. Prasad notices our arrival and stands front-and-center to tell us, after he carefully adjusts his glasses and meticulously straightens his tie, that the owner won't seat them until the full party has arrived.

"Well, we're here now," I say boldly and open the door. Prasad shoots Herb a look, but he only shrugs in response. I ask for a large round table for our discussion and the maitre-d' takes us the long way around the restaurant to seat us just the other side of the fish tank. I glance over at the tank, but our host shoves a menu into my hands with a brusque, "no fish for you!"

"Shall I begin?" Prasad asks after orders are taken. "The book I read this week is called E=MC2, The Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation. I found --"

"Oh, I just loved that book!" squeal Cindy and Mindy as one.

"It was an interesting conceit," Prasad admits, trying to control the floor. "It probably sits well on the shelf of anyone with pop science leanings."

"You say that as if it's a bad thing," I joke and punch him on the arm. "Oops, right off the chair! Sorry, man."

"Don't hurt him," cry Mindy and Cindy.

"I'm okay," says Prasad placatingly. Prasad is never one for conflict. "I don't mean to offend," he continues after climbing back up into his chair. "It's just that there's nothing new in there, you know?"

"Oh, I don't know," says Hugh. "I think his writing style is right on target for this genre, and there is a good amount of creative wordplay."

"You always go for style over substance," Prasad says. Harvey holds out his hand as if to say this is an old argument between them. But Cindy and Mindy are not mollified. The book is deeper than Prasad is giving credit for. They try to get Sam to join their side, but Sam only smiles shyly. Everyone knows that Sam is above such petty arguments.

"I mean, geez," say Mindy and Cindy, "it's better than Harry Potter or something."

"Oh, gosh, my Mom made me read that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," says Prasad. The book club members all sigh in sympathy. "She thought we might be able to 'discuss it' after. I gave close and careful consideration to giving up reading altogether." Cindy and Mindy reach over to pat his hand. They can't quite reach, so they've got to get up and walk around the table.

Words like "tripe" and "utter foolishness" travel around the table. These kids are unanimous in their disdain for the book. Even shy Sam makes a face.

"You don't think it's an exciting representation of young teamwork?" I ask.

"I think we're all agreed that the entire series is beneath contempt," Prasad explains. "And we are a bit worn out by Ms. Rowling's idealization of boarding schools and childhood rebellion. Please, these people are supposed to be under constant threat of absolute evil and destruction, but they're worried about sporting events and brownie points for their dorms?" The table snorts and tuts with derision.

"Besides," appends Henry, "the 'teamwork' of which you speak is totally missing from this latest installment. Harry doesn't trust anyone and we certainly see none of that old Three Musketeer spirit between him, Hermione, and Ron this go around."

I am about to say that it is called Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, not Harry Potter and Hermione and Ron and Hagrid and the Cast of Oliver Twist, but the table smells blood in the water. They are aghast. Has Heinrich just admitted to reading the book of his own free will?

"...or so I've heard," he backpedals with a frown. Sam stares with open mouth at the little book group's moderator. Mindy and Cindy humph and flounce their hair. Prasad stifles a sniffle.

"Did you--" he starts, but Hector interrupts.

"Mr. Blake, didn't we have to get back to the house?"

"What?" I say. "I don't know --"

"Sure, your wife said to have you back in an hour. Remember?"

"Really? Right then, gotta go."

We hasten out of the restaurant and up the path toward our super block. The squirrels are still out and about busily preparing for winter, or playing games, or whatever it is that squirrels do.

"Did you really read it?" I ask.

"It's not like I wanted to," he says sullenly. "She made me."

"Who made you?"

"What book did you bring?" he answers.

"Oh, it's not important."

And we walk on in silence. At the top of the sidewalk, we part ways and I enter the house to find the Brunette home from niece visiting.

"Have you seen that Harry Potter book?" she wants to know.

"Oh, don't mention that book," I say. "Why?"

"I was going to let my niece look at it."

"Ah, well, it's over there in my rucksack. You are welcome to it."

5 thoughtful messages from friendly readers:

Washington Cube said...

I finally got cranked up on my blogathon again. I'm still out of the Washington area, and was away from my Northern homebase as well, so no major blog time last week. I've been reading through your blog and enjoying it. I am guessing you are in Greenbelt. I wrote a piece in my other blog about the Greenbelt Theatre back on June 12th when I went to see Cinderella Man there. I had a nice picture posted, as well, of the old projector they have in the lobby. Of all neighborhoods in this metropolitan area, Greenbelt has one of the more interesting histories.


I love how you have "books I have mentioned" listed. I scrolled through "Library Thing," and I don't think it would meet my needs since I have such a large home library...unless I paid their fee, of course. It makes me wonder if there is free software out there that would allow for a large number of entries on a similar scale as this software you have cited. It appeals to the inner nerd/geek in me. I'll be searching around for it. I would love, too, if you could photograph your own covers and post them in with each entry.

I've marked your blog to follow. I love this Harry Potter piece.

Washington Cube Was Here. #435

taleswapper said...

Thanks for the kind words. I've been letting the books I have mentioned section languish somewhat as I am starting to depend on tags for the book tales & restaurant tales.

As for Library Thing, I suspect he'll be letting us upload covers before long, but it's sad his lifetime membership went up. When I subscribed it was only $10. There are folks with over 5000 books logged. Amazing.

Don't know if there's free software to do this. The LibraryThing does so many library lookups, I'd be surprised if something else exists. You could load 200 books, then export those to a file, and upload another 200 books. But that's clunky.

Nice entry on old cinema. Do you have blogger publish to your aol journal or are you really maintaining two sites?

Washington Cube said...

I'm maintaining both sites, and unfortunately their software isn't compatible in ohsomany ways, including fonts, so it's a royal PIA having to work around both. I will say this for AOL: their software is more user friend than Blogger.com. The only reason I switched over to Blogger was to try and find a larger readership. I have a small readership as it is, but Blogger did increase it.

I found another book listing site (and movies and cd's, etc.) which might better suit my needs:


I still have issues about making the list public or not. I can work out the pro's and con's on both. Another problem I had regarding Library Thing was that to change the identifier name/password, you had to submit it to the software developer to get this done...that would be a huge hassle down the road.

ka said...

Even if the neighbor's don't approve, we'll start our own renegade book club when I return to Maryland and read all the Harry Potter we want! maybe no Faulkner this time around, unless the Brunette overrides me. Lovin' your blog for a quick fix from home.

taleswapper said...

Approval shmoval. Any idea when you might be coming home?