Opinion: Nonfiction lives


While some are quick to claim that reading is dead (and “these” youngsters always want the easy way), the billions earned by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling would tell another story. Countless voracious kids burned through the 4,100-page collection without delay. From it, they learned the story of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry, of Rubeus Hagrid the Keeper of Keys & Grounds, and He Who Must Not Be Named. As with most cleverly written books, these managed to carry an abundance of lessons to accompany the entertainment. Readers learned of the indelible importance of friendship, of study and of seeking and encouraging mentorship. But, what of the nameless one? What did he teach?

In the early novels, “he” remains an object of abject fear among most, including the young protagonist Potter and his compatriots. To paraphrase:  We cannot talk about “it” – we mustn’t talk about “it.” To talk about “it” is to encourage danger and, as such, is patently irresponsible, rude and unhealthy. Those who do talk about “it” must be bad, stupid, insensitive or worse! No one else is talking about “it,” so why are you?Who do you think you are to put us all in danger?  

But as they matured, they found a voice to speak of “it” – Lord Voldemort. The teen Potter and cohort not only came to utter his name (in spite of a “taboo” spell that would summon minions of Voldemort to smite bold speakers – a bit like social media) but to confront the fear and, ultimately, Voldemort, at significant cost in life and property, to overcome him. 

If we are not able to bring ourselves to speak out, explore thoughts, or even whisper a name, how can we hope to confront the very real demons in our own nonfiction lives?