I had pre-ordered the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which arrived this week (more on that later!) and made me think about the layers of feelings related to this … world.
First, there is the nostalgia of just being a series of books but one has read 20 years ago. That is, of a world that is different from the regular world, and which one has inhabited in detail through the books. The “wizarding world” is something familiar … and something left behind.
Second, there is the nostalgia of having the “normal“ word in the book be one that has itself been lost — in the sense of not being at all recognizable amid the world today. The way people act and relate to each other is … very much a “90s world”.
Third, there is the nostalgia of this world not only being “a long time ago“, but also being separated from the present by the huge gap in technology in human lives.
The magical people can be chuckled at for saying “fellytones” when they mean “telephones”, but wtf is a telephone today?
It isn’t just that the technology used is different, but that the modern current world is
a fundamental transformation office into a sort of cyborg individual call Ma which has changed utterly how we act, how we behave, but also what we believe in or aspire to.
Fourth, it is further nostalgic and that there is no point in imagining a separate parallel world of magic anymore, or at least not in the way of a group of people existing alongside us, as the book describes. Ubiquitous surveillance cameras would spot them, amateurs would find Hogwarts Castle on a map. And wait till the magical kids discover the legalized brain drugs of social media.
Finally, fifth, the forms of allusion and manipulation alluded to sound trivial or ridiculous, when compared to even “cheap consumer technology” in the present day. Moving pictures? Yawn.
So, what of it? Is there anything that could count as an equivalent today? Dunno yet.
There is no lack of yearning for a different world, just the inability to imagine one, which lends our current dystopia a desperate “there is no alternative“ tinge to it.
Yet, the “magical“ people in Rowling’s world are able to display a sense of camaraderie and ethics and just basic goodness. This essential human-ness is likely what still allowschildren to relate to the characters today, and … this might be a quality to aspire to when thinking of a similar counter-world, in the present day.