Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Collectivism

Mallory Ortberg has taken upon herself the task of imagining what the Harry Potter series of books might have turned out to be like if the idea had first occurred to Ayn Rand. She is taking each of the seven books in turn. Here is an excerpt of what Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban could have been at the hands of the famous proponent of the virtues of the free market, individualism, and selfishness.
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Book review: No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

I finished the book (its full title is No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State) in two sittings. It is not too long (about 250 pages) and Greenwald has a direct style where he says what he means without weasel words that makes it easy to follow. It describes how Edward Snowden came to gain access to all the materials he chose to reveal, what made him decide to reveal it, the main contents of the revelations, why it is important, and the reactions to his disclosures. (Notes on each chapter, the index to the contents, and many of the source documents from the NSA that are not in the book or are hard to read because of the size of the font can be found here.)
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The evolution of P.G. Wodehouse

I am a huge fan of author P.G. Wodehouse and have read and re-read a large fraction of his oeuvre, a not insignificant feat considering how prolific he was. I am particularly partial to his Blandings Castle series and his Jeeves and Wooster series. While the books are self-contained, they do contain recurring characters so the author provides enough explanatory details from other books to fill in the reader of the state of affairs so that one does not necessarily need to read them in order to follow the plots.
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Harry and Hermione (Harry Potter spoiler alert!)

When I was reading the Harry Potter books, although J. K. Rowling told a good yarn and plotted her stories well, the romance between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley never seemed to me to be plausible. It seemed like the author was trying to avoid the obvious narrative device of the leading man and leading woman getting together at the end and was going for the slightly counter-intuitive relationship. It just did not work for me. Harry’s romance and marriage to what’s-her-name was also implausible as can be seen from the fact that I can’t even recall her name (or her face from the films) and remember anything about her except that she was Ron’s sister.
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Book review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) by Lawrence Wright

Reader Norm kindly sent me a copy of the above book and said that he had enjoyed it and I must say that it was a real page-turner. I had intended to write a full review but I came across a good one by Diane Johnson in the New York Review of Books, along with a review of a memoir by Jenna Miscavige Hill (the niece of the current Scientology leader David Miscavige) who defected from the church, that captured much of what I wanted to say so I will just refer you to that review and add some thoughts of my own. [Read more…]