The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

FOR SHAME, SIR, FOR SHAME!: I am a Muggle. I am not sure when I became a Muggle; I don’t remember applying for the position; frankly, I do not know if being a Muggle pays anything beyond a pro forma stipend that wouldn’t keep a starving church mouse alive for a week; nor do I remember my parents ever encouraging me to become a Muggle when I was a boy. I do not remember spending long nights looking out my window at the stars on a school night when I should have been in bed asleep and hoping that someday, somehow, I would measure up to the great American tradition of heroic Muggles stretching back to the Pilgrim Muggles and become a Muggle myself. I cannot say, as Shakespeare’s Falstaff didn’t, that the villainous company of Muggles hath been the ruin of me, that in my youth overwhelming adolescent peer pressure compelled me into the short and violent life of a Muggle, and I am reasonably sure that I cannot blame my parents or society at large for my Muggleocity. There is no, so far as I know, no great tradition of Muggling in my family, and in the same vein, I am quite sure that I do not know any Muggles personally nor do I think that there are Muggles among my co-workers or my neighbors. In short, until I learned the truth of the matter, I would have said that, in all likelihood, that our happy little burg was one of the very few completely Muggle-free areas here in this our Great Republic. I was wrong. I am a Muggle.

I learned of my unfortunate condition from young Josiah, the eldest progeny of one of my mother’s friends. Josiah’s parents, as happy a pair of post-yuppie professionals as you would ever care to meet, used to live up the street from my mother, but they have since moved across the river to a suburb of the slough of urban despond directly across the river from our happy little burg. Their current removal from this side of the river to that, however, has not kept them, Josiah, and the rest of his incredibly noisy siblings from appearing on my mother’s doorstep on a regular basis. Young Josiah is a studious lad, when he isn’t playing computer games or doing crossword puzzles or torturing feral cats with a red hot fork, constantly reading books, magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, and the like. He does not wear glasses now, but you can rest assured that he will need them at some point in the very near future. Josiah is engrossed nowadays in the Harry Potter books, reading the books over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over (yes, I am overdoing the overs, no two ways about it, but in this case I am using the repetition to make a valid literary point, so bear with me, please; it will end soon, I promise) and over and over again (see? I told you it would end soon), until the original hardbacks have fallen apart and their paperback replacements have all but disintegrated under the constant wear and tear. I am fairly certain that the boy has most of Ms. Rowling’s oeuvre committed to memory at this point and if there is a greater expert on the comings and goings of Master Harry Potter and his cohorts at the Hogwarts School then that person is unknown to me. It was in this, his expert capacity, that the lad declared me, to my everlasting shame, a Muggle.

Why must I bear this loathsome sobriquet? Why must I bear this literary mark of Cain, when thousands who have never read The Postman Always Rings Twice get a free ride from this malevolent prepubescent munchkin merely because they’ve read a few pages of his favorite books? Apparently, the source of young Josiah’s stereotyping me as a Muggle is this: as a librarian, I have complete access to all of the Harry Potter books whenever I want them. I can even check these books out to myself for the next ten years and not have to worry about paying overdue fines on them when I finally deign to return them. And yet, despite this awesome power, I have never, ever, at no time, and in no manner whatsoever, even bothered to pick up one of Ms. Rowling’s books, much less read one of them.

For this most vile, loathsome, and unnatural crime, I am a Muggle, a condition made all the worse because I have no excuse for my Muggledom, no mitigating circumstance that would somehow soften or otherwise explain my continuing in such a pernicious state when I can clearly raise myself from my current semi-Hobbesian Muggleish condition and become a useful member of society. I did not choose to become a Muggle, of course, nor can I say that I was born to it; it just sort of happened somewhere between my graduation from high school and my fortieth birthday. I can understand the lad’s disappointment, however. When I was just a boy reading my eyes out of my head, the librarians seemed like figures of infinite power and wisdom to me. They had access to all the books and all the knowledge in the world, whereas I had to make do with what I could get my hands on. Now that I am a librarian myself, and by definition have access to any book I want, I seldom read anything more profound than the New York Post. I suppose it’s a lot like working in any chocolate factory other than Willie Wonka’s: after spending my day finding, organizing, weeding, and otherwise maintaining a collection of books (approximately 35,000 at last count), the last thing in the world I want to do when I get home is actually read one of the things. I just want to turn on the television and veg out, and for this the boy condemns me to the scurrilous, if not scrofulous, ranks of Muggledom. He used to like me when he was a mere tyke, of course, but now that he is older I fear I am a grave disappointment to him. I suppose I shouldn’t tell him that there’s no Santa Claus yet. I will let someone else bear that burden, I think.


  • At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Neil said…

    Can't you just fake it with the kid, like I did when I wrote a book report after "reading" "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea?" (if you get what I'm insinuating --- DVDs now available at libraries, too)

  • At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Lgude said…

    Well, mate, I fear you have left yourself open to the charge. In the collectivist tyranny of pre-pubescent taste, being condemned to Muggledom is nigh on inevitable. To ease your pain reflect on the Cultural Revolution - think of being sent into the countryside for reeducation! Neck deep in Iowa muck in the Spring! Placed in the town stocks with a dunce cap on your head - well that's two revolutions - the Puritan and the Cultural...nonetheless. You have escaped lightly!

    Besides, the problem might go away. According to my sister's e-mail today, my thuggish early adolescent grandson is considering reading the Plague. Camus I presume. He has already read Steppenwolf. When I saw him two years ago he was prepubescent and only read video game packages and watched endless Tivoed episodes of South Park.

    Soon your young friend will deny he ever called you a Muggle and mug you for your spare pocket change. Or something.


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