Fireside, $11.00, ISBN 0-7432-4428-1
People, this is a parody. This is not a book meant for kids. If you bought this book for your kids and then scream when they ask you about golden showers, you have only yourself to blame. Filled with scatalogical jokes and merciless thrusts of middle digits to fans and critics of Harry Potter alike, Barry Trotter and the Shameless Parody is crude stuff that misses as much as it scores.
Now, I’m not a Harry Potter fan, and whatever little fondness I have for the series is killed effectively by weirdo groupies. You haven’t seen weird until you see adult men and women, in irony-free sobriety, dress up as Harry Potter and other kids to reenact scenes from the books.
Barry Trotter is an instant hit after JG Rollins published his life story in several installments starting with Barry Trotter and the Philosopher’s Scone. The Hogwash School of Wizardry becomes inundated by aspiring wizards who just want to be Barry Trotter, so the school decides to give Barry Trotter blanket passes every year provided he remains the star mascot of the school. Spoiled by the adoration, he remains in school as an overgrown idler long after Ermine Cringer has to graduate and take up work as an overworked, underpaid teacher in (shudder) a public wizardry school. What happened to Ron, er Lon Measley, you ask? Poor Lon, somewhere between books three and four, has a Quiddit (that’s what it’s called here) accident – the ball crashes through his brain and passes through the back, and poor Lon had a brain transplant. He now has the brain of a golden retriever and he acts like one in the most inopportune moments.
Barry, in a fit of childishness, sold the map to Hogwash on eBuy (I know, I know) and now crazy Muggle fans swamp the grounds of Hogwash. Bumblemore, the head of the school, is not happy. In fact, the only one happy is Barry, as he now has more groupies than Mick Jagger in his heyday. But the worst is yet to come: when Hollywood begins making a movie based on Barry Trotter’s life, more fans will swamp Hogwash, and there is no way the insurance company will approve. Hogwash will collapse, until Barry get Lon and Ermine together for one adventure to Muggles Land. Destination: Hollywood. Mission: kidnap JG Rollins and hopefully persuade her to stop the production.
Don’t expect logic, coherence, or sophisticated humor – nothing is sacred here. Every plot hole in Harry Potter books is exploited and magnified – see the Quiddit game in this book. If the idea of Harry Potter smoking drives you into apoplexy, wait until you see the sex jokes.
Not all jokes work, of course.
But here’s a rather surprising thing: if you bear with Michael Gerber until the late third, he will show you his true colors. He, believe it or not, is the biggest Harry Potter groupie of them all. Seriously. What happens by this late third is this book turning into a rant against commercialization of the Harry Potter phenomena and the lashing out at Harry Potter bandwagon fans. Mr Gerber doesn’t mince words: he holds fans who have read the books and love them fondly, perhaps even considering himself one of those, but he isn’t too fond of those kids and adults who love Harry Potter just because Harry Potter is the fad of the moment. What this man thinks of the marketing people who is blitzing overpriced Harry Potter rubbish to the public isn’t any better.
But even most surprising is Barry’s soul searching. I’m still stunned at that one: Barry actually gains depths. By the end, Barry has an epiphany that leads him to doing the right thing. Lil’ Barry has grown up to be a cynical, jaded, but wiser and more mature adult. And this soul-searching trip is actually very well-done. Barry, Ermine, and Lon, toilet humor poster kids at first, become pretty well-rounded characters that I wonder if I’m reading the same book. What is drama doing in a parody, for goodness sake?
This book is a fake. It starts out a scat-friendly parody of middling effectiveness, but somehow it morphs into a tale of Barry Trotter and his friends growing up and becoming wiser (but not prettier) in a coming-of-age tale that actually works. I’m okay with the former, but impressed with the latter. If you ever wonder if Harry Potter will ever grow up, well, Michael Gerber can tell you a good story about that one.
Of course, two halves of very different tones and quality make this an uneven book. But I really like Barry Trotter’s coming of age, and maybe Harry Potter fans, who can overlook the scat-heavy jokes, may want to take a look at this one too. It’s not that bad.