For some reason, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has never left an impression on me even when I was a young fan. Back then, I read it just so I could move on to the next book in the series. It was simply a passing note for me, an installment that needed to be read so I could understand what comes next.
Now a few years older, I’ve read it again and still it didn’t give me a POW! like the first book. However, instead of simply bypassing it, I am able to see the little breadcrumbs that Rowling drops to alert the reader of what’s to come.
This is one of the reasons why I love the Harry Potter series. All the books relate and everything ties into each other. We see Voldemort’s first horcrux – Tom Riddle’s diary – and by the end of the series, we understand that he murdered Moaning Myrtle (though she wasn’t moaning back then, bawling maybe) to create it. We also learn that a piece of Voldemort lives inside Harry Potter (an eighth* horcrux, which explains Harry’s partial resemblance to Riddle and his having powers similar to Voldemort: parseltongue). I don’t think this is mentioned again until the final book when that part of Harry is removed.
The important lesson in this installment is that it’s our choices that make us who we are, as Dumbledore advised Harry. This is the same as the lesson taught to Richard by Zeddicus Zul Zorander in The Wizard’s First Rule (a book I began but am unable to finish due to its circuitous nature and annoyingly love-struck characters). Dumbledore shares this lesson with Harry since Harry doubts his placement in Gryffindor; however, Dumbledore states that because Harry asked not to be placed in Slytherin, he made a choice that reflects his character and sets him apart from Voldemort. He exercised his freewill.
One day, as I was going through the many newsletters on the book industry in my inbox, I happened upon a Publisher’s Weekly newsletter that mentioned the title, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That. I thought that whoever crafted the newsletter placed that title in it by mistake but my curiosity was aroused and I just had to click on the link to find out more (see below for a link to the PW interview).
It turns out that the provocative title is for a book by Jesse Bering, an evolutionary psychologist and columnist for Scientific American and Slate magazines. Bering had decided to compile the essays he wrote for the magazines into a book and title it Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?… And Other Reflections on Being Human.
You have to admit that it is a very eye-catching title. So eye-catching in fact that whenever I read it on the train, I am thrown inquiring looks by my fellow travelers. I remember on one occasion when the man sitting next to me glanced at my book, double-glanced, stared fixedly at the cover, and then looked away in disgust. I guess he thought I was reading a racy novel (a la Fifty Shades of Grey) and failed to read the second part of the title.
Another time while on the train, the guy sitting beside me glanced up from his book, briefly, to check out what I was reading (I had just whipped out my book with a flourish). He kept looking from the cover to my face over and over again as if shocked and seemed to want to make a comment but unfortunately, his stop arrived before his nerves could take hold.
Despite these glances, I refused to seek an alternative cover for my book or read it on an electronic device. I take pride in what I read and I like to show off.
Though the initial title gives way for many possibilities to develop of what might be discussed in the book, people should pay more attention to the secondary title. Yes, taboo subjects are touched on and Bering does reveal why the penis is long with the male’s precious “family jewels” hanging, unprotected, outside the body cavity, but Bering also delves into topics that provoke the mind to thoughts on evolution and just how much human beings are influenced by their ancestors…..and apes.