Thursday, July 14, 2011

What the heck, my Harry Potter Memories

It seems that everyone else is doing it, so I might as well join in. Since this weekend is the premier of the final Harry Potter movie, the interwebs are aflame with stories of how Harry Potter and friends changed lives. There is a touching letter sent by a fan to J.K. Rowling; there are stories about how Hermione should be the real star of the series; there are stories about how today's young adults grew up alongside Harry and what it means now that both book series and movie series are finished.

My Harry memories start around the time I went to Scotland in 1999 to study for a semester at St.Andrews University.  The books were gaining buzz, and I, being perverse, decided that I was not interested in them, since everyone else seemed to thing they were the bees knees. Then, I reasoned, if I have to read them, at least I will wait until I read them properly - in the British editions, not the stupid American ones where they have to change all the slang and descriptions of jumpers to sweaters.  I finally read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (and yes, that is how is should be - sorcerer's stone my foot!) in a few hours while staying at the house of one of my flat mates for a weekend. I was staying in her little sister's room, and that sister had the first three books there. As soon as I finished the first one, I also devoured the second one - I am pretty sure I ignored the family and stayed up way too late. I didn't have time to read the third before it was time to leave, but I did managed to stop at a bookshop in Edinburgh on my way back to St. Andrews and buy all three. I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the bus ride back, in the dark and rain, crammed in like a sardine.

I was back at Whitman when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out. Since I had the first three in the British edition, and can't stand it when things don't match, I ordered my copy from, which meant I had to wait a few extra days before I could read it. Benjamin took that copy on fire with him that summer, and when I got it back, the edges were stained with ash.

I don't have any particular memories about books 5 and 6, apart from again ordering them from Britain, to make sure my set was complete.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. By this point, Benjamin and I had agreed to read the final book together, as we do many other books. This one was painful though, in so many ways. I do most of the reading aloud, and there were certainly times I choked up. At some point, maybe half way, we were desperate to reach the end, so we sat down on the bed and started reading. Every time we reached a chapter end, we couldn't stop. We ended up reading for 5 hours straight. By the end, I could hardly talk, my voice was going, and we were both crying.  I haven't gone back to read it since then, but I am sure I will still cry whenever I do.

I never camped out or attended a release party, nor did I ever dress up as a character. And I have no feelings one way or the other about the movies, although I will certainly go see the final one, eventually. They are fun to see, if a little uninspired. But that is pretty much par for the course for me - I am not touched by pictures on a screen and special effects - it is the power of words and my own imagination working together that hit the hardest.  And that, for me, is the greatness of Harry Potter - no, the story isn't completely original (I mean, orphan boy struggles against great odds, where have you heard that before - everywhere), there are gaps in the world-building that leave a perfectionist like me irritated - but as a whole, it sucks you in. There are so many stories of kids who hated to read becoming readers just because of Harry Potter. And that is magic.


CrysLong said...

Cried like a baby when Snape died, then Lupin and Tonks . . . haven't been able to re-read #7. Just can't.

The Urban Trail Runner said...

I first read HP when was studying in Oxford in spring of '99 as well. I actually found it only okay -- fun, but rather derivative -- so I didn't bother picking up any of the other books until I read a review of Askaban online that made it sound really good. So I bought 2, and 3, and discovered that the series really picked up with book 3. After than, Mulzer and I were addicts; when Goblet came out, we were living in Indiana and spent the day driving around trying to find a book store that wasn't sold out. The next two we waited in line at midnight outside of Barnes and Nobles in NYC.