Sunday, July 15, 2007
The Relunctant Potterhead
This children's book editor was a long time in coming to the Harry Potter fold. I distrust anything with a mass following. Call it elitism or snobbery or rank individualism but the only club I would ever be a member of would have Groucho Marx as its president. So I refused to watch 'Lost' or 'The Sopranos.' I refused to read 'The Da Vinci Code.' And of course, I went nowhere near a certain series of books about a boy wizard. For professional purposes, I eventually perused the first chapter of book one while kneeling in the aisle of a bookstore. It didn't grab me and, snobby-me, I didn't think it was all that well-written. When people would ask me what I thought of the books, I would respond that, as someone who cared about children's literacy, I was immensely grateful that the series was getting kids to put aside their video games, DVDs, and Ipods, and crack open 500 page tomes. But I didn't understand the phenomenon.
Until last summer.
Book six was just coming out and my boyfriend's mother had given me a copy of the book---bought at midnight of the launch day. I figured I couldn't just dive into the sixth book. And I'd seen the movies and they hadn't been bad. After all, I had a big crush on David Thewlis who'd played Professor Lupin in the third movie. And I was impressed by the significant health-enhancing power given to chocolate in that movie. I could identify with the need to eat a little block of chocolate when such things as the dementors---or, in Muggle world, the DMV---had sucked one's life force. So I found a Scholastic paperback edition of the first book at Moe's books and took it with me to Cape Cod, where Brian's parent's lived, for a bit of light summer reading.
I quickly became totally sucked in.
One thing about the Potter phenomena: the more books you read, the more fanatical you become. I remember seeing a guy in his twenties several years ago walking down a busy sidewalk in downtown San Francisco, nose deep in book three. At the time I thought, "poor deluded soul." But by the time I reached book three, I was calling in to work sick just to finish the darn thing. (It was professional development after all.) Over the course of two months, I read all six books, one right after the other. Now, most fans read one book and they have to wait six months to a year for the next one. It allows their poor fevered brains to cool down a bit. But I was piling on the Potter books one after another---not re-reading them, mind you: reading them each for the first time. So when I came to the end of 'The Half Blood Prince'---with all its awful revelations about Snape and, what I insist is a certain someone's FAKE death---I felt like I had just walked off a cliff.
I hit the ground back in Muggle world. Ouch.
But then the Goblet of Fire movie came out. For the first time I went to see one of the movies on opening night. I took my niece and nephew. I was actually giddy (though, sadly, Mr. Thewlis was not part of the cast). I remember as a kid going to see the second Indiana Jones movie and being so excited that I nearly hyperventilated and peed my pants at the same time. Twenty-five years later, this was a pretty close approximation. After the sad end of my 3150 page immersion, the movie was a chance to revisit a place which had become dear to my heart. It was a brief two-and-a-half hour visit and, of course, lacking in the intimacy that exists between page and reader, but it was all I would have until the next book.
Which took a year to get here.
Which will finally come out next Friday at midnight. And I'll have another Harry Potter first-time experience then: First time going to a midnight Harry Potter release party.
Just in time, too. There won't be another one.
AND the new movie has David Thewlis in it. Dreamy Prof. Lupin.
So have I learned my lesson about turning my nose up at mass phenomenons?
Hey, if they're as good as Ms. Rowling's creation, lay 'em on me.