Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I thought I should update, since people are going to stop reading this pretty soon otherwise. I wanted to write about Harry Potter, but I know not everyone has read it yet. I’m about a hundred pages from the end—which will probably be reached tonight. I can’t wait to find out what happens.

I will just say this though—J.K. Rowling isn’t kidding around when she says they’re growing up. One of the characters says, “this effing book…” at one point, and I nearly hit the roof thinking “omygosh, they’re SWEARING!” since “effing” is sort of the British equivalent of “frickin’” and we all know what that means.

So that got me thinking about the Harry Potter Phenomena in general, and, more specifically, my place in it. And I thought I would share with all of you, loyal readers, how I came to know and love the Boy Who Lived.

I started reading the books back around Christmas in 1998. The first three books had just been released in hardcover by Scholastic, and they were flying off the shelves at the bookstore where I was working. Literally. Could not keep them in stock. You weren’t reading about them in the papers yet, but frazzled parents were calling at all hours, asking for the “Harry Potter books” –and not just the first one either. They would come in and drop seventy five dollars for three books without blinking. After Christmas things slowed down a bit, and I was stationed in the calendar kiosk out in the mall. Who buys a calendar after the New Year? No one, apparently, so the store let me read at night, when things were slow. I decided to find out what all the fuss was about. I remember being about halfway through “Chamber of Secrets” (that’s #2) when I was interrupted by a mom returning her calendar. The little kid with her stopped in his tracks when he saw the book I was holding, and said, eyes as wide as Dobby’s: “You’re reading Harry Potter?” That was when I began to suspect I had joined a secret club.

The books were good, but not amazing. They were entertaining, but I felt no real kinship with them. Two years later, in 2000, I was working up in Door County, alongside some girls from Russia, who wanted to go shopping. Naturally, the only place I could think of was the mall in Ashwaybenon. Being Russian, they were a great deal smaller than me, so I spent a lot of time forlornly perched on a bench, waiting for them to exhaust Old Navy. I had seen a sign in a bookstore in DC warning “Muggles Beware!” so I was sort of vaguely aware that the fourth book had arrived, but it never occurred to me to buy it ($28 is a lot of money for a book!) until I wandered into Waldenbooks and started reading the first chapter. I was hooked. Something had happened in the intervening years, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Harry. I bought the book and finished it off that night after one marathon seven-hour reading session.

Then came the Long Dry Spell that all HP fans will know and shudder at in remembrance. JK Rowling had been churning out a book a year and now, with the book’s popularity ensured, she had demanded a break from her publisher. Three years. THREE YEARS went by before we even got a whiff of a title. Three years of waiting, wondering what was going on. I discovered for the first time—I discovered that other people my age read these books. Conversations began about the motivations and analysis of characters. Meanwhile, the rest of the world caught on the Harry Potter, so when “Phoenix” finally was released, the hoorah was unbelieveable. I was a little put off by all the fair-weather fans, but, eh, the more the merrier. Barnes and Nobles had finally opened a store in Ashwaubs, and they were hosting a midnight party. I didn’t go—I was working at the mill that summer, and had to get up at 4:00AM—but I did get up for a couple hours so I could buy the book soon after it went on sale. That’s the only time I ever dressed up, and the only time I went to a midnight party.

The sixth book came out the summer before I left for London. I bought it the day it came out—sensibly, walking into the store the next morning—and devoured it in a couple days. “Half-Blood Prince” is the book I feel the least connected to: I was separated from it for a long time, and have only read it once. The best part about this book’s release was that I had *finally* managed to convince most of my friends that HP was a series worth reading, and could finally call up a large group of educated, well-read adults and go “squee! Didja finish it yet?!”

And now book 7 is here. I feel a little sad that it’s all over—well, almost over, I haven’t finished it yet—but the waiting, the watching, all the anticipation is done with. I walked into the bookstore here and picked up a copy as natural as anything, and was sad that I would never get the thrill of counting down the days yet. Harry has been like a little fictional brother that I’ve gotten to watch growing up, and now he’s an adult. (Much like watching Daniel Radcliffe grow up…meow!) I haven’t been a fan from the very earliest days, but I have been there since the beginning of the story in the US, and I still feel a little proprietary when I see the giggling teenagers in their lame store-bought Gryffindor scarves. (Hufflepuff House rulz!) These books (1 American paperback, three American hardcovers, 6 Britsh paperbacks, 1 British hardcover and 1 Latin hardcover—and yes, that adds up to more than 7 books in a series) will have a place of pride on my bookshelf for years, next to the Little House books that have been battered about for so long, or my collection of plays or even my collection of books on Nelson (wait—when did I start collecting books about Nelson?). The stories, the books have been intertwined with my own life, so that it will be hard to describe them without including where I was in my life as well at that time.

Here’s to you, Harry, for being such a prominent fixture. Cheers.


Laura said...

Who returns a calendar? What? You can't use it? Don't need to know what day it is? Hmm...

Sarah said...

I just finished the book 15 minutes ago. I too am very emotional. After I've recovered a bit I'll give you a call.