I am going to see the final movie installment of Harry Potter in about 24 hours; five friends and I are making the trek out late at night, to sit spellbound (pun intended) and watch (and judge) to see if the final film does justice to J.K. Rowling's final chapter in the Harry Potter saga. I feel like years from now I will be telling my kids how cool it was to see these movies in the theater (just like how some older friends relive the moments they spent in awe of the Star Wars Trilogy). And yet, I wasn't always a Harry fan.
When Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone hit the U.S. I was in high school, delving into classic English literature, and becoming a literary snob, poo pooing the HP books as "crap fiction" for kids. It was about eight years ago that TSO got me to watch the first movie, assuring me I'd like it. I didn't. I convinced myself that I would hate it. And I think I did...probably because I couldn't remember most of the movie, having fallen asleep.
It took two determined best friends, repeated naggings from my Mom and sister A1 (who's literary tastes seldom align with mine) and my quarter life crisis before I turned to the Harry Potter books--it seemed the perfect time to lose myself in some fantasy. The rest is cliche'dly "history." I read the first six books in about as many days and then had to wait a YEAR and A HALF!! for the seventh book. Harry Potter is what I turned to when I hit the proverbial "what do I do with my life?" fork in the road; kept me entertained on many road trips; was what I read and reread in the misery that was my life immediately after my Dad's death. In some ways Harry Potter saved my life--the books saved me from much boredom, from lack of imagination, and even at age 27--when I was feeling half-orphaned--gave me someone as angsty as I was to turn to.
Rowling has given us stories that can be boiled down to simple themes of friendship and loyalty, courage and doing what's right, and that simplest of simple themes: good vs. evil; she didn't do anything new in writing her books: magical worlds already existed; mythological themes have occurred in fiction before; friendship, honor, love--these are not new traits..so, what makes Harry Potter so special? For me, J.K. Rowling's greatest triumph has been in the characters: their likeability, their foibles, their flawed nature--Rowling has given us a world where we want to live, (with the sport of Quidditch for Heaven's sake!) with characters we want to hang out with/despise.
As a Librarian I have been fortunate enough to see how the Harry Potter books have caught a hold of kids that weren't big readers, and given these kids something to really get sucked into. I guess I can chalk that up as another reason why I love Harry so much. So, if you haven't, read the books one day. You may surprise yourself and enjoy them. And for you fans, enjoy the final movie, and before/after you do, check out this article too...if you want.
"How Harry Saved Reading," Norman Lebrecht, Wall Street Journal
"Step into my time-travel machine for a short journey back to the early summer of 1997. Bill Clinton is six months into his second term, Tony Blair has just become prime minister in Britain. Princess Diana is eyeing up an unsuitable lover. Apple is dying without Steve Jobs as CEO. Broadband is something people wear around their heads while playing tennis. All so long ago, a time before time.
On June 30 that year, a book was published that blew apart one of the iron rules of publishing. Children's books, a literary agent assured me around this time, when I submitted a proposal, did not sell. Kids had ceased reading, full stop. Only a television tie-in could make chain stores stock a children's book, and even that was unlikely.
Twelve London publishers turned down "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" before an independent, Bloomsbury, offered J.K. Rowling's agent, Christopher Little, a paltry advance of £2,500. The original edition appeared on June 30, 1997, in a run of 500 copies, most of which went to public libraries. That's how few children were expected to read.." For the full article, click here.