Warning: A collection of idle thoughts, not a review.
Since the last movie was released about two years ago, Potter Mania has finally died down. There are a just a few terminal cases malingering. Even my niece has finally given up on asking me if I’d finally picked up the last book (the answer is still no).
The first book was released in 1997, so let’s say it was over ten years of madness.
This is the part where some people would get stuffy, claim to be immune to such things as peer pressure. I’m not one of those people. I’ll have another beer, and occasionally read books I wouldn’t otherwise (why hello there Millennium trilogy) because flipping everyone is bugging me about it.
The first six Harry Potter books fall into that category. It’s not that I didn’t like them, it’s just I probably wouldn’t have picked them up otherwise. What finally changed that “well, this is nice” to “no, just no” was largely the people in the throes of Potter Mania. It wasn’t enough to like the books, you had to love them. Never mind the deus ex machina feel I got from the endings or the fact that the characters had little gray in them, that the writing wasn’t really the type of thing that made me go SPLOOSH! Anything besides ejaculations of adulation got you one of those, “What’s wrong with you,” type of looks.
Now with no one examining me, and I’ll admit, a healthy dose of curiosity about why people love these books so much, I’ve reread the first one, thanks to Amazon Prime lending (because I don’t think I’d pay to read these).
First, I’d like to complain that the e-book is in American English and not English English. “Gray” should be “grey” and “soccer” spelled f-o-o-t-b-a-l-l. I’d been looking forward to the appearance of “boogies” (or however it was spelled, I would know if they’d not changed it) too. Oh well.
I am happy that prior to my rereading of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone I’d also given Dickens another chance. One thing that Rowling did very well pretty much leaped out of the page at me–her archetypes are fabulous. I wish I hadn’t returned the book, otherwise I’d cite some instances here.
We know Dumbledore’s delightfully dotty, the Dursleys are a load of prigs, Hermione (no, spellchecker, I don’t mean “heroin”) is an huge flipping nerd, and Ron the best friend. We know Draco is a rich bitch. She lays it on thick just like Dickens did with his characters, and much like Dickens, she’s good at it too. Of course, for me this strength was also a weakness, because in creating characters who were clearly good, or evil, or annoying, I became bored.
You could even talk about houses in terms of sitcom characters. Let’s go for The Simpsons. Milhouse would be in Hufflepuff, Lisa in Ravenclaw, Bart in Slytherin. I’m not sure to elect as the Gryffindor…maybe Maggie? She did shoot Burns. Possibly the dog, Santa’s Little Helper. Bravery is not a trait you see in sitcoms really.
The writing was better than I remembered, although I wonder if that’s just because this is an earlier novel, which was more tightly edited than the later ones. To me, it seemed as time went on, the book grew fatter and fatter, with more bits of plot and trivia I couldn’t be bothered to keep track of. In fact, were they all not out now, I wouldn’t be attempting a full reread of this series, because I’d never make it. Everything would get muddled, I’d be frustrated, and I’d be lured away by something nice and cynical.
While I don’t think I’ll ever fall in love with Potter (although I don’t mind some slash as light reading now and then) it’s easy to see why people did. For those who grew up with these books, I can see why the infatuation for them is so all-consuming that they might consider purchasing a $275 Slytherin corset.
Me? I want someone to explain why they celebrate Christmas. After all, they don’t even say, “Dear god!” It’s: “Dear Merlin!” One would have thought they’d stick with the original pagan holiday, Beltane, that Christmas replaced. They don’t even strike one as being Easter/Xmas type Christians, but somehow they go all out for Jesus’s birthday.
The only hint I can find is to look at the the pen name: J. K. Rowling. Very coy, it doesn’t reveal her sex, and probably reflects marketing data that boys are less likely to pick up a book written by a woman. Ditto I suspect for keeping this trapping of Christianity. As is, I know some people take issue with the books on religious grounds. I can imagine making them straight up pagans, instead of the garden-variety lapsed Catholics they could be, would have brought even more of this type of attention to the books.
Who knows though? I bet J. K. does…