Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Harry

On 21 July, I marched into the bookshop in Macroom and purchased one of the last copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I wasn't one of those intrepid and slightly insane souls who queued up for hours to grab a copy at the stroke of midnight. I was someone who had the foresight to reserve a copy and I collected it at my leisure.

I delayed reading the book until I could give it my full attention. So, as much as I wanted to plop down on the sidewalk and get stuck in, I waited until the evening, until after I'd made dinner for Peter and his student, smiled and chatted through dinner, tidied the kitchen, and waved the workshoppers off to their sunset photoshoot. Then I stretched out in one of my favourite reading spots and tried to savour the book as much as possible.

I didn't read through the night, but it didn't matter. Within 18 hours of starting the book, I had read it all. I immediately plunged into what I called post-Potter depression. The thrill and exhilaration of knowing how it ended were fleeting. All that was left was the empty feeling that I no longer could look forward to another adventure in Potterland.

The moping and angst lasted for a few days, but then I was swept up into Birthday Madness. When I came down from that, I knew what I had to do. I had to re-read all of the books, in order, starting with the first. So I reserved the month of August for the task and that's what I was doing with a lot of my spare time.

Starting at the beginning, re-reading books I hadn't opened in six years, was an interesting proposition. Knowing now how it all ended, I could look for clues and foreshadowing. I could also slow down and appreciate the journey, instead of being obsessed with getting to the destination. The leisurely approach gave me a deeper perspective of the series.

What I always loved about the books (and was able to appreciate even more on the re-read) was the perfect creation of this other world. Yeah, yeah, the epic struggle between good and evil, the importance of our choices, and the bravery required for the hero's journey - that's all great. But I really reveled in the mundane details of the world - Spellotape, puking pastilles, detonator decoys, flue powder, portkeys, golden snitches, moving pictures and paintings, the Room of Requirement, transfiguration, Rita Skeeter's Quick Quotes Quills, dragon eggs, polyjuice potion, the Knight Bus, Skele-gro potion, a book about monsters that bites... All of those details breathed life into the world and invited me to step inside. I had days this month when I wanted to live in Potterland.

I know the criticism of JK Rowling - she's not always the best writer. Some of the books were loaded with filler. Some of the books were in desperate need of editing. For someone great at details description, there was sometimes a lazy reliance on"-ly" words. But none of that mattered - the world drew me in, the likeable and interesting characters engaged me, and the epic story arc kept me on the edge of my seat.

In addition to reading the books, I've also been listening to some of the podcasts that are devoted to the books. As you can imagine, there's a lot of chaff. There's also an amazing number of regular people who are obsessed with Harry Potter in a way that makes me look like a mere amateur. People who talk about "cannon". People who write fan fiction and draw fan art. People who refer to the author as "Jo" as though she frequently pops round for a cup of tea. People who have formed bands whose music is based on the books and who have names like Ministry of Magic, The Unforgivable Curses, The Whomping Willows, and the Hufflepunks. People who sort of scare me a little.

My visit to the fandom has been enlightening, but I have no desire to attend Wrockstock Spooktacular or to spend hours trolling the HP Lexicon or to put songs from The Parselmouths on my iPod Shuffle.

I finished my Harry Potter read-a-thon this weekend. Whereas finishing "The Deathly Hallows" plunged me into post-Potter depression, finishing the entire series in three and a half weeks has given me a sense of perspective, a deeper appreciation for the skill and wit of JK Rowling, and an overwhelming feeling of closure. Now, finally, I can say goodbye to Harry Potter. I might visit him and his world from time to time (particularly before the releases of the last two films), but my feet and heart both remain firmly rooted in my own world.


At 29 August 2007 at 22:26, Blogger amy said...

Sigh. I am only on Book 3 so I have a long, long time before I say goodbye to Harry. I'm actually feeling sort of lucky now that I read you post.

At 30 August 2007 at 03:24, Blogger Amy said...

Well, hi from another Amy. We got our copy of Deathly Hallows on the Sunday after it was released. There were no lines, we just walked up and said we'd reserved one. Then my daughter disappeared for about 36 hours. Then I disappeared for about 36 hours.

It was nice to finish the series, and I think it ended well. I liked the last book for getting the action going right away.

True, some of the books were ridiculously long and the writing was not superior, but I never cared. Like you, I just liked the world of Harry Potter. I really want some butter beer and to try on the tattered sorting hat.

At 31 August 2007 at 20:03, Blogger laurie said...

i'm still stuck on your opening line:

on july 21 i marched into the bookshop in macroom....

have i mentioned lately how jealous i am of your life?

(can't post anything intelligible about potter. haven't read potter.)

At 1 September 2007 at 07:21, Blogger -Ann said...

Amy - You are lucky - you have a wonderful journey ahead of you. (And the next book, Goblet of Fire, was definitely my favourite. :))

Another Amy - I am impressed that you and your daughter were able to share a single book. We have a friend who has three daughters and they bought 4 books, and then they all stayed up all night long to read. The sorting hat! Of course - where do you think you'd end up?

Laurie - It's not all glamour, you know. :)

At 3 September 2007 at 11:16, Anonymous Conortje said...

Maybe I should think about revisiting too ... Prisoner was my favourite followed by the last.

At 4 September 2007 at 16:05, Blogger The Rotten Correspondent said...

I'm visiting from Kaycie's site, and I have to say that I understand your Harry predicament well. I reread all the books before Deathly Hallows, and often did feel that I was living in a parallel universe.

I still have waves of depression that it's over, but I know I can always go back once more and reread!

At 25 September 2007 at 20:06, Blogger -Ann said...

Conortje- Prisoner has really grown on me, in part because I think I really liked Gary Oldman and the actor who played Lupine.

Rotten - That's right, and there's always the last two films.


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