February 1st, 2016

book talk // some thoughts on harry potter.

I read Harry Potter as an adult. I read it while I was living in South Korea and, somehow, my days were longer, stretched thin like gossamer, and words poured more easily into me. I read a lot that year, but Harry Potter lingered in a way that the others did not.

I didn’t read the books as they came out. I was determinedly reading whatever could attain the most AR points, pointedly ignoring anything that was on a reading level beneath my own.

I lived almost entirely in my own head, but constantly strove to learn new words and achieve, achieve, achieve. As a child who believed she could find Narnia in the back of her father’s wardrobe, I can now say, that skipping Harry Potter was a mistake.

But, I made up for it eventually. And with rather interesting results.

What new can be said about Harry Potter? Probably nothing. But I would like to outline my own take on the novels just for posterity’s sake.

The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets:  Less than extraordinary, to me. Perhaps because I found the youthful Harry unrelateable. Perhaps it’s because I have been a teacher and having a student like Harry, who is so often deliberately getting himself into trouble, would inspire Snape-like feelings in me. I found myself identifying far more with the Hogwarts educators than the wayward youngsters.

The Prisoner of Azkaban: Shit starts to get real, siriusly.

The Goblet of Fire: I watched the movie directly after finishing this one. It’s still one of my favorites (movie and book) because of the Yule Ball, the other wizarding academies and Harry’s unintended entry into the competition forcing him to really accept his role as “hero.”

The Order of the Pheonix: The one with all the angst. I really disliked Harry in this book, he behaves rather selfishly throughout and I found myself enjoying the subplots more than what was happening with him.

The Half-Blood Prince: It’s been a while since a book made me ugly cry like that. It actually gives me goosebumps just reliving the ending.

The Deathly Hallows: Easily the most well written story in the series, and just dark enough. I did, however, feel as though the ending was a bit rushed after weeks and weeks of Horcrux hunting. Or maybe I just didn’t want it to end — that’s probably more accurate.

The books mature in a way that few stories can accomplish — something that, I think, truly showcases JK Rowling’s masterful storytelling. In all the ways that the first book felt young, the final book felt almost shockingly adult.

These books provided me with a wholly developed magical world that I could happily imagine myself into as easily as Narnia or Middle Earth. Perhaps more so, as the journey begins in London, somewhere more realistically accessible than The Shire.

The saga of Harry Potter wove itself into my being; the adventure of an epic hero on par with Bilbo Baggins and Luke Skywalker. I identified as a Ravenclaw. I wanted to be a Muggle Studies professor. And then, I visited Harry Potter World this past summer and was offered the unique chance to live out scenes from my imagination. I bought a wand, I cast spells, I drank butterbeer, I got motion sick on a broom (no Quidditch for me).

Then, Alan Rickman died. I watched via the Internet as someone left a lily at the Potions door and others raised their wands together in silent tribute. It seems silly, but Snape was one of my favorite characters and it struck me that his role would never be reprised by one of my favorite actors. We mourned him in real life as we mourned Dumbledore in the novels.

Then, I got a Snape tribute tattoo. I’d been thinking about it for a while — how to permanently showcase the effect these books had on my life, my imagination, and how they saved me from mentally breaking down at several points in my adult life. I got it because it’s real for us. I got it because tattoos fill me with endorphins. I got it because I’m a huge geek and I want to start conversations with fellow geeks.

Now the transformation is both whole and complete.