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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Harry Potter Series

A beautiful, lovely, merry Christmas to you all! For those of you who do not celebrate this particularly holiday, I hope your season is merry and bright. To celebrate my love of book reading today, I am bringing you J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, but not in the usual way. 

I came to this series as an adult. I was just a little too old for the first couple of books when they were released, and by the time they caught my attention in college my tastes skewed away from fantasy. I always wanted to read them, but I was always distracted by the gazillions of other books I wanted to read. 

Finally, this summer, the Museum of Modern Art did a showing of all 8 movies in the course of a week. At this point I had read Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban. I was definitely interested in finishing the series, but again, I was distracted. I had even tried racing the 3rd grader I was babysitting to finish the series--she won.

So I took on the challenge of 8 Harry Potter movies in 7 nights. The first two movies mimicked the feel of the first two books--almost children's lit and children's movies, and I appreciated that the director was able to hold on to that feeling of whimsy and danger but still staying safe. By the time I reached the fifth movie, Order of the Phoenix, I got it.

Half way through the movie, it hit me like a ton of bricks: "I get why people love these stories." I get how meaningful they are, the fight between good and evil although it is only as clear as you understand it. I get the protectiveness that fans have over this series, and why they hold it so close to their hearts. It's not just because Harry is a great character--he certainly is, but that's not just it. These stories are epics in the most literal sense; they are one long, narrative poem that tells the story of a flawed hero and his incredible, strong, growing, loving companions fighting for what they believe is right and just. It is classic in every sense--it's what we as humans have been drawn to since the dawn of the story.

So I decided to make the last four books happen before the end of the year.

This will not be a post as per usual. I will not be synopsizing the books; many other websites will do these books justice where I can only scratch the surface. Wikipedia is just one of many. Head there if you need a catch-up before continuing. I will wait.

Ok, then. Good to go? Me too.

The first two books were very YA, and I liked them for what they were. It was Harry's childhood and it is hard not to love him and his raggedy group of friends. These are classic stories of good versus evil, whether that evil is as simple as a bully (Draco Malfoy) or as complicated as You-Know-Who.There is a certain simplicity about these first two stories, and arguably the third, that resembles what an ideal childhood should be--for a wizard, or a boy. The reality is that we all have simple evils
and complicated evils, even if they aren't wizards and witches. Moving forward in life is necessary if we want to keep living. There is also a certain simplicity in Harry's ignorance as to the enormity of his role in the world that is heartbreaking. He is a child, and there is no reason he should know what he must come to know at the end of Order of the Phoenix. The larger truths and complications with which he must wrestle as he matures are a part of his identity formation and begin to define him. I am specifically thinking of the mental wrestling Harry does in Half-Blood Prince when dealing with the weight that comes with being chosen rather than Neville. (You didn't think you would get out of here without some psychobabble, did you??? Nonsense, my friends.)

There is, though, a certain weightiness that comes with reading these books for the first time as a fully-formed (I think, anyway) adult. The

questions that loom over me in these books are not ones that I could formulate as a teenager, let along grapple. What if you were asked to sacrifice yourself for the greater good? Dumbledore's choice was of a great magnitude, one of which I am not sure I could ever understand nor do. I can sit here and say I would, but to know your death and to accept it so readily is heavy stuff. Harry's willingness to put his life on the line to save Sirius in the Ministry, and even more than that, his friend's willingness to possibly sacrifice their own lives, is enormous. It shows a kind of love that is only possible when given wholly and selflessly. That is a hard thing to grasp if you have never felt it, but Rowling dives deep and gives you it.

Moving away from the story for a moment, I was astounded by the gift of watching Rowling's writing grow over the course of a decade and seven books. I think she is a beautiful writer (see

her newest here), and it is clear how much she cut her teeth on these beloved characters. She is talented to begin with, but her growth with Harry and the crew is just beautiful. Stunning, even.

I find that I want to spend more time in the world of Hogwarts and Harry more as an adult than I would as a child. I think I would have sped through these books and loved them for their story, but as a grown woman I want to sit and ponder on their greater meaning. The battle in Deathly Hallows is soul-crushing and soul-satisfying; the build-up, though, in Half-Blood Prince might have been my favorite. We live in this day and age in a world filled with fear of the unknown, be it terrorism, disease, or the economy. I found this resonating with the inhabitants of Rowling's world while they were lying in wait for Voldemort to return. No one knew quite what to expect, only that the other shoe had to drop. It was, after all, prophesied.

This post has not been to sell you on reading the books; in truth, you have probably already read them and found your own reality within them. This was a coming of age story of such depth, breadth, and beauty that it is hard to not sit down with them and judge them each on their own merits.

I am glad I finally came to these books, but it had to be in my own time, in my own way. These are a joy to experience, but it has to be when you are ready. They hold so much within their spines, and the journey must be your own.

I have links below to purchase the books in all forms. If you haven't yet made the journey, choose your time and crack them open.

Meet you on platform 9 3/4.

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