Thursday, June 14, 2007

Of Secrets & Slytherin

The first book in the Harry Potter series was released sometime between my junior year in high school and my sophomore year in college (go ahead — do the math... you've probably already guestimated my age with some accuracy, anyway).

I don't recall the exact year, as I refused to read it. I figured a book that received so much press was likely to be pulp, and so I snubbed my nose and read things like Melville and Shakespeare in-between Calculus exams.

Yes, I was that kind of girl.

The mere mention of wizards and muggles and Rowling and — yes — even the utterance of the letters "J" and "K" would send a shiver of disgust down my elitist spine.

But then I changed my major from Biology/pre-med to English, and took a class in children's lit as an elective.

I cannot begin to explain to you the horror I felt upon seeing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the syllabus. I mean, sure, Alice in Wonderland, Tuck Everlasting, Wind in the Willows — these are books I expected to see on there. But not, for the love of God, not Harry Potter.

Geek that I am, my snobbery for current popular literature was no match for my drive towards a decent GPA, and it was with a sigh and a smirk that I first cracked the cover.

What happened from there is the stuff of Hogwart's history.

I was little short of in love.

I couldn't read fast enough and yet however fast I read, it was too fast, as finishing the book likewise meant my own journey down Privet Drive was over.

When we discussed the book in class, I had to contain my excitement, for fear that my peers might discover (and thus hang me for) my newfound fascination. And yet, still, secretly I hurried on to other books in the series, eventually catching up with everything that had been published, and then anxiously awaiting every subsequent release.

Skip ahead a couple years to grad school, where I discovered a few other closet fans — we seemed to find comfort in numbers and so would proudly stack our copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix betwixt Lolita and The Taming of the Shrew (this is blaspheme to some of you, I know).

We discussed characters, analyzed plots, and yet — somehow — managed to do all of this without spoiling the fun of reading what some academics condemn as being "escapist" literature (which it is in a way, sure, but if a story is nevertheless well-written, why is "escapism" necessarily a bad thing).

We watched the films with a similar sort of zeal, indulging in the literature and the movies — and even the occasional board game — without taking it much further than that.

And I must admit, I expect this July to be the highlight of my 2007, with the final book (number 7) and the fifth film both slated to release this summer.

When I e-mailed a couple friends suggesting we have a reunion in Orlando in 2009 — and further lamented, with a humorous nod, that having two big Harry Potter releases in the same month wouldn't leave me with much to look forward to for the rest of the year — one friend e-mailed this back to me.

OK, OK. I get the point.

I have a problem. But this is one indulgence I don't mind giving in to.

(Besides, comparing myself to those losers* gives me a reason to feel a little better about myself.)

And for those of you as yet unconverted: go ahead, make fun of me. Judge me.

I'll be so busy planning my Hermione costume for the midnight release of the next film, that I won't even notice.**

*Irony not only noted, but intended more so for sarcastic purposes
**Just kidding. —I'll notice.


Stacy said...

Escapism is bliss. I would not make fun of you. When I heard that JK was a single mom on the dole, I embraced her success story immediately. I think it is true feminism to support the successes of women who make it to the top of their game, especially if that game happens to be an art form.

michele said...

Since I'm one of those people who actually intends to build an academic career by reading and writing about that "escapist" literature, you have my full understanding.

My only regret in studying sf and fantasy is that I spend so much time reading the criticism, that I don't have enough time for reading all the novels I want to!

Interesting too that you changed from Bio/pre-med to English. I also studied Biochem with the intention of going to med school. I didn't switch to English though - I was working on a double degree, and decided at the end of undergrad, I wanted to do English, not Medicine (in all fairness, I never applied, so I don't know that they even would've let me in!)

It's a strange mind shift moving from the sciences to the humanities, isn't it?

disgruntled world citizen said...

I guess I'll have to do an "answer" posting to this. I hadn't even heard of the series until book 3 came out. But I'll write about soon. I promise.

Its okay to love HP, really it is. Get yours pre-ordered?

Anonymous said...

I thought you were a child prodigy, skipped half of your grades and were 13 when you entered college. :-P

Harry Potter is good stuff. I enjoy reading it. I don't get as jazzed as some (including a friend of mine who graduated cum laude with a degree in Metallurgy) but I like the books.

As for losers, well, you could be headed to DragonCon over Labor Day weekend. Of course, I don't think of them as losers, I think of them as My Peeps.


Meh said...

The fact that the next movie opens on my birthday just adds to my excitement. I've been a big fan of fantasy for a couple years now, and I feel like such a bad English-degree-holder (yes, you may cringe at that horrid word). It just makes me feel less like I belong in grad school anyway, knowing I'm not so much a lit snob as a book nerd.

Pamela said...

why would one have a book unless it was for pleasure.

OR... do they use them to flog each other in the classroom ha ha ha ha, The bigger the book, the better the weapon. War and Peace would be a real head wacker.

ps I didn't think I would like Harry Potter.... but have enjoyed them immensely.

Woodrow said...

So they're not just for kids? Maybe I'll add them to my list.