Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thoughts on the end of Harry Potter

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket...So I stayed up till a bit past midnight last night with my friend Harry, diving deep into "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" to see how it all ends for our man at Hogwarts. I won't spoil anything here, but it was a fine, speedy 600-page read and a pretty fitting conclusion to the saga. Although J.K. Rowling desperately should include recap pages for those of us who don't have every line of the series memorized, after a couple of chapters I got back into the Muggles groove and was captivated by a book where the stakes are insanely high, the body count startling, and the sense of onrushing doom quite tangible. If you listen carefully this weekend you can hear the gentle rustle of millions of pages being turned worldwide at the same time – how cool is that?

And it's always kind of fun to be involved in pop culture events like this – I stood in line at the Warehouse store for a half-hour or so on a rainy Saturday morning and watched them wheel out the boxes with "EMBARGOED" stamped on there, witnessed the fidgety teen in front of me nearly have cardiac arrest (she actually dropped her copy of HP7 when they handed it to her, she was so wired), and I even got a free Harry cap for being one of the first 100 in line. Woo hoo, geekdom!

I have always been partial to the great "child fantasy literature series" – my favorites over the years include L. Frank Baum's "Oz" series (which bear little resemblance to the movie), the "Narnia" books (although on a recent re-read I was surprised to see how overt the Christian message now seemed), the "Tintin" comics and probably my all-time favorite, Hugh Lofting's marvelous "Dr. Doolittle" novels from the 1920s and 1930s (later, if it's not too strong to say, generously molested and mutilated into a series of fart jokes by Hollywood and Eddie Murphy).

The "Potter" stories, perhaps, haven't been quite so iconic to me – nothing is as fine as it is when you read it at 11 years old, after all – but they're good solid fun. Rowling crafts a highly detailed, layered world, even if she gets bogged down sometimes in plot mechanics and exposition. I envy the kids who've grown up reading this story. I can't think of another similar book series offhand that has "grown up" along with the audience like this one – looking back at "Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone" now, it's a very simple, kid-focused read, whereas "Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows" is an often very adult, gritty experience. I think a huge part of the Potter mystique is that slow-burning maturity, how we as readers age as Potter grows into the world and his considerable legacy. Rowling had no idea what she set in motion a decade or so ago, but if her work has turned on just a handful of her legion of fans to the vast world of great books out there in the land, then she has done one heck of a thing indeed.

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