Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter.

While Kathy and I are similar in a weird number of ways, I do feel badly sometimes about the strikingly different ways we deal with Big Emotions. While she wants to talk a lot, I am always entombed in a blanket of quietness in the moment which I have no control over, absorbing and feeling and not being able to articulate anything in such foreign ideas as words and sentences. This contrast--her talking a lot, me being weird and silent--occurs during times such as:

1) Fights;
2) Watching TV coverage of upsetting political and world events;
3) The 20 minutes after seeing a movie.

Hence, two nights ago at 2:30 AM as we walked to the car and then drove home after seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, the conversation went as thus:

Kathy: "Ashjksfhdjkfhdilasjdalsndaskndsjdbsodisdiosjdsklndskndsidohsdoisahdsbdas!"
Me: - silence - - nods - - silence -

All I knew was that I was feeling Big Things, and that I felt infinitely happy and infinitely sad. Also, I kept crying. As I drove home, a mess of inarticulate emotion, I thought, Well, maybe I'll be able to write a blog entry in a few days and work it out then. But the idea of writing about the experience of Harry Potter over a decade of reading and viewing still seems almost impossible. 

Lazy Halloween costumes; October 2005

However, Manda wrote a great entry today, and it inspired me to just do it. So. Deep breath. Let's do this! (And go read her entry, I can already tell it is much more coherent and well-written than this will be!)

This is a jumble of my favorite things about Harry Potter: books, movies, overall experience. Starting with:

Getting angry about people who don't like Harry Potter.
I have a feeling if you're not a Potterite, you're not even reading this. You saw the title on your Google Reader, rolled your eyes, felt angsty about how many damn people are talking about Harry Potter on the Internet right now, and skipped it. Well! I'm going to get self righteous anyway, because that's what you do when you really love something!

There is one group of anti-Harry people who I do not have an issue with, and it is those who are naturally averse to fantasy as a genre. My sister is one of those people. She's smart and motivated; she reads a lot of nonfiction. I'm weird and lazy; I read Harry Potter and various other children's books. It works out. It's fine. These people generally are neutral and don't get that upset about other Potterites; it's just not their thing.

There are two other groups of people I've encountered, however, that really inspire some good griping in my self righteous soul:
1) Those who used to read the books when younger but "grew out of it." WHAT? My brain does not process this, but all I know is that I'm super glad I'm not a boring grown up like you.
2) Those who I KNOW would love Harry Potter, but refuse to admit it because it's too popular and they're convinced nothing so popular can be meaningful or good. A lot of these people have read at least parts of the books but classify them as just "all right" or "not well written." These people are often the most vocal about their opposition. To them I say:


Reading the first few books in my bedroom in my house in Pennsylvania.
I read the first few books back in high school, before any movies came out, curled up on my bed in the house where I grew up. I had a whole idea of all the characters in my head, an idea which of course has been wiped out to obscurity by the movies. (I have gotten over this, though, since I am so dearly attached to the movie characters and think the casting was in fact wonderful.) Reading books as a kid curled up on my bed in the house where I grew up will always be the most magical reading experience of my life. I could read for hours and not feel guilty about anything. I was transported to so many different wonderful lands and events. Every book seemed magical. But Harry Potter seemed REALLY magical.

Waiting for the 7th book at midnight, Borders in Downtown Crossing, Boston, July 2007

When the last book came out in 2007, we picked it up at midnight, watched and participated with all the other nerds who opened it up and started reading on the last subway home. And then we kept reading. We'd asked for the day off from work, and Kathy and I read all day. I was no longer in my world, but in theirs. It was the closest I'd felt to the magic of reading in my bed in the house where I grew up in years.

Here it is, the thing I really want to say: Harry Potter has been the most important reading experience of my life. (The only other thing which may be tied with it would be reading Roald Dahl books as a small child, the act which really made me a reader and a lover of imagination from an early age.) Harry Potter has reaffirmed to me that reading is magical and that reading is important. It confirmed that a book is a powerful, wonderful thing. You see, even to people that LOVE reading, I think we can all be honest in saying that reading ISN'T always magical or even important; a lot of the time it seems more like a chore than you want it to. But Harry is different. It's meaningful, and funny, and exciting, and tragic and real.

Even though you're aware that millions of other humans on this earth have experienced the same thing, every time you open a Harry Potter book, you enter something that seems special, and yours, and yours alone. And thank god for it.

Visiting Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station.
Sam and I giggled the whole way into the station when we were in London in 2004. And there it was, a sign discreetly placed on the wall, not cheesy at all, just there, oh you Brits! We took a picture and then heard a scary announcement over the loudspeaker about how flash photography on the platforms is illegal and dangerous. We ran, continuing to giggle the whole way out of the station.

I didn't even have a digital camera in 2004, and a bunch of my film got messed up in flights, hence the bad quality.

The Harry Potter fan community.
I've already expressed my love of fandom in here, but the Harry Potter fandom is really something else. I haven't delved too much into the fandom world myself, but all I know is that I am super happy every time I've gone to a midnight showing, and I was particularly happy this time.

Waiting outside Clackamas Town Center, two nights ago.

Usually at a midnight showing there's at least a spattering of people who are obnoxious, but this night, as Kathy said, "It was like watching the movie with a whole bunch of me's!" Everyone was deathly silent from the first moment, everyone laughed together, everyone cried together, everyone respectively stifled their laughter at everyone crying. And OH - MY - GOD - GUYS, were there people crying at this one. When the camera panned over the victims from the Battle for Hogwarts--like, open SOBBING! And like, noisy blowing of noses into tissues! Holy crap. I have never heard anything like it in a movie theater. Oh man. It was so hilarious and amazing all at once. 

As Manda said: There’s a lot of pent up energy. This time, more than usual because we all have a sense that this is the final time we’ll be in a group like this, sharing our love for a group of people that we’ve come to know as family and a story we’ve come to feel as our own.

The people sitting in front of us, who we of course watched and listened to for at least two hours while we waited, had brought their own bottled butter beer and discussed these things at various points in the night: 1) Neil Gaiman, 2) Terry Pratchett, 3) Bone, 4) their "first anime," 5) so much other nerdy stuff! Oh man it made me so happy. At one point the guy in the group dropped his wand behind his chair, and without thinking I said, "Oh no, your wand!," picked it up and gave it back to him. LIKE IT WAS NORMAL! IT WAS SO AWESOME! 

Tired, but ready.

I mean come on. Not to mention the websites, the fanfic, and the book, this is a group of people who created a musical genre called wizard rock, which allows nerdy boys to be worshipped by nerdy girls around the country. What a dream! How can you not like these people? 

The story about that time Kathy got a free set of Harry Potter books from Scholastic.

She is amazing.

Once upon a time, also known as the year 2005, Kathy wrote an ode about Scholastic Book Orders. I had to do a lot of digging through old LiveJournal posts of hers to find this, but I did.

I am going to now post the full details of the events of this story for the world to see, since it's my blog and I can.

Scholastastic: On Unorthodox Ode to Scholastic Book Orders
by Kathy

A few times a year,
You were there.
So many choices,
Made me pull my hair.
A few thin sheets of paper held my fate.
With all my friends,
I would debate.
Cleary? Blume? What to buy?
Even all the lame series, I will not lie,
I was excited each time I flipped through it.
For me, it was like a loser how-to kit.
Bring it home, show it to mom.
I would circle all my favorites,
Full House books are the bomb.
A free gift of a poster,
All you needed were a few items.
One of Vanilla Ice, or kittens on a toaster.
Together, a tally was made
Of all my favorite books,
My smile would not fade.
Months and months passed, all but forgotten.
School subjects came and went,
More bored than I had ever been.
Then suddenly, out of the mists of desperation,
Our teacher would announce a great declaration.
There they were! My books! What a revelation!
Tied up and bound with a band all around,
I ran home and read, until I nearly fell down.
Every few months like this, I would get so enthusiastic.
Because they never failed me, that company Scholastic.
Now many years have passed, and many suns have set.
But here is one last thing that I will always bet.
You think of them too, those bound piles of delight.
You think of them too, when you cuddle together at night.
To have the ability to choose was an amazing feat.
An ability that now, our schools no longer meet.
So with fondness and happiness, we look back at you, Scholastic.
You were no less than amazing, the best, and fantastic.

I know. Amazing. So Kathy wrote this while we were in college. Because these are the kinds of things you do when you're in college. Or, at least, at Emerson College. She decided to send it to Scholastic, just for kicks. This is what she received in reply:
Thank you so much for sending us your Ode to Scholastic Book Orders. I've sent it around to our editors and marketing people here in the New York Corporate offices. I know they will enjoy your poem as much as I did.
If you would tell me a bit about yourself, including age and grade, I'd love to send a gift to thank you for your creative expression of book club appreciation. Please include a postal address.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda Schenker

AGE AND GRADE, PEOPLE. So, not that surprisingly really, the editors at Scholastic assumed Kathy was a LITTLE GIRL. (Although after reading the ode again, this does seem a little strange--what fourth grader these days knows who Vanilla Ice is?)

This was one of the most amazing things that had ever happened to any of us. But after we finished laughing, Kathy was presented with a dilemma: Do I tell them I'm in my early 20's? Because, like, you know, they want to give me a present. If I tell the truth, will they take away my present? Because she's an honest person, she eventually decided to 'fess up and tell Ms. Schenker the truth.
Thanks so much for your lovely response.  We're just delighted that you had so many happy memories of our book clubs.  I certainly would love to send a gift, despite your mature years!  Have you read the Harry Potter books?  They certainly are for all ages.  I'd be happy to send you a pack of the first 5 if you haven't gotten to them yet.
Let me know.

THEY CERTAINLY ARE FOR ALL AGES! OH MAN. I still can't get over this. I have never been so proud of my girlfriend. And also, so impressed with a publishing company. Thank you, Linda!

The set now rests next to our Narnia box set, beneath a Faulkner box set. Yeah, it makes sense.

The secondary characters.
The trio of Harry, Hermione, and Ron doesn't even need to be touched upon. All I need to do is post this video Kathy found.

If you don't start tearing up the moment Helena Bonham Carter starts tearing up, just wait for the trio to HUG EACH OTHER WHILE BAWLING AT THE END. If you don't start tearing up, YOU HAVE NO SOUL. Sorry, it's true.

But beyond the trio, there are too many amazing secondary characters in this series to count.

Luna Lovegood. The only character in any book ever who has spoken the truth, and seen the truth, in every second of the day. Obviously, she is a freak, and she is wonderful. The most perfect casting in the movies, as well.

All of the professors are great, but Professor McGonagall was SO FREAKING AMAZING AND BADASS IN THIS LAST MOVIE. WHAT. WHAT. WHAT. SO BADASS.

Hagrid. Just seeing him in the Forbidden Forest in the film caused the whole theater to gasp and then cry. He is one of the most intensely lovable characters ever created.

I love the flaws of some of the most important characters, which start to really be developed in the later books and movies: Dumbledore, Sirius, Harry's dad, Harry himself. Who DIDN'T hate Harry in the fifth book? The complexity to Dumbledore and Harry's dad still blows my mind. Such well crafted and fascinating story telling.

And there are two characters I love so much they deserve their own bolded topics:

Neville Longbottom.
Neville was the complete hero of the Battle for Hogwarts, as he completely should have been. Watching him in this movie was just absolute, pure joy. 

I still also can't get over this picture Manda found:


Oh Snape. Snape. Snape. I don't even know what to say. Except for the scene where Harry looks into your memories in Dumbledore's pensieve? One of the most wonderful scenes of the entire series. 




The score/Hedwig's Theme.
John Williams sprinkles magic dust on everything he creates. Chills every time I hear it. Chills!

"Dumbledore, is this real? Or is it all in my head?"
"Of course it's in your head, Harry. But that doesn't mean it isn't real."

So now, we all ask ourselves: what's next? There has always been a "next." Even with the last book, we knew we had the movies to look forward to. But now what?

Well, there's still the dream of visiting Florida, or attending this some day. Oh, and we'll be going to see the movie again this week, thank you very much.

And, of course. There's always re-reading the books. And re-reading. And sinking back into the magic, each time.

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