I started my annual summertime read of Harry Potter this morning. I invited Brent, my cyberbookfriend to read this time, and--kind of against his natural inclinations and better judgment--he took me up on the invitation. So far, his impression hasn't been very favorable. Since I value Brent's opinion, I'm trying to read more objectively this time, with a more critical eye.
I remember the first time I read the Harry Potter books. It was in the summer of 2000, just a month or so before the release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth book in the series, and the first for which the entire world sat up and took notice. I'd sold my share of the first three books, and wanted to see for myself what this growing fuss was about. That summer, I was semi-laid up with a pinched nerve and spending most of my time when not at work propped up in bed with an elaborate arrangement of pillows holding back and arms and neck in place. I had even more time than usual to read. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone had come into the store in a batch of publisher's hurts, and I picked it up for just a couple of bucks. I took it home, popped a muscle relaxant and a Vicodin, then took myself to bed to read.
The first paragraph drew me in. By the end of the second page, I was hooked. By the end of the first chapter, I was enchanted. The writing was not exceptional. It was simple, with a slightly sing-songy rhythm overlaying that faint feeling of dread and foreboding that is peculiar to British kid lit. The voice was reminiscent of Roald Dahl, albeit less sophisticated and knowing, and certainly not as smirky. I responded as I think most of the kids who read it do, by reading faster and faster and faster to find out what comes next. And, despite my attempt to read in a more studied and adult manner this time, that's exactly what I find myself doing today.
And, as I did in the summer of 2000, I will no doubt gobble this one up in a day or so and then, while the tears are still glistening in my eyes, begin Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets...and, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the cycle will continue.
So why do I love these books? Because, despite the occasional clunkiness of the writing (and it gets better Brent, I swear it does; the writing grows as the kids do), the Harry Potter books sing and soar. They are heartfelt and soulful, they get you in the gut and in the funny bone, they're fun to read and wildly original.
The long and short of it is, I don't think I'm going to be very objective this time around, either. Ah, well.
1 month ago