Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Terrible Revelation

Now that Pottermania has taken its final curtain call with the blockbuster release of Part Two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I feel that I must finally reveal a dark secret which I have been harboring for all of these years:

I have never read any of the Harry Potter novels, nor have I seen any of the movies.

There, I said it.  Though my Master's of Library Science may now be forfeit, and my fantasy street cred be dashed into a million tiny pieces, I can no longer live a lie.  When you were geeking out over something Harry Potter-related and I was nodding enthusiastically and smiling, in reality I had no clue as to what you were talking about.  Dumbledore?  He was one of the good guys, right?  And Voldemort was the Big Bad, I think.  Aside from knowing the proper pronunciation of "Hermione," that's about all I've got.

Severus Snape?  He might as well have been a Roman emperor, for all I know.  And Quidditch makes about as much sense to me as baseball does to my Greek immigrant father-in-law.

Mind you, I'm not a fantasy snob, nor am I a hater due to J.K. Rowling's phenomenal rise to literary stardom. When Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone made its U.S. debut in 1998, I was in over my head with Real Life issues-- falling out of school (again) and falling in love (again).  The only thing I was reading at the time was a dog-eared copy of Sophocles' Antigone, in Ancient Greek, which my soon-to-be wife and I would pretend to pore over between classes in a Boston University coffeeshop on a series of "study dates" before either of us put two and two together and realized that we should perhaps give actual dating a try as well.

Soon after that were days-long road trips off to romantic locales, a whirlwind engagement, and even a Big Fat Greek Wedding, but by then the Hogwarts Express had long since left the station.  With the release of each successive book it occurred to me to try and catch up with the craze, but then I started writing again myself and I found myself feeling a bit protective of my own little patch of genre fantasy-- not only did I not want to lose my inspiration to write, which had returned at long last after more than a decade of silence, but I also was worried that I would unconsciously emulate any fantasy writers I was reading at the time.

So I maintained a respectful distance, smiling politely when people discussed the plot twists from the latest installment and trying not to lead on that I was a Harry Potter naif.  Pretending in this manner got infinitely more difficult when I started library school, as it was almost a foregone conclusion that anyone who wanted to be a librarian would be ipso facto a J.K. Rowling devotee, but trying to explain how it could be that I-- an aspiring writer, librarian in training, and a fantasy buff no less!-- hadn't read so much as a page of a Harry Potter novel seemed so difficult at this point that I felt I had no choice but to commit myself to this "Talented Mr. Ripley"-style deception.

Time passed and before I knew it diehard fans were donning their wizard robes and gathering at midnight in front of their local bookstores in eager anticipation of the final volume in the series.  In a sense this was a huge relief, as the topic of Harry Potter would now come up less and less often in casual conversation with friends and acquaintances, but at the same time I began to appreciate more fully exactly what it was that I had missed out over all of these years.  Here was the cultural equivalent of the Star Wars phenomenon, only in literary form (!!!), and somehow I had allowed this to pass me by?

Mea culpa, my fellow librarians!

I remember feeling this way when Deathly Hallows was first published, and while I'm feeling shades of this sense of loss again with the end of the film franchise, this time around there is a glimmer of hope.  My wife and I have been stockpiling the Harry Potter novels, you see, with the intention of reading them together along with our daughter Andriana.  She's just at the right age now that I think she'll get a huge kick out of them, so even as the rest of the world's Pottermania is dying down, hers (and ours) may only just be winding up...

Just no spoilers, please-- okay?

1 comment:

Michael A. Golrick said...

Don't apologize! I always thought (and still do) that Librarianship values each person's ability to choose what to read/see or not read/not see.

Now, do I think you are missing something? Well, yes. But I have no urge or desire to read Antigone.