Sunday, July 17, 2005

Big Fat Harry Deal

I, perhaps like you, have struggled for years with the fundamental question of our era: to read or not read.

To read or not to read Harry Potter books, that is.

While hundreds of millions of kids—and not a few adults—have jumped onto the Geek Prince bandwagon, I have simply watched it pass. As a generation has grown up in the wizard’s worldview, a few brave souls have merely stood back and shrugged. Pretending not to notice. Unenlightened by the exploits of a little nerd who, somehow, is a hero to a generation. Carrying on with our Hogwarts-free lives.

But no one is truly immune.

After all, I just made a reference to the young magicians’ school, didn’t I? I’m not proud that I can tell you Slytherin is one of the houses at Hogwarts, young wizards love to chase the splendidly named Golden Snitch, and Dumbledore is an old, wizened warlock dude who, whispers in back alleys have it, may not make it to the next book.

All this, and not a single word of J.K. Rowling’s scribbling has met my eye.

This isn’t all that remarkable by itself. Despite never watching one frame of a George Lucas film, my mother knew all about Jedi light sabers, Chewbacca’s primal yodel, and Yoda’s confused sentence structure. Sure, the latter was from years of enduring my gems such as, “To the playground I will go” and “More pancakes for me you will make,” but you get the point.

Phenomena like these pervade spaces well outside their direct influence. They become part of our common culture, creating references that serve as shorthand for more difficult concepts. The tales of the His Royal Geekiness pervade American life, and his stories bring us together.

Well, most of us.

This weekend, I felt like the proverbial kid who is picked last for kickball. I walked through both city streets and suburban cookie-cutter strip malls and saw more than a few folks—young and old alike—with noses buried in the newest adventure, and I had to wonder what Monday conversations would go right over my muggle head.

If this makes me sound bitter toward the whole Nerd Necromancer community, please ignore it. Because I’m not. Really.

In fact, despite my (admittedly uninformed) belief that these books don’t seem too challenging and aren’t exactly brilliant in their plots and character development, I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter experience.

Why? It boils down to one simple fact, one eternal truth.

I like books.

To paraphrase the immortal Gordon Gekko, books—for lack of a better word—are good. Books are right. Books work. Books, like greed, have marked the upward surge of mankind.

And, I must say, this wizard stuff is getting kids to read. We shouldn’t forget that the average kid spends more time each day staring at a television and playing Grand Theft Auto than most of us sleep each night. If these books get kids to read, make it “cool” to have books in their hands, and encourage them to read other books in between Harry Potter installments, then I’m all for it.

Just don’t ask me to read one of those geeky books.


At July 18, 2005 10:18 PM, Blogger .: raven :. replied to my musings ...

i have not read Harry Potter .. don't want to read Harry Potter ... will not ever read Harry Potter .... and have never blogged about Harry Potter.

i do agree, however, that this series has probably single handedly gotten millions of children to read ... which is an amazing fete.

At July 21, 2005 2:14 AM, Blogger ArchPundit replied to my musings ...

There's a great George Will column which discusses exactly this. I have to say that, while I find the writing pretty overly simplistic, every book is a good story.

I love the blog so far and it'll be added to the blogroll as soon as I can update.

The first post is especially powerful.

At July 29, 2005 1:18 PM, Blogger Dan replied to my musings ...

I never got into Harry Potter until I went with some coworkers to see the first movie on its opening day.

Ever since then I've been hooked.


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