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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Big Fat Harry Deal

Harry Potter this, Harry Potter that. It's deja vu all over again with the pending release of J.K. Rowling's novel, and you will be hearing more about Harry in the next few days than you heard about Anna Nicole Smith in a whole month.

Two years and two days ago, I posted this little assessment of the last Harry Potter mania. I think it still rings true today. Do you agree?


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.

32 Comments:

At July 19, 2007 8:32 AM, Blogger goldennib replied to my musings ...

Oh, no! I'm a Happy Potter geek? Yes, I am. I had a dream last night (a nightmare, really) that book 7 was being given out two days early and i couldn't get a copy. Yes, it's that bad.

Kids reading is great.

The allure of HP for me is the fact that it is easy and familiar. When I just want to give my brain a break and take my mind to the playground, I read and re-read HP.

 
At July 19, 2007 11:53 AM, Anonymous kim replied to my musings ...

I like the Harry Potter books just fine but I'm with you - I used to work at a book store and I LOVED IT when I was working the kids section and kids would come in and say "I've never read a book before but I like Harry Potter, what else have you got?"

 
At July 19, 2007 2:20 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

I think it is great that J.K. went from welfare mom to superstar with what is, in my opinion, weak stories and predictable characters. I might have a very different idea if I was growing up with them, but while the stories have some sense of wonder, they really have little in the way of ideas under the hood.

Sticking to the car metaphor, it's like a big, glossy Ferrari with a little lawnmower engine.

I do usually end up seeing the movies on cable, but that is more a testament to the poor selections of movies than any love for Hogwarts.

Now J.K. Rowling's biography would probably be a story I would like to read.

 
At July 20, 2007 12:24 AM, Blogger Barbara (aka Layla) replied to my musings ...

With your post I agree, david! Yeesssssss.

 
At July 20, 2007 2:45 AM, Blogger tworabbitshow replied to my musings ...

I was damn proud that I knew absolutely nothing about Harry Potter and his Goblet of Sorcerers or whatever the hell it is, and you have ruined it for me. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

 
At July 20, 2007 6:59 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

GN: That is a nightmare, being left out of the early release. The whole world would have a chance to read it 48 hours before you!

Kim: Being a book fan, I can't help but like the trend, if it really is one.

GW: I agree, that's quite a story. I remember reading that she used to work at Amnesty International in London, too.

Barbara: Wise you are.

TRS: I'm a bad boy like that. So bad.

-- david

 
At July 20, 2007 8:42 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I've never read the Harry books but did enjoy the first two movies. I probably should pick one up one of these days... or not ;-)

 
At July 20, 2007 9:41 AM, Blogger cube replied to my musings ...

Having kids made me wild about Harry. I read the first book to make sure it was OK for my daughter to read & the rest is history.

Yeah, they're not Shakespeare, but it's a good story.

 
At July 20, 2007 11:50 AM, Anonymous whatigotsofar replied to my musings ...

Exactly! Until the books themselves jump off the shelves at the local book store and start pummelling random people, they aren't hurting anybody. The kids are finally reading a book that doesn't have pictures. And more importantly, the more children read, the less they're running around in public with those stupid wheelie shoes bumping into things and generally annoying people.
So although I've never read any of Rowlings' works, nor do I want to; I think they are a good thing.

 
At July 20, 2007 2:50 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

I am a fan of Harry Potter, but I have not read any of the books. I even used to work in a book store and watched the frenzy first hand.
I am all for reading and am glad the children of today find enjoyment from it.
I remember some of the parents that would come into the bookstore when the first Harry Potter movie came out. They would not allow their kids to see the movie; they did not approve of the wizardry...as if it were real. I remember thinking to myself I wonder if the parents were not allowed to watch the show Bewitched as a child.

Oh, you passed the test at my place....thanks! ;)

 
At July 20, 2007 3:24 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: If you haven't by now, you've got a lot of catching up to do. Then again, base don their simplicity, they STILL might only take a couple of days of reading!

Cube: So you let your daughter read about warlocks and magic?!? YOU HEATHEN, YOU INFIDEL!! (Sarcasm fully on.)

WIGSF: Thanks for stopping by. You can read my mind (see sarcasm above). Books don't hurt people; books with guns do. Or something like that.

Lee Ann: I usually pass my tests, so I'm not too surprised. I, too, am shcoked at the backlash to the fantasy in these books. I suppose they keep their kids away from Star Wars, too, because The Force isn't explicitly mentioned as such in the Bible Ugh.

-- david

 
At July 20, 2007 3:55 PM, Blogger The Phoenix replied to my musings ...

I used to be a high school English teacher, and I say if it helps kids pick up books and put down the XBox controllers, I'm all for it.

I saw students that hated reading get turned on after reading Robert Cormier. They would actually drag their parents to the bookstores searching for "I Am the Cheese" or "The Chocolate War."

I read the first Harry Potter book after all that initial hoopla. I thought the book was OK at best.

 
At July 20, 2007 10:25 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

They can burn all the Harry Potter books, for all I care. I'm sick and tired of hearing about the damn things. I'm proud to say I've never read one, or seen any of the movies, nor do I plan to do so.

 
At July 21, 2007 2:43 PM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I used to read. A lot. In 2nd grade I used to finish my work early, then head to the library until lunch. I got out all kinds of history and war books, and one day the assistant librarian said "your mom called and doesn't want you reading these books". I decided if I couldn't read what I wanted to, why bother doing my school work? Turns out my mom never called.
In 8th grade I read Catch-22 for a report in class. Again, I was told it wasn't age appropriate. As for Potter, well, I think it's great that kids are reading, and most people are encouraging them to read these books. We need to tear ourselves away from Multiple Martial Arts and skateboarding punk shows. Witness the Romans...

 
At July 21, 2007 5:53 PM, Blogger dragonflyfilly replied to my musings ...

i have so not been able to get into the Harry Potter books, and i'm not sure why.

Could it be that when i was working at a transition house for women with psychiatric disorders i was FORCED to read out loud to 3 of the clients: one women had obsessive compulsive disorder and was extremely intelligent, the other had multiple personality disorder (she had about 10 or 12 "others") and the third was an extremely unpleasant individual who was faking multiple personality disorder, but in fact she suffered with borderline personality disorder.

So reading Harry Potter was "work" for me, and when i left that "institution" i could not even look at the book cover without having unpleasant flashbacks.

I thought of watching the movies, but those toffee-nosed english accents really irritate me (i know this is irrational, but that is the way it is!) i don't mind cockney accents, and Liverpudlian accents, and Lake District accents, but the upper-class fancy school accents drive me up the wall. Does that make me the opposite of a snob? -- i don't know, and for that matter, i don't care!

But that does not mean that i am glad that people are having fun with all the hype...i just turn off the radio and tune into FEFA!

thanks for letting me rant!

cheers for now,
pj

 
At July 22, 2007 6:17 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

This will probably sound strange coming from me. I'd love to say I can't put the book down, actually I can't pick it up. Little time to read.

 
At July 22, 2007 2:32 PM, Blogger Grafs replied to my musings ...

Yeah, I never go into Harry Potter; It takes me away to a world of SUCK. I prefer the sweet literature on the back of a cereal box.

 
At July 23, 2007 6:27 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Phoenix: Of course, there's probably an XBox Harry Potter game they can play, too.

Bruce: I'm not into burnign books, no matter what the content. A magic wand might be a more fitting way to dispose of these, if you so choose.

Mike: That is one sick librarian. What was it ... she didn't want to reshelve that section?!?

PJ: Ok, you have a better reason than all of us to dislike Harry Potter. And I know what you mean about the accents; I prefer the voices in Snatch to those in Harry Potter.

CB: If I had a lot more time to read, I might/might read these just out of curioisity. But that would have to be MUCh more time, because I have about 50 books on my "to read" list above these!

Grafs: Maybe you, like PJ, had a bad experience with the books and psychiatric disorders!

-- david

 
At July 23, 2007 8:56 AM, Blogger angel, jr. replied to my musings ...

There has to be a good way to get kids to read more!

 
At July 23, 2007 9:14 AM, Blogger Mike replied to my musings ...

I know someone that waited in line for two hours at midnight for the book. I've never really been a reader, and feel that these books are more for kids in around 10, 11 or 12. Like you, I am happy that these kids are excited about reading something instead of playing World of Warcraft, Halo, or whatever.

 
At July 24, 2007 7:59 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

I love me some Harry Potter! I know it got my nephews to read when nothing short of bodily harm could do that before! ;)

 
At July 24, 2007 9:16 AM, Blogger BrianAlt replied to my musings ...

I read the first book. It sucked so I didn't read another.

Those that are into it tell me the books get much better after the first one. I don't believe it. It was the first one that made him famous.

 
At July 24, 2007 4:57 PM, Blogger An80sNut replied to my musings ...

Yes, I'm one that reads the series. I like the creativity and wonder that goes into books like these. Since changing shifts at work, I read a lot more (over 25 and under 35 books a year.) What I like to do make every other book non-fiction, which makes my entertainment reading a chance for my brain to cool down.

I do avoid the gaming craze as there is always a better game coming and I know that I can become absorbed for hours in an RPG. Still shocked that you found a way to throw Necromancer out there. B)

 
At July 25, 2007 6:03 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Angel: We could bribe them. With pet owls or something.

Mike: I can't remember the last time I waited two hours in line for anything. It certainly wasn't for Mr. Potter.

PQ: Good for them. I hope their brains hadn't atrophied by then ... and they could understand it.

Brian: I'm guessing it was the IDEAS in the first book more than the plot itself or the writing quality that brought kids in. After that, with money and time, she had the luxury of focusing more on those things.

Martin: I like the idea of alternating between fiction and non-fiction. Of course, I know people whose version of that is switiching back and forth between Shakespeare's plays and books abut Shakespeare's plays ... not exactly the variety I crave.

-- david

 
At July 25, 2007 1:09 PM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

I love to read but haven't read any harry potter books not really interested. Our local radio station read the last three pages of it on the air though I thought that was hilarious they got some hate mail for sure!

I disagree though that it got more attention then Anna Nicole! that is still being played out

 
At July 25, 2007 10:08 PM, Blogger Mimi replied to my musings ...

I have struggled with the to read or not to read myself. If I did not have a toddler who takes up my time I might be forced to actually make the decision.

 
At July 28, 2007 1:05 PM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

Well, you know I'm a HP geek as well. Don't know why it fascinates me, but perhaps the Star Wars connection is right on, because it's been forever since there's been a fantasy series that makes the country geek out. Not even the first couple of SW prequels can match up to the pure magic of HP, and on that note, I'll stop, other than to say you're right about it being great for the book trade.

BTW, my blog has now changed to The Metal Minute, so click on over and check out the new look. And thanks for being one of my regulars!

 
At July 29, 2007 11:07 PM, Blogger Tai replied to my musings ...

Harry Who? Kidding!
But I agree...it's a bit over the top.
Wish I was Ms. Rowling though.
I'm just sayin', is all.

 
At July 30, 2007 6:11 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

No, readers, aliens have not abducted me. I'm just outrageously busy. Thanks for your patience ... I hope to get a new post up this week.

Phats: Irresponsible radio stations notwithstanding, I've been surprised at how good the media has been about keeping secrets from the book secrets until readers can get through it.

Mimi: At least you have a damn good reason.

Ray: I love the new site--it's great with all the pix and the new background. Well done. Does this mean no more meandering nonsense?

Tai: All of us should have such a great success story!

- david

 
At July 30, 2007 9:03 PM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

I never read any of the Harry Potter books, I was never a fan of sorcery and magic. However, I saw the first movie of the series, and it sort of solidified my view of not reading the books because I found it to be boring, but I agree with you, if it gets people to read, than that's great.

 
At July 30, 2007 11:28 PM, Blogger BeckEye replied to my musings ...

I know people who ordered the book and then pretty much arranged their lives around when it MIGHT arrive in the mail. Ridiculous! And I don't get why all 700+ pages have to be read IMMEDIATELY.

 
At August 01, 2007 10:37 PM, Blogger Pixie replied to my musings ...

Harry Potter is my hero <3

;)

 

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