Sunday, August 05, 2007

Next week I'm thinking of learning the Lindy Hop and getting a pet rock

Nothing like coming to a cultural phenomena a few years late! Yes, after years of not reading Harry Potter, I have finally succumbed and am only a few pages shy of finishing Chamber of Secrets. And I have concluded that the key to J.K. Rowling's success is that she coats each and every page with a fine, fine sheen of crack cocaine. There is no other way to explain just how goddamn addictive these books are.

So why am I so ridiculously late to the party? I tried reading the first Potter book when it originally came out but I just couldn't get into it. Which, I know, is totally blasphemous for a nerdy woman. But it's true. Maybe I just didn't have the right mindset. I used to be way snobby in my youth, reading the Times Literary Supplement each week and pretending I was obscurely European. Maybe I thought I was just too "smart" and "grown up" to read it. But let's face it, the far more likely reason was that I just got confused. It's such a big, sweeping mythology. I don't always do well with those big long novels with tons of characters -- that's why Tolstoy makes me cry. This Potter stuff can be daunting to newbies: what's a muggle? What's a Malfoy and why are there two of them? What's the difference between a Hagrid and a Hedwig? Yes, I was baffled by a world that was being consumed with clear-eyed ease and understanding by nine-year-olds. So much for my intellectual snobbery.

Over the years, though, I did see all the movies and while I was still confused, there were at least a whole series of pretty, colorful moving images to keep me interested. And ultimately, seeing the movies has helped me appreciate and understand the novels as I read them now. As I'm nearing the end of Chamber of Secrets, I can reference my movie going experience when needed and picture all the characters in my head -- ah, yes, Hagrid is Robby Coltrane, Malfoy is that Jason Isaacs guy who wooed Donna on The West Wing, Professor Lockhart is smarmy Kenneth Brannagh and so on. All the puzzle pieces have fallen into place for me and now I'm relishing these crack-covered pages as much as the next member of the nerdy literati.

I'm feeling a bit sad that I missed the initial hubbub, but in a way I'm grateful, too. Everyone who followed the phenomena from day one had to wait in agony to see if the movies were good, had to sit on the edge of their seat wondering if the next novel would be as good as the last, had to wonder and worry if such-and-such actor would embody a role the way they'd envisioned it. That's a lot of stress. Me, slacker that I am, can now just sit and cruise through these books knowing that there aren't any George Lucas-y/Jar-Jar Binks-y lapses in creative judgment, secure in knowing that the end of Harry's journey is just as exciting as those first opening pages. I still have those last movies to wait for, too, so there's at least some mystery left, just not enough to warrant any ulcers. And I think that's a good thing.

And speaking of cultural sloth, I'm totally looking forward to catching up on this Rubik's Cube craze I've heard so much about....

10 comments:

agent57 said...

I took a break from Pottering after the fourth book. I was waiting for the paperback version to come out, and someone spoiled me majorly, and then my heart just wasn't in it for a while... But then the buzz around book 7 and the geekiness of all the fans got me back into it, and I've read 5 and 6 both this month. It's kind of driving me crazy... I'm missing sleep due to over-reading. And everyone I know knows the end but me! And I've already been spoiled, but in a vague kind of way.

But still, I'm having fun. They're enjoyable books.

Jenny said...

Lindy Hop is amazing. As are Rubik's Cubes.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're not the only one who's more than a little behind ... I've read none of the Potter books, but after thoroughly enjoying the "Order of the Phoenix" flick, I've decided to read the last two so I can actually know everything that's going on with the next flick ... I'm about 450 pages into "Half-Blood Prince," and it's excellent

Bakerloo said...

oh ho I beg to differ on the George Lucas/Jar Jar point....

Dobby is that lapse in judgment. She makes up for it in the end, but MAN.

Welcome to our world, Liz. Life will never be the same again.

Jessica said...

Dobby is my favorite, don't be hatin'!

I had a similar issue about not being able to get into it the first time I tried reading them. Turns out TONS of people have that problem, to the point where JK herself has admitted the first few chapters of Book One being the most "difficult to read" thing she's ever written.

Liz said...

I didn't know that about Rowling. That makes me feel better. And I sympathize with her -- it must have been really hard to try to establish such an unreal reality in those early pages.

Anyway, glad to know it wasn't just me!

dr.gambit said...

i am so excited you are reading the books!!! when you finish all seven, i will happily take you to the imax version of hp5 to make up for the fact that we never made it to prom together.

Liz said...

Okay, Dr. Gambit, you're going to have to reveal your secret identity to me. I think I know but I need confirmation...and then we'll talk about you, me and Steve going to the Imax together. :-)

Anonymous said...

I've neither read nor watched.
I've been content to stay removed from any discussions related to either movies or books, keeping my options open and saving both for the day I become paralyzed and can only sit and watch or read. As I advance in years and the event that is supposed to plant me in a wheelchair hasn't happened, I start worrying that if it never does...I might miss all this stuff on my list.
If...and only if...I should decide to start picking away at my list regardless of my physical state...do you recommend reading or watching? If both, what order?

L-D's D

Liz said...

Well, L.D.'s D, I've been pretty happy with watching the movies first and then reading. The first couple movies aren't that great, but as they get darker, they get better.

Of course, you could always have Lucky read the books first and let you know what he thinks. Two barks, yes, one bark, just wait for the movie. :-)