psy_marionette (psy_marionette) wrote,

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Spoiler-free Potter Musings

I just thought I'd take a little time to muse on the phenomenon that is Harry Potter, and how it's touched my life.  I promise to say nothing spoilerific about the last book, because I definitely don't want to ruin anyone's enjoyment of it.

As far as HP fandom goes, I fall into what I think is the "usual boat."  I certainly didn't read Rowling's work before it became popular--and actually shied away from it when I heard about how it was sweeping a nation, figuring it to be just a fad.  It was only when talking with an aged professor of mine about the Alice books that he mentioned how he'd had similar doubts but in fact thoroughly enjoyed the Potter books that I gave up and decided to give them a try--meaning that I started in Book 4, along with most people I know.  And, again like most of the others, I got books 5-7 the first day they were available.

I feel certain that future generations will read the Potter books and love them--but that we'll never be able to properly explain the magic they've worked on our world.  I feel certain that "horcrux" will go from being a word specially made up to give away nothing to being a not-uncommon fantasy term in the next few years (although I have to stop for a moment and mention that "phylactery" is a word already in some use, one of whose meanings mirrors that of "horcrux").  But it's not just the silly surprises like this that I think will get leeched out--it's the whole concept, the timing, everything...

If someone were to start on the books tomorrow, they'd be able to just go through the series start to finish, at whatever pace should please them the most.  Already, they'll have a fundamentally different way of reading the books: for this last installment of the series, speculation has been running wild--I've talked for hours with various friends about what we do and don't expect to see, what the various horcruxes might be, who might live or die...I've put a lot of thought into the various permutations for book 7, and as such got a strangely beautiful sensation from seeing all the pieces fit together--but who would spend months speculating about a book already on the shelves?

Actually, one of the draws of Harry Potter is how well Rowling balances the two kinds of foreshadowing: seeing a situation and knowing exactly how it will end up (Gryffindor hasn't won the house cup competition for many years at the beginning of Sorceror's Stone) and dismissing something relevant out of hand (the recurring bug that ends up being Reeta Skeeter).

I was waiting in line to get my place in line for the book (that looks so dumb written out), and looked around to notice the most diverse crowd I've seen in Athens--young, old, black, white, hispanic, asian, gay, straight, neohippy, businessman...the girl in front of me was there with her little sister, who at one point said "come on, it's not *that* exciting."  I immediately contradicted her with, "Yes, actually it is."  And I think that the release of the last book is truly an event to remember: the turning of the century was anticlimactic, but this is the other event that the entire world watches as one and it worked out wonderfully.  The stock market crash, the end of WWII, Kennedy was shot, the Beatles broke up, Lennon was killed, the century turned, Indecision 2000--and the end of Harry Potter: what other events in the last century really captured people so much?  I must have missed a few...

JK Rowling is one of the very few uberrich people who I think fully deserve their wealth.  I have nothing against inheritance, but I certainly don't think someone's particularly *deserving* of being rich just because their parents did something well.  Many businesses employ lots of sharp tactics to get their lucre.  But Rowling's wealth is self-constructed, and all hinges on the fact that people everywhere just genuinely want to read her work.  No one "needs" the books, or movies, or merchandise--a compatible version of HP4 isn't needed to interface businesses together.  There was no assisting writer who decided to quit and who was legally bound to not use their ideas.  None of the nonsense you often see in the business world applies.  Just someone with a fantastically successful idea that brings joy to millions.

It's the end of an era.  I'm sad to see it go, but happy to have been there for it--and I wouldn't have missed this book for anything.  Heck, I could barely put it down for anything.

Finally, a rough ranking of how I like the various books.

1- Deathly Hollows: Unbelievable.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for an ending (I still prefer "Return of the Jedi" to "The Empire Strikes Back"), but the pacing is incredible and Rowling manages to do everything she promised without a sense of anticlimax or cheating.  Also, the ground covered in the book is truly amazing (just counting the number of major events is dizzying).  Oddly enough, you'd expect a movie titled something like "Harry Potter 7: battle of the deathly hallows" to suck were it not based on this book.

2- Half-Blood Prince.  I know many people didn't like it as well...but it's the book that starts taking HP away from a classical hero/villan piece without turning Voldemort into an EmoVillan.  It sets up the last book--but does so without being tedius arrangements and long chapters of dry exposition.  A book that both satisfies and tantalizes.  And who here didn't cry at the end?  You're dead to me.

3- Sorceror's Stone.  If this weren't an immaculate example of the fantasy genre, no one would really care about how it all ended up.  You really have to miss the goofiness of this one in the later books--sometimes the only light parts are the references to this one.  Strangely enough, almost nothing in it was flatly contradicted by later elements of the series (almost unheard of in a serial format).

4- Goblet of Fire.  The first really action-packed one, the first one to have a "real" character die.  The first one to make the Death Eaters a group to be reckoned with, instead of *just* Voldemort's backup band.  Really, what can you say about the middle entry on a list?  It's not quite as encompassing as Sorceror's Stone, and less workhorse-oriented than the ones further down the list.

5- Prizoner of Azkaban.  A good story, but there's sooo much talking-style exposition, it makes you really savor the literary device of the Penseive used later.  Also, time travel as a solution to all life's problems always gives me the pip (even though it's handled better here than usual).  Still, the story is great--and it's nice to not have Voldemort on your back the *whole* time.

6- Chamber of Secrets.  I don't know what it is about this one that I don't like so much.  The many coincidences needed to keep the basilisk from being fatal was one, certainly, and I was never captivated by Lockhart.  Finally, the eponymous chamber was a bit of a disappointment, given that it caved in to almost unusability.

7- Order of the Phoenix.  Something's gotta be last, and I guess it's this one.  What can I say?  It's got lots and lots of...talking.  And researching.  And plotlines that had nothing to do with what was going on, but which needed to stay open.  Most of the book seemed non-cohesive, just an account of what was going on at Hogwarts while the true (and of course, avoidable) conflict was being set up.  As this is the only book I start skimming when rereading, it was clearly destined for last place.

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