Daily Archives: July 22, 2009

The genius of the Harry Potter books


Back in 2004, my then-girlfriend, now wife, asked me if I wanted to go our local Barnes & Noble at midnight for a Harry Potter Book Release party.

I believe “Um, excuse me?”  was my reply. Of course I knew by that point about the Harry Potter phenomenon; four best-selling books had already come and gone, and you’d have to have been living in one of Osama bin Laden’s caves to have not heard about this boy wizard who could do magic.

But I’d never picked up one of the books, or read an excerpt. My wife is one of those people who locks themselves in a room for 12 hours when a new Potter book arrives, not resurfacing until she’s finished.

So I had no interest in Potter, but, because when you’re dating you’ll pretty much go anywhere a woman wants, I tagged along.

I was amazed at what I saw. Hundreds of kids dressed up like their favorite characters, roaming the store. People passing out stickers professing their love to Draco Malfoy or Ron Weasley. Kids comparing notes about what they thought the new book would be like.

Honestly, it looked like a “Star Trek” convention for little people. And so, after a little more prodding by other people I knew who were devout Potter-philes, I dived in.

So far I’ve read six of the seven masterpieces; I just finished “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” over the weekend. Yeah, I know I’m behind, but I started late, and I like to take six months to a year between books; it seems to make me appreciate them more.

And not that J.K. Rowling needs any help from me,  but I want to spend a few minutes telling you why, if you haven’t given them a try, you should.

For one thing, they’re wonderful adventure stories. The plots are complex, but not too complex that you’ll get confused.

Sure, it helps if you’ve read them in order, because you know the history of the characters, but you could easily pick up “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and enjoy it on its own.

The details are so clever and amusing, too; Rowling spent so much time crafting each story, and each character, that everything that the characters say and do rings true. Of course some mishap will happen to Neville Longbottom, and of course Hermione Granger will get frustrated at Ron’s antics, etc.

The writing itself, of course, also sets the books apart. Rowling is a master at the language, and she makes you feel so emotionally attached to the individuals in her stories that you truly do feel their hopes and dreams.

I’m awfully tired of people deriding the Potter books as “children’s literature.”  They’re way more than that. They are true works of art, able to be enjoyed as much by 13-year-olds and 63-year-olds.

I’ve got one book left, and I almost don’t want to start reading it, because I know it’s the last one.

Anyway, if you’ve been a Potter-phobe before, check out “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and just read a few pages.

You’ll get sucked in, whether you mean to or not.