Monday, July 18, 2005

This is Not a Post About Harry Potter

I don't want to post about the latest Harry Potter book. Every other blog I saw on BlogExplosion this weekend mentioned him and it's sickening.

I don't want to mention how, even though I'm looking forward to reading the book myself, I am good and ready to bide my time to read it when I can get hold of it. And I'm not going to talk about how I don't intend to spend money to purchase the book either. (I plan to borrow it, either from a friend or from the library.)

I'm not going to blog about how the series, which started off as a great way to encourage kids to read by finally giving them something that was so enthralling that they wanted to read, is a victim of its own popularity. I'm resisting the urge to talk about how the "joy of reading" isn't fully captured when kids (and adults alike) are plowing through the 672-page book faster than a Japanese bullet train.

I would sound like too much of a curmudgeon if I were to talk about how The True Joy of Reading involves a much slower process, one of engaging the author and savoring her imagery and word choice. I'd probably sound like a snobby purist if I were to mention that one of the true benefits of reading is having the ability to put down the book once in a while and just allow yourself to be entertained by the mental picture drawn for you by the author. How the mark of a truly talented author is her ability to do that just: draw vivid and wonderful pictures in your head.

Perhaps a post could comment on how making movies of the series has yet again dumbed down society by taking a book which imprinted mental image on untold millions of children, and gave them a visual to substitute for the one their own imaginations (coupled with Ms. Rowlings's) created in their heads. I used hear the "older generation" (the pre-television set) talk about how their minds were so actively engaged when listening to radio programs because no visual came with the story being told. Harry Potter gives kids a chance to do that, and yet now their own mental images run the risk of being replaced by Hollywood's thoughts of what everyone and everything should look like.

I could lament that untold numbers of schoolchildren everywhere are today, less than 48 hours after the release of the book, finished with it. Given the attention span of your average schoolchild, I can imagine that, at least for the core set that finished the book already, Half-Blood Prince will be "so yesterday." How it's just another way of filtering the "cool" kids from the "uncool" ones, the "cool" ones having finished the book already and the "uncool" ones having to wait to get their hands on it and diligently avoid overhearing conversations about it.

And I could talk about how I can only hope that kids who have finished reading Harry Potter this weekend can channel their energies into reading other stuff too, because one can never really read too much.

But I won't say any of that, because I don't want to post about the latest Harry Potter book.


Steve said...

Thank you. Excellent post, Dennis! May I copy & paste this as my own just so enough people see, and maybe consider it?

Arethusa said...

I think you're being a bit ridiculous to be honest. I don't see how a movie, by it's very nature, "dumbs-down" anything or anyone. Please explain that. Is it merely because one is introduced to someone else's visual image of a book? Oh my god, the horror! Nevermind that with an able director like Cuaron the movie can offer a pleasing complement to the books. I hardly believe that Hollywood did it out of some conspiracy to brain-nap Harry Potter readers. In fact with the different directors one is given several versions--a fact anyone could see with the stark differences represented in the Hogwarts of Cuaron and Columbus.

Where on earth have you gotten this impression that the kids who finished it first are considered "cool" among their peers? Actually I'm just interested in what's your source of all of these woes. From my merely anecdotal evidence the ones who zip through it rapidly are Rowlings most devoted fans, the ones most likely to re-read the books.

At least your hope that they read other books sounds reasonable.

Helen said...

I would have liked to have made a similar post about Tom Cruise. In fact, maybe I'll do that! Really tired of reading about him. If you can't
beat 'em!

Vince said...

Congrats on managing not to blog about Harry.

Me said...

Me. I read Harry Potter in about 7 hours. And I LOVED every second of it. And you know what I do now? I reread books 1-5 (which I just reread inthe last month to remind myself what has happened) in order to read them with the perspective that book 6 gave me. And then I'll reread book 6. I'll then spend the next two months or so discussing theories with my friends as to what is going to happen in book 7, and some of the questions that remain.

Then, in November when book 4 is coming out, I'll reread book 4 again. My friends and I will spend a few weeks discussing what was taken out of the movie from the book and how that made it worse than the book. I'll likely reread the book to see how my imagination and the movie corespond.

Then I'll sulk for the next 2 years. Impatient for the book to come out. When the date is announced, I'll reread all the books again. Of course, this is maybe 9 months before the book ACTUALLY comes out. About 2 months before the book comes out, my friends will start discussing where we are and what we think will happen again. Yes, this is rehashing a lot of our current conversation.

Then, in the month before the book comes out, I'll reread books 1-6 again.

Yes, I may read it in 7 hours...but there will be lots of rereading. Devouring. What can I say? I'm an alcoholic drunk on Harry Potter...