Obsessing on Harry Potter

Saturday, December 4, 2010

At an American Association of University Women brunch this morning, I found myself once again discussing the wrap-up of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series with someone. And once again I found it intriguing that those who have read the novels divide into two camps: those who grasp the full meaning of what happens on page 658, the end of Chapter 32 - and those who don't. I missed it on first reading, I have no idea of how on earth filmmakers will be able to convey it (assuming they even make the attempt), and it's my favorite moment in the entire series. Oh - and I can't even discuss it at any length (or why my favorite character in the series is my favorite character in the series) because it's part of one of the Big Reveals of the entirety of the epic. But it really does divide the People Who Get It from the People Who Don't Get It about what happens to a major character.

All of which comes to mind because, having seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 twice now, I've been revisiting the entirety of that final book, listening (for the third time? the fourth?) to the marvelous unabridged (Grammy Award-winning) audiobook performed by Jim Dale. He holds the Guinness World Records record for most voices in an audiobook, and his career has included a number of pop-culture achievements, of all of which that I have seen or heard, I am an admirer. His performance in the Rowling series is the reason I tried to "read" each of the novels first via his audiobook readings: That's how good they are. [And I note to my dismay that, at least from Amazon, the audiobook of Deathly Hallows is out of "print" as a stand-alone release. Dang!]

In any case, my point is that I know many people who have been following the Potter tale only through the movies - and, as the wrap-up of that format nears, I'd just like to encourage anyone who has enjoyed the epic in that form to check out the books before the final installment hits theaters. Most fun, as I say, are the audiobooks. But, whatever the format, you're missing wonderful, rich storytelling if you've skipped the books.


Maggie Thompson December 4, 2010 at 8:05 PM  

And, for some reason, I can't get in to edit the posting further. I just wanted to say that, once I'd signed out and approached the Amazon listings through the Amazon website itself, I was able to locate the Jim Dale Hallows audiobook just fine. No idea why the link through my website couldn't find it easily ... (Or why, for that matter, I couldn't update the information on my main entry.)

Unknown December 4, 2010 at 8:32 PM  

I recently reread the series and that moment is the moment that makes Harry Potter more than just fluff. It remakes the entire series.

It's actually the only moment in the series that makes me cry and I wish Deathly Hallows would have a better director or just turn that part over to someone else (Aronofsky or Cuaron would be ideal) because flubbing it on film would be a travesty.

kipeticolas December 5, 2010 at 12:04 AM  

With all due respect I am baffled. It is hard to connect a passion for the depressingly turgid and thuggish prose of Rowland with an appreciation for Oscar Wilde, who embodies a glorious and amoral delight in the English language. Running into two different entries on this blog were my basis for bafflement..I haven't recovered from Rowland's dreary milking of teenage angst with a dollop of porn torture in the last volume. I remain baffled. Wilde was a naughty man but he was brilliant and generous. Rowland prosecuted and won a lawsuit against a chap who created an encyclopedia of Potterabilia...initially with her okay until he tried to make some money from his time investment. He was blasted...she remains a well funded very rich and (I regret) greedy corporation. Did I stumble into a cult religion here?

kip December 5, 2010 at 12:18 AM  

Sorry I meant Rowling not Rowland. This does not improve her writing. She is very clever with plot and character...a total screen writer for blockbusters and no Oscar Wilde or even E. Nesbit (Three children and It) or L.Frank Baum (Oz) or T.H. White (Once and Future King) or Tolkien- all of them created poetry in their words. Rowling is hard to read unless you don't care about that.

Patrick Rennie December 5, 2010 at 12:55 PM  

I'm sorry Rowling's transparent prose just isn't exciting enough for some people. Luckily, writing comes in all sorts of styles in for all sorts of people.

Maggie Thompson December 5, 2010 at 6:00 PM  

As Patrick says ...

I read different writers for different reasons. I think the "Potter" books slowly improve, as she becomes more and more comfortable with what she's doing. But "It is hard to connect a passion for the depressingly turgid and thuggish prose of Rowland with an appreciation for Oscar Wilde, who embodies a glorious and amoral delight in the English language"? I can't say "turgid" or "thuggish" are words that spring to mind with "Potter," and she's working from the "school story" tradition that has experienced far worse. (And, yes, better - what with Wodehouse's "Mike" stories and Kipling's "Stalky" tales.) But it's the plot and the character growth and the mysteries (though not classic mysteries, in that sufficient clues are not available in time for necessary deductions) that keep readers like me going in the case of this series. I don't read "Potter" for the language - though, as I indicated, the concise wording in my favorite scene carries a punch that readers don't get if they haven't paid sufficient attention to the "Harry has Lily's eyes" repetition.

At any rate, I read Wilde for the language, rather than for the Gilbertian plot of, say, Importance of Being Earnest. I get language and plot out of Saki. And so on.

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