Next year will mark twenty years since the first Harry Potter book was released. For context, that means that someone born at that time is in all probability; hooking up on Tinder, ‘finding themselves’ in Thailand and/or knows how to pluck their eyebrows better than me (thanks, YouTube).
I was pretty much the perfect age for The Philosopher’s Stone when it hit bookshops. Yet my interest in it then and for the following 19 years stuck at a firm 1/10. You see this is what I hilariously tell people when they ask why: “Because it was so popular! I was a hipster before hipster was a thing!!” I’ve concocted the ultimate hipster statement for my 8 year-old-self, sure to make eyes roll and force a topic change.
My resentment reached its peak whilst working in a bookshop after university. The space on the shelves consistently taken up by at least one set of Harry Potter books – both in the children’s and adult’s sections – bugged me. Much like Willy S did in the already tiny ‘Plays & Poetry’ section. I don’t for one second mean to belie the artistry or cultural significance of either but just to say, I would like there to be more space for fresh voices in these two literary spheres. In hearts, minds and bookshelves.
So. Needless to say, when one brave soul gifted me the full-set of Harry Potter books, they were really going out on a limb.
I believe my grateful reaction was something like:
“OK FINE PASS IT HERE THEN, I GUESS”
Book 1 was nice. Nearly everyone was quite charming and Harry found out the he is in all actuality, a wizard. There were some pretty worrying moments during a most unusual chess game but Harry’s friend, muggle-born Hermione, seems to know her shit. I typically cringed at Gryffindor’s elation over winning the House Cup but I was pleased for them nonetheless.
Things I’m wondering:
- Will we learn more about Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, soon? It seems possible that they tie into the Pokemon franchise.
- How come Hagrid is ‘the best’ and does he stay ‘the best’ throughout the series? I really hope so.
- Will what Harry sees in the Mirror of Erised change after he hits puberty?
Onto Book 2. Some good magic and creatures in here. We meet a little elfy man who seems set on ruining Harry’s good time. But his good time can not be ruined with his best pals by his side. Thwarted attempts to stop Potter returning to Hogwarts lead to a fantastical joy-ride; incidentally the first glimpse of a rebellion I hope continues to mature in the lads.
Things I’m wondering:
- Is it wrong to have enjoyed it when Hermione was petrified and therefore unable to ‘know and say everything all the time’?
- Will the guys inhabit any other characters’ bodies; perhaps Harry could enter Dudley (umm) and stir it up real nice at the Dursleys’.
- Is there an app I can download so that my iPhone torch will come on when I command “lumos”?
Book 3. For which JK Rowling invented the word ‘Azkaban’ truly one of the most satisfying words to say. I spent most of this book exclaiming to everyone over what a no-good b-hole Sirius Black is. Turns out not such a bad dude. Relieved to learn that Hermione’s mysterious disappearances were nothing sinister. She was actually just doing a clever trick so that she could be even more of a boffin, not cavorting with Voldemort or planting whoopie cushions under seats. (I considered all levels of betrayal here.) It works out pretty well in the finish but I’m not hopeful that the cards will continue to fall in the young wizards’ favour.
Things I’m wondering:
- I haven’t detected any sexual tension yet. When does that start happening?
- Has TFL considered rebranding night buses as ‘knight buses’? Much more friendlier and maybe ‘the magic’ will encourage people to withhold their wee and stuff.
- These books are getting noticeably larger and now might be a good time to assess how committed I am.
Perhaps I don’t sound overwhelmed by my reading experience thus far. This is an accurate assessment of yours. It’s cool, magic is great. Hogwarts is also great ofc. So far though, I’m not elated. This is not spite or ‘hipster rejection’, it is probably more (disappointingly) that I don’t have the nostalgia for them that so many do. I totally get that children reading these for the first time can glory in the aspiration of becoming a wizard and wonder in awe at all of the impossibly cool, dangerous and funny situations the books present. I’ll liken this to how I felt about Spice World. After which I left the cinema thinking: “What is the point, if I’m not a Spice Girl?”. This being said, I’ve been told repeatedly that this is where the series ‘get’s really fucking good’ so I’ll continue on, at least till the Pokemon arrive.