Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter 7 (No Spoilers!)

I just want to say I've finished it already. Reasonable Man, Enthusio and I actually attended the downtown HP7 brouhaha Friday night, where you could reserve (fork over the 38 bucks) your copy at an independent book store and pick it up starting at midnight. A city block was closed off in the early evening for festivities that included booths with wizarding activities like wand-making for kids, a showing of "Goblet of Fire" on a great big screen, and a snitch drop. At 12:01, the first triumphant family received their book to a chorus of screams and cheers, and within five minutes, we had our copy and were heading for the car. Fifteen minutes after that, I was ready for bed and reading the first chapter.

I'd been telling people this past week that I wash hoping to read it slowly and savor it, since it was the last one. I even told Reasonable Man that he could have the book most of the weekend because I would have time to read it this week. Reasonable Man, who earns his pseudonym, recognized these statements for what they were: lies so insidious that I myself actually believed them to be true. He patiently surrendered the book to me yesterday and nodded knowingly when I admitted sometime in the evening that I planned to stay up and read the entire thing overnight. (Why I thought I wouldn't race through this book, I don't know. I've gobbled down every other HP offering, including the first one, which I read in a single afternoon when I was sick with a terrible cold in December 1999, possibly without leaving the couch a single time.) I read non-stop from approximately 7:30 pm to 1:45 am, when I could no longer keep my eyes open and then went to sleep on the couch till a little after 4, when I resumed reading, finishing a little after 6 am.

I don't even want to say whether I liked it or not for fear of spoiling it in some small way for the handful of people who might actually read this post. Here is what I will say: I'm not sad it's over. The Harry Potter phenomenon has been an amazing thing, and Reasonable Man and I have enjoyed it in terms of entertainment value for ourselves and watching Enthusio get into it as well (he's currently attempting to read HP6). It's been interesting to watch as a cultural event as well. On the one hand, I shake my head over those people who have analyzed it all so thoroughly and seem to get so emotional over it all. On the other hand, I admit that I myself have anticipated the release of the both of the last two books with equal parts excitment and anxiety, just because of the turns the story had taken and with the knowledge that Troubled Times Were Ahead, that Harry Faced Evermore Daunting Challenges.

One of the biggest triumphs of the series, in my view, was that the author wrote a protagonist who began as a likeable and engaging child and transformed believably into a brave and complex young adult who had been shaped not just by all the trials he'd faced, but also the full understanding of his responsibility for the future of all wizarding kind. Even when other characters didn't fare as well, Harry was a hero worthy all the adulation the series has received. But as it progressed, it grew harder and harder to watch him face uncertainty, danger, and hopelessness as he carried that burden. And so I'm grateful for resolution, for Harry's sake. I don't know how much more peril I could have watched him go through.

Some quibbles: I don't think Ron and Hermione matured as believably as Harry did, and their romance, for which the stage was set way back in book 1 and which finally came to fruition on book 6, never worked for me. I've also detected a not-so-subtle theme of sexism running through the series, from Fleur Delacour, the only female Tri-Wizard Champion, being such a pathetic competitor; to the portrayals of Rita Skeeter and Dolores Umbridge as playing up their femininity in villainous ways; to Hermione's tendency to constantly burst into tears in the later books. That surprised me, coming from a female author, unconsciously done though it was. But those are small things, and I only mention them because I'm resisting any urge to say much about this newest book. I will probably write more in a few weeks when I'm sure most die-hard fans will have had chance to digest this grand finale.

People are saying that this will never happen again. I'm not so sure. Who would have ever thought it would happen once? What I do know is that no one can make it happen. There are copycats and series mentioned as worthy successors to the throne, but I think if we ever see this kind of thing again, it will come from somewhere unexpected and unlikely. I'm just glad it's not my job to spot it early on, like the people at all those publishers who passed on Harry Potter's world before Scholastic took a gamble.