Monday, August 01, 2005

COLUMN: Harry Potter

You guys almost didn't get a column from me this week; I had better things to do. I wish those things made for a cooler story, like saving little bunnies from menacing testing labs or saving little Katie Holmes from menacing Tom Cruise, but no such luck.

Instead, I, like the other 9.5 million of you, spent the past week deeply engrossed in "Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince." Some of you might not see any problems with this; I consider it to be a HUGE character flaw of mine.

For a very long time, I resisted the Harry Potter lure. "It's a kid's book," I would say to myself while shaking my head with disbelief whenever I caught one of my co-workers deeply engrossed in a J.K. Rowling book. "Why on Earth would you be reading it?"

I've never really thought of myself as a book snob -- but a lot of my friends definitely are. I have friends who sit around and read Nietzsche and Descartes FOR FUN. I, meanwhile, don't much care for books that require five attempts to make it through one page, especially when that particular page is the beginning of a 50-page philosophical discussion on whether or not a chair is a chair. (Personally, I agree with Burt Bacharach that a chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sittin' there, but a chair is not a house and a house is not a home yada yada.)

I have far more lowbrow tastes when it comes to books. That said, I've never dipped so low that I've walked into the children's section at Borders for pleasure reading. Back then, I thought that a 34-year-old reading Harry Potter was no different than a sober person watching the Teletubbies.

Until one day I snapped. I was officially sick of my co-workers using words like "quidditch" and "muggle" in regular conversation. It was like the whole world was joining a club that I wasn't a member of. So I went to Borders on a clandestine mission and picked up the first Harry Potter book. I think I even said something to the clerk like, "It's for my little cousin." Yeah, right.

Within two days, I had finished it. Within two hours, I was back for the sequel. On and on, until I had read 'em all. Last week, I was so excited about the new installment, "Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince," that I left my weekend DJ gig at 3 a.m. and drove straight to Wal-Mart to buy it. And yes, my world came to a grinding halt until I had made it all the way through. It's a pretty dark book, too -- definitely the "Empire Strikes Back" of the Potter saga, and a good setup for the grand finale promised for the next volume.

Is Harry Potter great literature? Probably not, but I still love the books -- although, from an adult perspective, a few concerns:

-- The kids in "Harry Potter" are known to sit around and drink "butterbeer" and "firewiskey." There's a reference to the firewiskey "going to their heads." Perhaps there really is no evil Lord Voldemort; maybe it's all just a paranoid delusion brought on by adolescent alcoholism. Just say no, Harry.

-- At the Hogwarts School, kids are split into four "houses." The good kids go to Gryffindor; the bad kids go to Slytherin. I feel bad for the kids who are relegated to the OTHER two houses (Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw). They're seldom mentioned in the books, confined to a life of minor characters and magical mediocrity.

-- The jock in me (yes, he's there -- he's just really small and likes watching instead of playing) has to say that quidditch is, at its heart, a really stupid game.

-- I know it's a kid's book, I know it is. But I really detest the corny endings in the Harry Potter series. Every time, Harry is confronted by evil. Every time, Harry manages to come out on top because "he can love." My biggest fear is that we'll get to the final showdown between Harry and Lord Voldemort, and Harry's gonna run up to him and give him a great big bear hug, and he'll evaporate into a pink cloud of butterflies, sunshine, and effervescent cheesiness.

But that won't stop me from secretly sneaking out to buy the next book and trying to beat every 12-year-old on the planet to the finish. Then I can stop this silly obsession and move on to quality literature that's more my age.

I've been hearing good things about this Lemony Snicket fella...

No comments: