Sunday, July 22, 2007

Here, at the end of all things (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

[Spoiler-free!]

The door was partially open, so I saw her coming. She bounded up with a distinctly gleeful skip in her step, clad in blue, as you'd expect, and her hands filled with packages. She wrapped on the door twice with her elbow and called to me, "Harry Potter!"

As though accepting a precious heirloom, I took the small box from her. It was white, with a machine-printed picture of an owl clutching an envelope. DO NOT DELIVER OR OPEN UNTIL JULY 21, 2007, a red banner warned.

"Thank you very much," I said, still looking at the package. When I did glance up at her, she smiled and gave a little nod.

"You're welcome," she said, already heading for her next delivery. "Happy reading!"

I looked at the box again. In a little square on the side, in a now-familiar font, was more print. YEAR 7.

And so it was, thirty-two hours ago, I received my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. And so it was, a little less than one hour ago, I turned the last page and finished my journey through those books.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

It began in 2001, with perhaps my greatest example of one of my great pet peeves. I took an English class at College of the Mainland, and on the first day glanced at the course syllabus. After the expected lists of short stories -- Poe, Faulkner, Hemingway, naturally -- and Shakespeare, I noticed this unusual entry:

Novel: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

What? What?

We're gonna read Harry Potter for the course novel? In a college English course? Have we completely lost our damn minds? The professor, it turns out, is a huge Potter fan. She wore her Gryffindor Quidditch jersey to class one day. At the class's skepticism at her choice of novel, she pointed out its long-reaching influence and popularity, and surmised there must be something worth studying there.

"Plus," she said with a smirk, "it's a really good book."

The next day, I dutifully picked up a paperback copy at Waldenbooks. Now, this is before the first movie was released, before it had even been filmed, and adult acceptance of Mrs. Rowling's book wasn't yet widespread. So I got a few odd looks.

I took it home and tried to read it, but I only got two pages in before tossing it aside. I couldn't get it out of my head that I was reading children's literature. I told my mom. She joined me in scoffing. I mean, come on.

Three months later, our professor reminded us, "You need to have at least the first half of Sorcerer's Stone read by Thursday." This being Tuesday.

Oh, shit! I'd forgotten about it completely.

When I got home that afternoon, I dug through boxes in my room until I found my copy. I poured a glass of Dr Pepper, sat at the dining room table, and forced myself to read it.

Four hours later, my mom came home and saw me. "Reading the Potter book?" she said, her voice teasing me.

"Yeah," I said, not looking up. "Do we have any barbecue sauce?"

"What?" She was in the middle of pouring herself some iced tea, and my out-of-nowhere question confounded her.

Still without looking up: "Do we have any barbecue sauce?"

"Uh, yeah," she said. "Why?"

"Because I need to eat my damn words."

I finished the book during lunch the next day. Within a week, I managed to convince both my mother and my sister to read it, too. With two further days, my mother had acquired the next three books, which were the only ones published at the time. The books were like a foul virus, and I had exposed my entire family. We were goners.

I read Chamber of Secrets in two days. I read Prisoner of Azkaban in one sitting.

And now, that journey is over. The series is complete.

Am I happy? Yes. Am I sad? Oh yes.

There are volumes I'd like to say about the book itself, but refuse to -- I absolutely refuse to spoil anything. (There are legions of bastards running around out there doing exactly that -- I saw spoilers dropped in comments on YouTube videos...freakin' Family Guy videos, at that. I will not join those douchebags.) I went into this one blind as can be, and believe the experience the better for it: I didn't even read the table of contents, afraid the chapter titles might give something away.

The big pre-publication spoiler from Madame Rowling was that "two major characters" would die. I will say that that is...true. In a technical sense, it is very, very true.

Am I satisfied at the conclusion? Yes. It is logical, it is emotionally resonant, and it has enough closure to feel like the end of something epic. (Nor is it psychologically harrowing and terrifying, as Mr. King chose to be at the end of the Dark Tower.) The book is unflinchingly dark, and ceaselessly depressing...and yet filled with -- and ultimately about -- love.

If I were to meet Mrs. Rowling today, I would thank her for the seven books of wonderful stories and memories. And then I would slap her in the face for her wicked cruelty.

And then I'd remember these are fictional characters she was cruel to, and I'd remember my own wicked cruelty, and I'd apologize profusely and offer to get her some ice, and she'd have me escorted off the grounds and thrown in British jail.

Goodbye, Harry, Ron, and (sigh) Hermione. Goodbye, Ginny, Snape, Dumbledore, Sirius, Fred, George, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Grawp, Lupin, and Tonks. 'Bye Moody, Draco, Lucius, Narcissa, Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley, Dudley, Neville (the man!), Luna, Cho, Cedric, and Percy. And goodbye to Nearly Headless Nick, and Peeves, and the Fat Lady; to Bellatrix Lestrange, and to Dobby, and to Kreacher, and to S.P.E.W., and to the D.A. And Bill and Fleur. And Professors Flitwick and Trelawney, and Cornelius Fudge and Peter Pettigrew. And Lily, and James. And even to You-Know-Who.

You will be missed. Sorely.

3 comments:

  1. RE: your second-to-last paragraph.

    Holy shit they all died?!?

    ReplyDelete
  2. My gods, no. No no no.

    Mrs. Rowling is vicious indeed, but not THAT vicious. But since there will no more books, I won't get to read about them anymore.

    Technically, I suppose that means they're dead.

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  3. I completed the series this morning, and I have yet to find a clear concise method by which to describe my various reactions and opinions of this final installment. In keeping with no spoilers I'll say that I was annoyed, angered and in some ways shocked at the way she chose events to pan out or the attitudes of some characters. I will also say that on more than one occasion I found myself actually laughing, rather than just internal y acknowledging a bit humor and I'm left with a question. No matter how much I may not have preferred this conclusion, could it (this 10+ year journey) have ended any other way? I'm left with the inescapable realization that no, probably it could not.

    ReplyDelete