Saturday, November 03, 2007

it's been awhile - or - why I am a hypocrite

I haven't blogged in a quite a long time... It was a busy summer with travel, weddings, etc. And I wouldn't even know where to begin now in writing about all that. So I will write of something completely unrelated: Harry Potter. Or, more accurately, why I am a hypocrite.

The first Potter book came out in 1997 - but I don't think it was till the 4th (2000) that it became huge with adults as well as children. Now I tend to be a snob about all things popular. If there is a television show (Survivor, Desperate Housewives) everyone talks about, I won't watch it. I'm unlikely to go to blockbuster movies, or buy the latest charting-topping album.

Perhaps I have been disappointed too often by what the majority adores (i.e. I don’t think violence is entertaining). And even while I am pro-democracy, I tend to disagree with political choice of the electoral majority. Or perhaps I am just a plain, old snob. Or a hypocite.

This brings me back to Potter. I didn't understand why adults were going gaga over a kids’ book. I picked up a copy a few times. On first time I opened the book at random and found a misplaced modifier - something like 'while running down the stairs, Harry's glasses fell off'. Now I love misplaced modifiers for their unintended hilarity (a favourite of mine is from the Globe and Mail describing the dangers of post-earthquake Pakistan where there were 'wildcats with glowing eyes that could leap across canyons'. I still laugh at the image of blinded cats crying for their eyes that have leaped on to the other side.) I digress. Potter. Another time I tried it in Spanish, which was entertaining for its educational value, but still rather dull. To put it bluntly, I felt I was above the Potter-mania.

I clung to my self-congratulatory position for years. When the latest book came out I puzzled at all the adults I saw around town with noses buried in the book. I marveled at the hype of the books, movies, merchandise, etc. I maintained I was above it all.

Then came the summer of 2007. We had a lot of driving to do in August – 24-hour round trip to New Brunswick for the wedding. The public library was woefully short on audio books. So my fiancĂ© 'acquired' the Potter series in MP3s. Books 1-3 kept us awake and somewhat entertained on our drives.

I grew accustomed to Jim Dale's smooth voice, his talent for giving characters unique voices... There was also something very passive about sitting and listening to Potter. I wasn't reading the books. They were being read to me.

Back home, after all the craziness of August, I found myself turning to Jim Dale and his Potter narration. I would sit and knit while Mr. Dale read me Book 4, then Book 5... At some point a friend lent us the actual books 4-7 and eventually I realized it was much faster to read them myself than to listen to Mr. Dale. A new bedtime ritual was born...

And so, for the sake of honesty and humble pie, I must admit that the once adamant Potter-rejecter has read and listened to 6 books since August. And I am half way through the 7th. Perhaps you won't believe me when I say I am still not convinced of their greatness. The author misuses words in strange ways and creates one-dimensional characters. There are stretches of each book which bore me greatly and the endings are rather trite... And yet, I can't deny, despite the mountain of books awaiting my attention, that I will have finished the entire heptology in less than 4 months.