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.

1 comment:

  1. Previously, you thought Potter was no good. Then when you actually read the book, albeit unconventionally and somewhat against your will, you decided it was entertaining, if not necessarily great literature.

    That doesn't make you a hypocrite, it makes you enlightened. If you really want to stretch your brain, go find the Stephen King review of the series. The king of horror schlock provides an interesting perspective.

    Millions of buddhists are probably wondering why they bothered with all that meditation, when they could have reached enlightenment just by reading the Potter books.