Goodbye, Harry

At around 1:55 PM, on July 24th, 2007, I finished the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and what a journey it’s been. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath, I gasped, I was scared. No other book has transported me on such a whirlwind of magical adventure, and none is likely to ever again. The complex interplay of characters, the rich, vivid, and full magical world, the real life people that inhabit the pages, the beautiful writing that draws me in, pulls me in to this world that is completely made up yet resounds with such a deafening clang of truth that it is no wonder it has captured the imaginations of millions across the globe.

When I first opened Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, little did I know to what great heights of jubilant joy I would be transported, what depths of dank despair, what peaks of hopeful exhilaration. Rowling has the gift, there is no doubt about that. Harry Potter was no fluke, she knows what she is doing, and in her final account of Harry’s adventures she proves that no other writer alive today has quite the special flair for storytelling that she does. No one will ever replace Harry in my heart. No one will ever take his place. I’ve lived alongside Harry through all of his adventures, his struggles have become mine, his pain my own. I feel like I know him, through and through, as though he were a real person.

I don’t like the way “learned” scholars, such as professors at SPU, speak down to Harry Potter, as if it is a form of sub-standard literature that those of us who know better should be ashamed to read. It is no accident that these characters and this world have transported minds across the globe to a magical place. Male and female, young and old, Harry Potter knows no bounds. It’s not a cultural thing. Harry is popular across the world. It’s not a geek thing – people from all walks of life love reading his adventures. The other day I was at breakfast and I saw a guy who looked like he could pass for a construction worker, sitting at a table and reading Harry Potter, hardly daring to take his eyes off the page except to munch of a piece of bacon. I felt a sense of connection to him, and even though I never went over and asked his name, never bothered to say hi and ask what page he was on, I knew that we shared something, something that only readers and lovers of Harry can understand.

Over the course of Harry’s life, many magical worlds have tried to capitalize on the success that our young Potter has enjoyed, but to no avail. Artemis Fowl springs most readily to mind, and though the status of #1 New York Times Bestseller is nothing to scoff at, I’ve read the first book, and Eoin Colfer, talented though he may be, does not have Rowling’s skill. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events drew less obviously from Potter’s world, but yet still, the atmosphere was distinctly different and distinctly lacking in that magical spark that makes us all love Harry so much. The most disastrous of these attempts was Eragon, a derivative and by-the-numbers fantasy adventure whose only attribute was that the world was detailed. Everything else about it rang hollow. It spawned a sequel that most found too boring to even finish, and unfortunately a final book is on its way, and Harry lovers, mourning after they have closed The Deathly Hallows, will go running to it, hoping that they will find solace in its pages. I predict, not unrealistically I don’t think, that they won’t. Christopher Paolini has a spark of talent, it is obvious, but nothing compared to Rowling’s genius.

The story of Harry Potter makes me want to write. It makes me want to create a world like that, a world so complete and seamless that nothing can intrude upon it. I think I have that world in my grasp, but I don’t know if I have the talent to pull it off yet.

We’ll have to wait and see on that front, but for now, I bid a fond farewell to Harry, and thank you and Rowling for all the wonderful places you’ve taken me.


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