Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Millions of Others and Me

Yes, I have to admit that I am big fan of Harry Potter. Like millions of others (lots and lots of adults), I stole time since Saturday when my copy of the last book arrived to read it. What fun these books have been.

I have to admit that I stayed away from the books in the beginning. I had friends, mostly teachers, tell me how wonderful they were. I continued to think that they were just for kids. Then I saw more and more adults reading these books. I couldn't get onto an airplane without seeing someone usually older than 30 deeply involved in one the books. I would see them in hotels, at meetings, on the street. They were coming out of backpacks, computer bags, and handbags. Then my sister-in-law told me how good she thought they were. Still, I resisted. It was a couple of young girls on a cold day walking to the bus stop with their noses firmly into their reading that finally made think that I needed to see for myself what had so many actually reading.

The summer of 2000 was when I first started reading about Harry. My sister-in-law and her son's family sent me copies of the first three books to read as I recouped from a total knee replacement. As soon as I finished the first book I was hooked.

In a recent Time essay the writer, Lev Grossman, says that unlike other famous series the Potter books are devoid of God and in that place is left love. I am not sure that I totally agree but there is something there. I did not get into these books because they wonderful literature or "I can't put down" mysteries. I got into them because of the well told tale of the adventures and misadventures of a boy growing up to be a decent person in spite of all that fell in his way. The stories of Harry Potter are not so much about good versus evil as they are about the power of love, and yes, even unrequited love. In many ways, these tales remind me of Twain's Sawyer and Finn and how deeply the bounds of friendship are.

J. K. Rowling has done more than just get kids reading again. She instilled in her books values that are often missing in our lives today. It is not in greed and its accumulations that there is power but power comes in trust and learning and caring. Power comes with love. I don't mean to be maudlin but I think that is pretty cool. We need a whole lot more of that today. Fame and fortune do not make a decent person. An outreached hand, a broad shoulder and a bended ear are more valuable than the wealth you can amass. As a child I remember reading and having to memorize a poem whose phrases I still hear in mind today. That poem, Abu Ben Addhem by James Leigh Hund reminds of Harry Potter. For it is "love of fellow man" that makes Harry strong.

Old lesson, new twist, some things still remain true.


Terry Grant said...

Good analysis of what makes Harry Potter so appealing. I am also hooked, but such a cheapskate that I don't read the book until it comes out in paperback! I may have to make an exception with the last one. I'm sure I won't be able to last for another year or so without hearing, one way or another, how it all ends. Besides all the wonderful things you have mentioned about the books, the other part I love are the clever and imaginative little throw-away details that Rowling includes. What an imagination--another one of those great values for kids to absorb.

Alexandra said...

Woot - you have just scored major cool points for being a HP fan. John and I stayed up until 5am reading the book when it first came (we had two copies because we had ordered one for my cousin). It was one of the best series I've ever read and really couldn't put down. Its amazing how invested we get in characters after so many years, isn't it?